U.S. Army paratroopers must be capable of deploying worldwide within 18 hours of receiving orders. They act as a strategic crisis response force by executing forcible-entry parachute assault to secure objectives for larger follow-on forces. To meet these objectives the Army utilizes Basic, Senior and Master parachutists within its airborne units. Volunteering for airborne duty is available to soldiers of different experience levels, ranging from those with less than a year of service to veterans with 10 years of service or more.
Soldiers must volunteer for paratrooper duty and complete Airborne School to become Basic Parachutists. In addition to physical fitness requirements there is an age limit of 36 years to enter what soldiers call "Jump School," but an age waiver is available for sergeants and higher ranks. Training is typically conducted over a three-week period at Fort Benning, Georgia. The first week consists of Ground Training, which includes classroom instruction and training with a mock aircraft door, 34-foot tower and lateral drift apparatus.
Next, prospects endure Tower Week where individual skills are sharpened and mass exit drops are introduced. Training apparatus used during Tower Week include a 250-foot tower and Swing Lander Trainer. The third week is devoted to the five actual jumps prospects must compete to graduate. Jumps are conducted from 1,250 feet with U.S. Air Force C-130 or C-17 aircraft. The Basic Parachutist designation can also be achieved by completing at least one combat parachute jump.
To be certified as a Senior Parachutist, soldiers must participate in a minimum of 30 jumps, including at least 15 jumps with combat equipment. The 30 jumps must also include two night jumps, and one of these jumps must be as the jumpmaster of a group of jumpers. There is also a requirement for two mass tactical jumps. Graduation from the Army’s Jumpmaster Course and 24 months of service with an airborne unit are also required for Senior Parachutist certification.
Jumpmasters are the Army’s experts not only in teaching other soldiers how to safely jump from airplanes, but also in preparing, dropping and releasing parachute-dropped equipment. Candidates at Fort Benning’s Jumpmaster course must pass all graded events with 70 percent efficiency. They must also demonstrate the ability to inspect three jumpers within five minutes at 70 percent proficiency and no major discrepancies.
A Master Parachutist must have competed 65 jumps, including 25 jumps with combat gear, and four night jumps that include one as the jumpmaster. A Master Parachutist must also complete five mass tactical jumps, while assigned to a battalion or larger-sized unit. A Master Parachutist must also have served on jump status with an authorized airborne unit for a minimum of 36 months.
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