Story and photos by Master Sgt. Donald Sparks
U.S. Special Operations Command Europe Public Affairs Office
Ten minutes before arriving at the drop zone, every parachutist on the “bird” knows what’s coming next when the jumpmaster stands and hooks up to the anchor-line cable, signaling the beginning of actions on the aircraft.
“Get ready! Outboard personnel, stand up! Inboard personnel, stand up! Hook up! Check static lines! Check equipment! Sound off for equipment check! One minute! Thirty seconds! Stand by! Go!”
It was another safe and successful airborne operation completed by one of the most respected titles in the Army – jumpmaster.
To earn the coveted title of jumpmaster, airborne qualified Soldiers from 1st Battalion,10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and U.S. Special Operations Command Europe took part in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Static Line Jumpmaster Course held at Panzer Kaserne, Germany, Sept. 28-Oct. 16.
Fifty-one jumpmaster candidates began the course, but by graduation day, only 37 completed the course conducted by the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Jumpmaster Mobile Training Team from Fort Carson.
The candidates were trained in skills necessary to jumpmaster a combat-equipped airborne operation as well as the proper attaching, jumping and releasing of combat and individual equipment, according to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Patrick Clark, senior instructor, 10th SFG(A) MTT.
“This a job that we take seriously because every jumpmaster is responsible for every parachutist and the number one rule is never sacrifice safety for any reason,” Clark said. “We emphasize attention to detail because a lack of attention to detail can result in lost lives. From the time the jumpmaster receives the order until the time everyone is on the ground, the jumpmaster is responsible.”
Clark mentioned as part of the training, the instructors consistently engage the candidates to look at what’s right and not be focused on what’s wrong.
“They (candidates) all come here concentrating on looking for the gigs instead of just doing their sequence properly,” Clark added. “However, if they know what right looks like, then something wrong will pop up right smack in front of them. We’re taking guys who have been jumpers for most of their careers and changing their mindset on what happens on airborne operations.”
As a seasoned parachutist with 31 jumps to his credit prior to attending the course,
Staff Sgt. Randy Van Zandt, assigned to SOCEUR, said the course gave him an entirely different perspective of airborne operations.
“Being a regular jumper, you think you know everything that’s going on in the aircraft, but you really don’t,” Van Zandt said. “Once you go to jumpmaster school and start pulling the duties of the jumpmaster, you gain a sense of confidence that you didn’t have before. I now have confidence to jump, confidence in my equipment, confidence as a jumpmaster and confidence in the aircraft.”
For Lt. Col. George Thiebes, commander, 1st Bn., 10th SFG(A), the course was not only beneficial for increasing unit and mission readiness, it also provided a boost in confidence to the Soldiers participating in the training.
“It is a great privilege to have the 10th Group trainers come here and teach this course,” said Thiebes, who himself graduated from the course 12 years ago when the team went to Stuttgart, Germany. “We conduct airborne operations on a monthly basis, so there are plenty of opportunities for our jumpmasters to keep current and practice the skills they learn.”
“But most importantly, we want our leaders to have confidence in their abilities and this course instills the confidence that they can conduct an airborne operation successfully,” Thiebes said.