820th BDG Airman earns Jumpmaster star

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jarrod Grammel
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
A single star above the Parachutist Badge represents years of training and hard work. To earn the Senior Parachutist Badge, a jumper has to be a graduate of a jumpmaster course, have a minimum of 30 total jumps, 15 with combat equipment, two during hours of darkness, one night jump as a Primary Jumpmaster, seven total jumps as Primary Jumpmaster and at least two years on jump status.

For U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler Smitka, 823d Base Defense Squadron fire team leader, it took 51 jumps and four years, but on March 21 he met the final requirement during a jump at Moody Air Force Base, Ga.

"Having a star or wreath above your wings is significant," said Smitka. "There are very few jumpmasters in the Air Force who have actually been to the U.S. Army Jumpmaster School.

"I love the thrill of jumping," he added. "It's not something that's natural and it's a rush."

To attend the U.S. Army Jumpmaster School, the jumper has to be a graduate of the U.S. Army Basic Airborne Course and meet certain requirements.

"To get to Airborne School you have to pass an Army Physical Fitness test and a Class III Flight Physical, which can take anywhere from three months to a year," said Staff Sgt. Chris Schultz, 820th Combat Operations Squadron primary parachute program manager. "You take another Army PT test right before you're scheduled to leave, and then they send you off and hope you come back with wings.

"Once you become a jumpmaster your responsibilities are significantly greater," he added. "They are in charge of working out the logistics, and inspecting gear and aircraft. Jumpmasters lead the jump from start to finish."

Schultz, a master parachutist with 81 jumps, has known Smitka since April 2006. They have also deployed four times together.

"Smitka is good person to work with and have behind you," said Schultz. "In the 820th BDG there are a lot of opportunities to apply yourself, but not everyone takes advantage of them. Smitka is someone who takes the initiative and applies himself."

Airborne and jumpmaster qualified Airmen give the Air Force an additional capability to support the U.S. Army, said Schultz.

"The U.S. Army Basic Airborne Course allows us to meet our mission capabilities," said Senior Master Sgt. Philip Borneman, 820th Combat Operations Squadron superintendent of logistics and readiness. "Just like Humvees, helicopters and boats, jumping is another avenue to get to the fight."

Four years and 51 jumps after Smitka graduated the U.S. Army Basic Airborne Course, fellow jumpmasters pinned on his new badge. After completing this final requirement, Col. Randall Richert, 820th BDG commander, joined other Airmen gathered at the drop zone to congratulate Smitka.