War fighting partners team up for historic jump

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Chris Hoyler
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
It's the side of Pope few people see -- the side that will still be here when the 43rd Airlift Wing becomes the 43rd Airlift Group and the "Air Force Base" is no longer part of Pope's title.

They are the side of Pope our Army brethren at Fort Bragg interact with the most, no matter how many times they've been inside one of our C-130s.

And on July 16, that side of Pope, the 18th Weather Squadron, got together with the other airborne units from its newly formed command, the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., for their first combined airborne operation at Luzon Drop Zone on Fort Bragg.

The jump was led by the 18th WS, primarily Staff Sgt. Troy Misiak, who served as the primary jumpmaster. The 18th WS Commander, Lt. Col. Steven Dickerson, served as the airborne mission commander for the day.

"The 18th Weather Squadron has a long history of jumping with other 18th Air Support Operations Group units, especially the 14th Air Support Operations Squadron since it is co-located with us," Colonel Dickerson said.

"However, this was the first airborne operation in which jump qualified members from each of the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing units participated in a jump operation together."

The other non-Pope 93rd AGOW units involved were the 17th ASOS from Fort Benning, Ga., Detachment 5, 10th Combat Weather Squadron and the 820th Security Forces Group from Moody.

What also made this day a little different from any of the jumps going on in this area is that it was done from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flown by Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Aviation Brigade on Fort Bragg.

Tech. Sgt. John Gaona, 18th WS, said he believes most prefer to jump from helicopters rather than cargo aircraft for several reasons.

"I would say it's mostly because of the amount of time we spend in the aircraft," Sergeant Gaona said. "It takes approximately 10 minutes from loading on to the helicopter to landing after jumping, whereas on a C-130 or C-17 it takes an hour or longer."

1st Lt. Jacob Presley, 14th ASOS Chief of Intelligence, compared jumping out of a Black Hawk to an amusement park ride in comparison to the drawn out process of a cargo aircraft jump.

"With a C-130 jump, you have so much to do -- sustainment training, pre-jump inspection, lots of waiting, boarding the aircraft, trying not to get sick during a long low-level flight, then doing an actual jump and everything that comes with that, like landing and re-packing your parachute when you do," he said. "There's lots of time to think, lots of adrenaline involved and you're exhausted after one or two jumps.

"By contrast, the Black Hawk jump is quick and low stress, a lot of fun. You hop on, your feet hang off the side of the aircraft, you slide off the edge to jump, land, and then repeat if you desire. The opening shock in a helicopter is much less than that of a C-130."

Due to the noise in the helicopter created from flying with the side doors wide open, the jumpers depend completely on non-verbal communication to get their signals from the jumpmasters like Sergeants Misiak and Gaona.

The jumpmaster's job is multi-faceted, ranging from semi-administrative actions like organizing their "chalk" of jumpers to operational actions like full equipment inspection and control over the paratroop door during exit.

Another variation in the day's events were the HALO jumps that bookended the static line jumps. These jumps are completely different from the static line jumps, primarily due to much higher altitudes (sometimes as high as 25,000 ft.).

"In static line, your parachute is deployed for you as you exit the aircraft," Sergeant Gaona said. "In HALO, the person jumping deploys their chute at a designated altitude, usually three or four thousand feet, by pulling the rip cord attached to the parachute harness."

Master Sgt. Jason Colon, 18th WS first sergeant, served as the jumpmaster for the day's first HALO jump. He said HALO operations are normally meant for covert operations behind enemy lines and allow for a small team of specially trained personnel (for example, battlefield weather, pararescue, combat control or tactical air control party) to perform direct action or reconnaissance missions.

By contrast, static line jumps are meant for mass numbers, anywhere from 50 to 500 jumpers, and are designed primarily to assault airfields and take control of large areas.

Because, in short, the mission of the 93rd AGOW's units is to support the Army, they must maintain a wide variety of trained personnel in order to provide that support. In addition to various airborne operations like the one performed July 16, the units must also be trained to perform survival, evasion, resistance, escape operations and the Combat Lifesaver skills.

Between the various unit training requirements and the high-deployment tempo, events like July 16 are special for the newly-formed wing and "it wouldn't happen without a team effort and a strong desire to jump," Sergeant Misiak said. The wing, as a whole, hopes to get another chance to do it again.

"This was truly a great opportunity for us to train together and to build camaraderie within the Wing," Colonel Dickerson said.