Several 820th SFG Airmen proudly wear jump wings while still showing a ...‘Softer side’

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman S.I. Fielder
  • 347th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
It’s three weeks of intense and demanding training. With the daily regiment of running more than three miles per day at a nine-minute per mile pace, only the most physically fit “jump” at the chance to apply.

Using determination, motivation and courage as their platform for success, several 820th Security Forces Group Airmen here proved they had what it takes to earn their jump wings while showing a “softer side.”

“Several of us have a softer side you may not expect,” said Capt. Korinne Skarda, 820th SFG. “We proudly jump next to our male counterparts, making the 820th Security Forces Group Airborne a team that is truly ‘joined to fight.’”

The first 820th SFG female to join the Airborne team was Tech. Sgt. Tracy Meador, who currently works at the Air Force Academy. To “go airborne,” Sergeant Meador passed the rigorous physical training requirements including a five mile run in under 45 minutes.

“I wasn’t going to disappoint (the 820th SFG) and what a way to open the door for other females in the 820th (SFG) and Air Force,” she said. “I was never pushed so hard before, and what an accomplishment for me to achieve. It was the best opportunity as an information manager and female in the Air Force.”

The next female to join the ranks was Tech. Sgt. Barbara Daum, an independent duty medical technician. Sergeant Daum said she “jumped” at the opportunity after she heard about the opening.

“I was training for airborne before I (joined) the 820th (SFG); the run was my biggest fear,” she said. “I had no idea which standards I would fall under, so I trained under the 17- to 21-year-old male standards.”

During the first week of training, students from different services come together as a team to learn the basics of parachuting, such as how to exit an aircraft and develop a proper landing stance. Although the Army was intent on calling out the Airmen trainees as the “chair force,” it only compelled them to do more push-ups and pull-ups.

“I was the only (Airman) in my platoon, and I got picked on because of it, but it only made the experience more memorable,” said Capt. Tara McLaughlin, 824th Security Forces Squadron. “I was still a ROTC cadet when I went. I had always wanted to go because I knew it was very prestigious - especially as a female.

“It was my first ‘real’ exposure to the military,” added the captain. “The company I was in was very professional and I just ate it up.”

During the second week, trainees get their first “jump” experience off a 250-foot tower. That jump finalizes ground training and moves the trainees into the final week, where the trainees must successfully complete five qualifying jumps.

“It was all about mindset and seeing an end in sight,” said Sergeant Daum. “It was about character, determination and will power. I overcame the stereotype of being a female (in the) Air Force and graduated (as) a paratrooper.”

During the three weeks of training, the trainees were subject to a classic approach to training. Capt. Lisa Vice, 824th SFS, said the school gave her an appreciation of the Air Force’s progressive way of life.

“Airborne (school) felt very retro,” she said. “It appeared untouched by all outside influences continually changing the shape of our military. Fort Benning, (Ga.,) ran the program for decades and, after attending, I’m led to believe not much has changed since the time of my grandparents. Even my memories are in black and white.”

One of the main ways the Airmen got through was the camaraderie between fellow trainees. Staff Sgt. Shina Watkins, 822nd Security Forces Squadron, had just returned from airborne school, when her suitemate Senior Airman Polly-Jan Bobseine was about to earn her wings.

“She told me it would be great and gave me words of encouragement,” said Airman Bobseine, 823rd Security Forces Squadron. “We’re always supporting each other, no matter what we are doing.”

Senior Airmen Ashley-Ann Cady and Lincy Hurtado, 824th SFS, agreed camaraderie helped push them through the school. Although Airman Hurtado was one week behind Airman Cady at jump school, they used an already-developed bond from going through Basic Military Training and technical school together.

“During my first week, I would find Ashley and ask her what was going on tomorrow,” said Airman Hurtado. “I was sore and asked her if I would be able to make it. Basically, she was my motivation.

“I also knew I needed to make it so I could help open some more doors for the other people behind us,” said Airman Hurtado. “I would like for other females to say, ‘Hey she can do it, so I can do it.’ Women are just as capable of doing these things as the men.”

For these women, new opportunities such as jumping with their units, combat jumps and other training opportunities have opened up.

“It opens the doors for many other opportunities,” said Airman Cady. “It allows us to prove ourselves to people we work with who may have the general stereotype we don’t belong in the career field.”

The camaraderie and determination helped these motivated Airmen earn their parachute wings allowing them to join the airborne ranks.

“I think people should be proud of that accomplishment because no matter where you go or who you work with, there is still the prestige and honor that comes from being a paratrooper,” said Captain McLaughlin.