Military News

Friday, March 13, 2015

Spartan first sergeant earns master parachutist badge

by Sgt. Eric-James Estrada

3/13/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- After 18 years of service and multiple combat deployments, a company first sergeant earned the coveted master parachutist badge, the highest-level airborne skills award, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson March 6.

The master parachutist badge is awarded to jumpmasters who have conducted 65 jumps from an aircraft, and served on jump status for a minimum of 36 months.
Recipients must also have proven themselves experienced airborne troopers through demonstration of exemplary skills and leadership.

1st Sgt. Herbert Gill, a native of Pulaski, Tennessee, is a jumpmaster and first sergeant for U.S. Army Alaska's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.

He earned the rare title of "master-rated jumpmaster" after exiting a CH-47 Chinook helicopter flown by B Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment "Sugar Bears," over JBER's Malemute Drop Zone.

"Today was my 65th jump from a CH-47," said Gill. "I was able to get my master wings. So now I'm a master-rated jumpmaster."

The newly-pinned jumpmaster said with this new moniker come many more challenges.

"Every 180 days, I have to make sure I'm pulling duties, touching static lines and getting out there," Gill said. "Checking on [my jumpmaster personnel inspection] sequence - because you know if you don't use it, you lose it.

"I have to constantly open the manuals and see what's changing and what's not changing."

Capt. William Longwell, HHC commander and a Batavia, Illinois native,  praised Gill for the accomplishment.

"He's a great [noncommissioned officer] and a great leader within this organization," Longwell said. "He achieved something that not many people are able to achieve on a regular basis."

"To be able to watch him do that - JMPI people and being that true airborne leader - was pretty neat to watch today."

For Gill, the ability to stay on jump status wasn't always there, as the needs of the Army had to be met.

"I've been on jump status since 1996," Gill said. "I had a break in jumping for about nine years and just fought to get back to it. I just love it."

While Gill has been on jump status for some time now, his experience with airborne operations goes back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where his father served as a paratrooper.

"I've been watching jumping since I was probably two or three years old," Gill said. "I remember being there on Sicily Drop Zone with my father."
He was immediately entranced.

"It's just been something I've always wanted to do, and always love doing," he said.

Gill also had some words of encouragement for those Soldiers who are thinking about becoming jumpmasters and those who are striving to get to the master parachutist level.

"Just go do it," Gill said. "Get into school, whether it's Fort Benning [Georgia], Fort Bragg, or one of the [military training teams] that come up here.

"Quit playing around with the idea, and just go do it."

After nearly 20 years of service, Gill said he still feels he has more to offer the Army and especially the Soldiers.

"There's still stuff that I have to do," he said. "I've still got to stick around, help Soldiers out. I'm not done yet. There's still a lot I can give to the military."

As a testament to his commitment and the faith the Army has in his leadership, Gill will be moving on this September to the next phase in his career - the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas.

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