Military News

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Free fall for 60 minutes

by Master Sgt. Todd Wivell
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs


3/31/2015 - JOINT BASE LEWIS- McCHORD, Wash. -- The McChord C-17 Globemaster III aircraft is cruising at 10,000 feet above the ground and the back ramp opens. Combat controllers of the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron, assigned here, jump out the back and start their free fall before deploying their parachutes and landing safely back to the air field. They are only in the air for a few minutes and their free fall time lasts no more than 45 seconds.
   
Those 45 seconds do not allow for any room of error, and the controllers have to know exactly how to execute that free fall before their canopy opens.
   
In an effort to increase their stability and safety while in a free fall, Special Tactics combat controllers, in several different groups, conducted 60 minutes of wind tunnel training, March 25 at iFly in Seattle.
   
The 22nd STS is a unit of the 24th Special Operations Wing based at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The primary mission of the 24th SOW is to provide Special Tactics forces for rapid global employment to enable airpower success. Combat controllers integrate air power into ground special operations for mission success, deploying into forward hostile areas to establish assaults zones, provide air traffic control capability, and control offensive airstrike operations.
   
"During normal military free fall jumps, there is a minimum amount of time prior to deploying the jumper's canopy," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Kirby, 22nd STS combat controller. "This wind tunnel training will allow jumpers more time to work on their proficiency while in free fall.
   
"This is important to ensure safety of all jump operations. Conducting night, combat equipment, High Altitude Low Opening oxygen jumps is inherently dangerous and this training allows for jumpers to identify and fix their deficiencies."
   
For three hours of blocked time, three different groups of controllers went through this quarterly training. Special Tactics Airmen would utilize free fall to infiltrate a hostile or austere area without a safe landing zone.
   
"At 10,000 feet we only get an estimated 45 seconds of free fall time when jumping out of an aircraft," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Thaxton, 22nd STS combat controller. "When we spend an hour in this training, it gives us anywhere from 15 to 20 in simulated free falls."
   
"We don't get much free fall time and this training gives us time to get comfortable with our chute, pack and other equipment," said Senior Airman Kyle Brozka, 22nd STS combat controller and first-time visitor to the iFly complex.
   
U.S. Air Force combat controllers go through at least two years of special operations training before being assigned to their first base and the first time they practice free fall is about 18 months into this training.
   
"While a jumper is free falling, it may not be known to the jumper if they are moving in one direction in the air (especially at night)," said Kirby. "The tunnel will help identify and allow the jumper to fix these incorrect procedures.
   
"If a jumper is moving through the air and not falling straight down there is the potential for a midair collision or being below another jumper at deployment altitude which could be fatal for the higher jumper.
   
"The tunnel helps eliminate this chance and helps ensure we are as safe as possible while conducting those zero illumination, night, combat equipment, oxygen High Altitude Low Opening jumps."
   
Not much can be done in 45 seconds, but in that small amount of time, combat controllers conducting HALO jumps have to make sure they are safe and stable and aware of what is around them, this training is just one way they can make sure that is happening.

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