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Archive for the ‘Parachuting’ Category

West Point Parachute Team: Where Astronauts Learn to Fly

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

WEST POINT, N.Y. — On the precipice 240 miles above the earth, Jeff Williams was ready to enter into the void.

It was a feeling he’d become used to over the years; solid ground beneath your feet, nothing but empty air across the ledge.

But this time it was different.

This was no helicopter flying over the U.S. Military Academy’s Camp Buckner, where he had jumped countless times as a member of the West Point Parachute Team.

It was a step off the space shuttle for a seven-hour spacewalk to continue the process of constructing the International Space Station.

“The sensation of being outside the spacecraft, orbiting the earth every 90 minutes, controlling yourself with just fingertip control and seeing the earth below, that is why I call it the ultimate skydive,” Williams, a retired Army colonel, NASA astronaut and a member of USMA Class of 1980, said. “It is absolutely incredible.”

When he arrived at West Point from the dairy farm in Wisconsin where he was raised, a future that included flying on anything, let alone a rocket into space, wasn’t on Williams’ radar. His father had served in West Germany for a few years following World War II, but that was the extent of the military service in his family.

Williams learned about the academy through his father’s role as a high school guidance counselor and from the get go his plan wasn’t necessarily a lengthy Army career. Heck, he wasn’t even sure if he was going to stay at West Point for the full four years. His goal was simply to prove his friends wrong who had doubted he would last at the banks of the Hudson River.

“I remember having friends from my hometown and one said you won’t make it past the summer and Beast Barracks,” Williams said. “The other one said he probably won’t make it to Christmas. I was going to at least win their arguments and beat both of them.”

Then he learned to fly and any thoughts of leaving the academy were gone.

When he’d first entered the academy, Williams didn’t even know the Army had aircraft, but at the end of his plebe year in 1977 he found the West Point Parachute Team. At the same time, his cadet sponsor was the commander of the academy’s aviation detachment.

By leaving the ground and soaring through the air, he found the balance needed to be successful at West Point. His sponsor and the other members of the aviation detachment taught him about their experience flying in Vietnam and introduced him to all an Army aviator could do, while the parachute team brought him friends and adventure.

First, the members of the team learned to jump via static line. Then they did “hop and pops” where you jump out and immediately pull your parachute. Finally, they started adding freefall time, first 10 seconds, then 20, then 30.

In those days, during the afternoon the members of the team would jump into Camp Buckner, whereas nowadays the team spends its afternoons after class jumping onto The Plain at the center of the academy. On weekends, they would travel out to Walkill to an abandoned airfield and jump all day. Go up, jump, land, fold up your parachute and go again six or seven times in a single day.

Jump after jump, Williams came to love the thrill and the intricacies of learning how to use and trust the parachute system. After not even knowing the Army had aircraft, he quickly set his sights on becoming a pilot following graduation.

It was also during those years when Williams first considered the idea of being not just an Army pilot, but an astronaut. During his cow year at the academy, Gen. Bob Stewart was selected to become a NASA astronaut making him the first active duty Army officer selected by NASA. A visit by Stewart to West Point, time spent with future astronaut Jim Adamson, who was teaching at West Point at the time, and reading “The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe opened Williams’ eyes to the possibility of space flight, much as joining the parachute team had first peaked his interest in being a pilot.

Following graduation, Williams’ first duty assignment was Germany, just as it had been for his dad years before. He learned to fly OH-58s and Hueys, but the astronaut program was never far from his mind. He applied for the first time in 1985 and would go on to apply five more times over 10 years before being selected as a member of the astronaut class of 1996.

“It is a good lesson I try to communicate to folks,” Williams said of applying six times and interviewing three. “One, to persevere with your goals and two, don’t take the disappointments personally because they’re usually not personal.”

He launched for the first time on May 19, 2000 aboard the space shuttle Atlantis for a 10-day mission to work on constructing the International Space Station. He’d launch again in 2006, 2009 and 2016, each time aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket for a six-month mission seeing the ISS go from just started to fully operational across his four trips.

He spent nearly 32 hours outside performing spacewalks during his trips. It is in those experiences where his time spent training with the parachute team really came full circle to help him succeed.

Hanging by nothing but his fingertips, Williams would move around by “walking,” but it was really a hand over hand crawl through the void of space. The ability to control his body, move through the air and deal with important tasks while in a risky environment were all skills he had first learned a few thousand feet above Camp Buckner, but he was now using a couple hundred miles above earth.

“In some ways there are parallels between going out and being completely free of touching things in a skydive and controlling your body, the aerodynamics of your body by moving your arms and legs around and managing the risks and the challenges of doing a spacewalk,” Williams said.

Williams is still flight ready and on the astronaut roster, but his days of launching into space have likely come and gone following 534 days in space. The pathway from the West Point Parachute Team to the International Space Station continues, though.

Their paths to NASA were different, but as members of the parachute team, Col. Drew Morgan and Lt. Col. Frank Rubio, both in USMA Class of 1998, learned to fly together. The two made their first jumps on the same day, and although their Army careers took them to different places their paths have at times run parallel with both attending medical school and now both serving NASA as astronauts.

That connection started as plebes at the U.S. Military Academy when Morgan and Rubio found their way to the parachute team.

For Morgan, it was a continuation of a family legacy. Family stories of his great uncle Harry McClintock, a member of the 101st Airborne Division who jumped into Normandy on D-Day, had spurred his already budding interest in serving in the military and introduced him to the idea of becoming an Army paratrooper.

Rubio came to the academy for the education, unsure of what all was offered at West Point. He spent his first year playing what was then called 150s and is now Sprint Football but jumped at the opportunity to join the parachute team once he heard about it.

There, he found his best friends. The team demanded he give up time during the summer and over breaks, but it was worth it to take to the skies with teammates, including Morgan, who quickly became more like brothers.

“What I learned the most from the team was a sense of responsibility. Ultimately, you are getting trained to be a jumpmaster very early on in your life,” Rubio said. “You quickly learn that it is a lot of fun, it is a really neat thing to do, but it is a lot of responsibility. It is something you’ve got to take pretty seriously.”

Morgan is currently orbiting earth aboard the International Space Station during his first mission to space. He was a member of the astronaut class of 2013 and launched to the space station in July to take part in Expedition 60 and 61.

On Aug. 21, he followed in Williams’ footsteps and made the ultimate skydive into space for his first spacewalk.

“That camaraderie that we had (on the parachute team) and that dependency we had on each other, making sure that we were skilled in the aircraft and skilled in the air, our lives depended on each other to do safety checks of each other … I think about how 20 years ago, I was developing those skills at an early age and didn’t even know it,” Morgan said in a NASA interview.

While being an astronaut was always Morgan’s goal, it had only registered as a slight possibility to Rubio. That changed in 2017 with a phone call from his former parachute teammate. NASA was accepting a new class of astronauts and Morgan reached out to encourage him to apply.

“I was pursuing my own dreams at the time of being a special operations surgeon,” Rubio said. “When they took the next class and Drew gave me a quick call and said you may want to consider trying out I think you would be a good candidate, I began to think about it at length.”

Rubio was accepted as a member of the class of 2017 and began his two years of training as an astronaut candidate, which he will graduate from soon.

The training course teaches future astronauts how to fly a T-38 Talon, use the space suit, operate the robotics at the space station and how to operate the International Space Station. Due to NASA’s close relationship with the Russian Space Agency, astronaut candidates also have to learn Russian.

After graduation from astronaut candidate school, Rubio and his classmates will wait to be assigned missions, which typically takes a minimum of two years. After selection it is another two years of training before launching to the space station.

Williams was the first to make the leap from parachute team to astronaut, but Morgan and Rubio have followed along the same path and laid the groundwork for current and future team members to follow their own dreams to space.

With fall temperatures rolling in making the afternoons cooler and the sun setting over The Plain, the current members of the parachute team hone their skills much as their three predecessors did as cadets. Grab your parachute, fist pump the 2nd Aviation pilot, ascend to 3,000 feet, jump, land, fold up your parachute and do it all over again.

Jump after jump the team grows closer and their skills improve. How to control your body. How to trust your equipment. How to function in a high stress environment. All of it pays dividends no matter the career they choose to pursue in the Army, but as Williams and Morgan have shown and Rubio will soon learn, it also prepares you for the moment on the ledge with the earth spread out before your eyes as you prepare to make the ultimate skydive.

“To me that means I have a chance, honestly, which I think is super cool,” Class of 2021 Cadet Matthew Blejwas, a current member of the parachute team and aspiring astronaut, said. “Right now, just being able to follow in the footsteps of people that are making these great bounds for us as a society and as humanity is really humbling. I recognize that I’m in a spot where I have an incredible opportunity, and I don’t take that lightly.”

By Brandon OConnor

US Army Medics Jump With Plasma, Test New Lifesaving Delivery Method

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — According to U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, bleeding is the leading case of death on the battlefield. When service members receive serious wounds, they are often transported to a surgical team for treatment. These casualties often suffer from severe blood loss due to the inability of their blood to clot normally, which represent approximately 40 percent of combat casualties.

The USAMRMC says frozen blood is currently the standard for treatment. But due to technical and logistical limitations, the demand for a more transportable plasma product with the same hemostatic properties grew.

The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, along with a partner company, are testing transportation methods to deliver freeze dried plasma, or FDP, to address this issue and increase the survival rate of wounded Soldiers.

New Roads, Louisiana native Cpt. Robert Crochet, a primary medical test officer, and an Army Medical Department Board – alongside medical personnel assigned to the 432nd Blood Support Detachment, 44th Med. Brigade at Fort Bragg – are testing FDP’s ability to be transported safely and quickly using means that were previously dismissed due to risk of breakage.

Currently used is French frozen plasma, which is contained inside glass tubes, unlike the new FDP, which is sealed inside a ready-to-use bag along with a 250ml bag of sterile water for injection and rehydrating. These are then stored inside a hard plastic sheath designed to protect the product during transport.

For the test mission, Soldiers of the 432nd BSD rehydrated the FDP and packaged it, then waited for transportation by a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. The airborne Soldiers from Fort Bragg then jumped out of the Chinook with the plasma packed in their bags. Upon landing, Crochet and his team inspected the containers and the FDP for signs of damage. They reported their findings to members of the research and development teams for on-sight data collection.

“Tourniquets helped in enhancing survivability for our war fighters, but it’s blood that keeps them alive,” said Col. Roberto E. Marin, material systems branch chief, AMEDD Board.

According to USAMRMC, there is no current method to supply troops in the battlefield with FFB; it has to be maintained by role 2 medical facilities, advanced trauma management and emergency medical treatment, with the ability to freeze and store the blood at constant temperatures. Medical teams operating in a Role 1, unit-level medical care, do not have the ability to store FFB, thus limiting treatment available for wounded Soldiers, according to USAMRMC officials.

Another disadvantage with FFB is the amount of time required to prepare the blood for use on wounded soldiers.

“Currently FFB takes roughly thirty minutes to thaw for surgical use,” Crochet. “With freeze dried plasma, it takes roughly 1-6 minutes to rehydrate and become ready to administer to the casualty. Those minutes can be the difference in life or death.”

Currently FDP and it’s airborne delivery method is still in the testing phase.

By SGT Brian Micheliche

Is The Army Looking to Expand Use of MOLLE 4000 Airborne Rucksack to General Purpose Forces?

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

Terry Baldwin sent me a link the other day with this note:

I admit, this particular item of kit has really captured my interest. It seems from the pictures that the “final” version of the rucksack is even more of a large ALICE-clone than the prototypes suggested. The rigging geometry, likewise, would be very familiar to you or me. It also appears, from a separate slide briefing that it is being considered not only for Airborne units but also as a possible Service-wide replacement for the Molle Large. Note, the standard Molle waistpad / belt used with the prototypes has been replaced by what looks like an OCP version of the pad /belt on the Marine’s FILBE pack. The shoulder straps also have  a new 4-point connection arrangement above the envelope pad. Interesting stuff.

He had run across a sources sought notice from earlier this year. The Army is looking to build more of its new MOLLE 4000 Airborne Rucksacks. What is interesting is the description. Up to now, it has only been intended for airborne troops.

Considering the numbers of 130,000 packs and the Army’s concentration on modernizing it’s Close Combat Forces, this looks like a possible fielding for the BCTs.

Here’s the info on the MOLLE 4000 Ruck:

“The new MOLLE Rucksack for Airborne and General Purpose Forces [ emphasis added] is a Government-owned design. It has an approximately 4000 cubic inch capacity and made of 1000 Denier nylon coated fabric, has an external frame, adjustable shoulder straps and an adjustable waist belt. The exterior of the rucksack has multiple storage pockets and pouches of varying dimensions. The interior of the main compartment of the rucksack has a pouch for carrying a radio / hydration bladder or other similarly sized equipment. The interior of the main compartment of the rucksack has a center zippered flap that divides the main compartment into two approximately equal upper and lower halves. The bottom of the rucksack has a separate [Air Items] storage compartment and above that a zippered access into the lower part of the main compartment.”

LTC Terry Baldwin (USA, Ret) contributed to this report.

ParaDry Systems Launches a New Website

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

Sanford, FL – ParaDry™ Systems, a line of motorized lifts purpose-designed to facilitate parachute maintenance and inspection, has recently launched a new website. The new site is simple and clean, emphasizing streamlined navigation for users. “People who visit paradrysystems.com want to learn about the product,” says Jack Hoffend, Sales Manager of ParaDry®Systems. “The straightforward design allows folks to move around quickly and efficiently, getting the information they need.”

The site consists of four pages: Home, Products & Services, Completed Projects, and a Contact page. The Home page pulls double duty by putting a brief yet informative description of the product line front and center, letting users skip the extra step of navigating to a separate About page. Users can also move from the Home page directly to the Products & Services and Completed Projects pages.

The Products & Services page is comprised of four sections: a section for Lift Configurations; a section for ParaRam, a specialized lift designed to handle Ram-Air chutes; a section for ParaDry®Systems’ innovative Expeditionary Tower; and a section for information about Rigging Inspection & Review. The Completed Project Page provides a succinct overview of select projects by answering who, what, when, and where. The final page, the Contact page, makes available expected information like fax, phone, and physical address. It is also a simple online form giving users the opportunity to get in touch with the company. Users can safely upload files such as drawings and photos to get a conversation moving in the right direction.

A design detail seen on the Home and Contact pages is subtly colored topographic map lines used as a background. This small detail assures users that while they may not be in familiar territory, they’ve reached someone who is. ParaDry®Systems staff is prepared to guide clients through the ups and downs of properly outfitting a parachute drying tower.

ParaDry®Systems was designed by rigging specialists to operate safely and continuously for decades in the elevated heat and humidity of a parachute drying tower. Suitable for new builds and paraloft tower renovations, the system can be configured to meet a base’s specific needs, always emphasizing safety, efficiency, and reliability. Veteran rigger and senior installer on many ParaDry®Systems projects, Gregory Keatley says, “It is the best product on the market today. It’s really one of the best looking and operating shaft drive units I’ve ever installed and used without fault!”

www.paradrysystems.com

Strike Hold! Presents: Operation Dragoon 75 – Dispatch from the Front

Friday, August 16th, 2019

Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of southern France, was originally supposed to be launched simultaneous to the invasion of Normandy – thus catching the Nazi forces in France and Western Europe between the horns of a two-pronged assault. However, due to there not being enough ships, aircraft, crews, and materiel to allow both invasions to happen simultaneously, the southern invasion was postponed.

Sometimes known as “The Forgotten D-Day”, Operation Dragoon (earlier known as “Operation Anvil”, whilst the Normandy invasion was known as “Sledgehammer”) was re-scheduled for mid-August 1944. By that time it was also clear to the Allied High Command that another way into, and through, France was necessary because the Normandy ports could not cope with the volume of supplies needed to keep the armies fed, armed, fueled, and moving.

The goals of Operation Dragoon were to secure the vital ports on the French Mediterranean coast and increase pressure on the German forces by opening another front. After some preliminary commando operations, the US VI Corps landed on the beaches of the Côte d’Azur under the shield of a large naval task force, followed by several divisions of the French Army B.

Allied forces were opposed by the scattered forces of the German Army Group G, which had been weakened by the relocation of its divisions to other fronts and the replacement of its soldiers with third-rate Ostlegione outfitted with obsolete equipment. Hindered by total Allied air superiority and a large-scale uprising by the French Resistance, the weak German forces were swiftly defeated.

The remaining German forces withdrew to the north through the Rhône valley, to establish a stable defense line at Dijon. Allied mobile units were able to overtake the Germans and partially block their route at the town of Montélimar. The ensuing battle led to a stalemate, with neither side able to achieve a decisive breakthrough, until the Germans were finally able to complete their withdrawal and retreat from the town. While the Germans were retreating, the French managed to capture the important ports of Marseille and Toulon, putting them into operation soon after.

The Germans were not able to hold Dijon and ordered a complete withdrawal from Southern France. Army Group G retreated further north, pursued by Allied forces. The fighting ultimately came to a stop at the Vosges mountains, where Army Group G was finally able to establish a stable defense line. After meeting with the Allied units from Operation Overlord, the Allied forces were in need of reorganizing and, facing stiffened German resistance, the offensive was halted on 14 September – one month to the day after the invasion.

Three days after the end of Operation Dragoon, on the 17th of September 1944, “Operation Market-Garden” was launched. With Operation Market-Garden the Allied Command sought to leapfrog over the German forces in The Netherlands – using airborne forces to capture key bridges over the Rhine – and then punch through into the industrial heartland of Germany.

Operation Dragoon was considered a success by the Allies. It enabled them to liberate most of Southern France in a time span of only four weeks, while inflicting heavy casualties on the German forces. Although a substantial part of the best German units were able to escape, the captured French ports were put into operation, allowing the Allies to solve their supply problems.

Article features some text and photos from Wikipedia.

This week marks the 75th Anniversary of Operation Dragoon, and once again our friends from the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team are on the ground and in the air doing what they do best – commemorating the brave troops of the Airborne Forces who were critical to the Allied victory. They recently posted a “Dispatch from the front lines” on their Facebook page, and we’d like to share that with you:

Dragoon Update—Photos from the front!

U.S. Army Airborne, British Airborne, and U.S. Marine Corps Airborne attached to the Office of Strategic Services—we’re privileged to be honoring them all! These units were part of the Allied 1st Airborne Task Force represented by our team members here.

The 1st Airborne Task Force was a short-lived airborne unit created specifically for Operation Dragoon–the invasion of Southern France. The combined unit strength was 9,000 men. It consisted of a near-random grouping of parachute infantry regiments, many of which had served in Italy and which were accustomed to the mountainous terrain of Southern France. During Dragoon, most landed in drop zones like the one seen here. Forests and mountains made the area dangerous, but also forced units to be split apart, testing their true abilities as Airborne infantry.

Among the units we honored during our jump on Monday was the 551st Parachute Infantry Regiment. Virtually nothing of the 551st’s history was known to the American public until a renewed interest in the unit in the 1990’s prompted veterans to seek recognition for it. The 551st was originally commissioned to capture the French Island of Martinique which was being used as a supply station for Nazi U-Boats. The 551st trained in secret in Panama far away from the more famous Airborne regiments. The invasion of Martinique was called off, but Operation Dragoon put the 551st on French soil, nevertheless.

On the fog-blanketed morning of August 15th, the 551st parachuted into a drop zone not far where we are shown here. Immediately the 551st liberated the town of Draguignan and a week later, Nice.

During the Battle of the Bulge this outlier within the Airborne community was summoned to take the fight to the enemy in the north. Assigned to move through the American lines and infiltrate four miles into Nazi occupied territory, the 551st achieved every objective assigned—but at a terrible cost. It entered the battle on January 3, 1945. By January 6, it had lost 85% of its troops. Of its 643 men only 14 Officers and 96 men lived to see the 551st’s victory.

The unit was famous for an acronym that many on our team take pride in sharing: GOYA. We’ll let you look that up. But it sums up a simple formula for life success. Of all the motivational messages and themes out there, we think the 551st had it right—one of the many reasons we admire them and want to make sure that their story stays alive to inspire others.

Special thanks to our friends and brothers at French Airborne Command for inviting us to join them and for making this jump possible. To the memory of all who served in 1st Airborne Task Force and to the 551st, we salute you! Airborne All The Way!

Photos by WWII ADT, Ville du Muy and by Jean-michel Maurel via Airborne Command

Originally published by strikehold.net.

National Airborne Day

Friday, August 16th, 2019

Strikehold’s Leapfest Wrap-Up

Monday, August 5th, 2019

We are fortunate to share Strikehold.net’s coverage of Leapfest 2019, the annual military parachuting competition hosted by the Rhode Island National Guard.

Leapfest is the largest, longest standing, international static line parachute training event and competition. Conducted by the Rhode Island Army National Guard, the purpose of Leapfest is to promote international camaraderie and Esprit de Corps among Airborne Soldiers, while also showcasing the capabilities of the Rhode Island National Guard.

Paratroopers are specially selected, trained, and highly disciplined soldiers. They are able to rapidly deploy, land, and sustain a powerful combat force to achieve strategic objectives – such as seizing and holding key terrain or infrastructure. They can also be dropped behind enemy lines to conduct raids and other types of tactical interdiction missions. They are typically used as countries’ rapid deployment forces, with the ability to operate on any terrain in any environment with little warning.

Airborne forces can vary in size from an airborne company, a regimental combat team, or to an entire division or corps. To become a paratrooper, a soldier must go through rigorous physical and psychological training and conditioning in order to be ready to jump and fight without hesitation.

Leapfest is routinely attended by teams from across the Armed Forces of the United States (both Active and Reserve forces) as well as multiple international teams. Participants aim to land as close as possible to a marked, designated area within the landing zone. Upon landing and completing a PLF (parachute landing fall), participants are timed by qualified judges until they reach the designated area.

Each team consists of 5 participants: 4 jumpers and 1 alternate jumper. Each jumper must complete 2 jumps to be qualified for the individual award, and each team must complete 8 jumps in total to be qualified for the team award.

Jumpers exit from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter at an altitude of 1500 feet (457 meters) using an MC-6 static line, steerable, parabolic parachute. The MC-6 is the latest advanced-design steerable, round-canopy, parachute, and was developed through the Special Operations Forces Tactical Assault Parachute Systems (SOFTAPS) program. The MC-6 utilizes the same SF-10A canopy that has been in use with US Special Operations Forces for over 10 years. The MC-6 Maneuverable Troop Parachute System consists of the SF-10A Main Canopy, the T-11R Reserve, and the T-11 Harness.

This year there was a total of 35 teams from the US and 20 teams from 12 international Partner Nations. This year’s international teams hail from Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Qatar, South Africa, United Kingdom and New Zealand.

In addition to the competition, Leapfest also features a day of friendship jumps conducted by international Jump Masters, followed by a Wings Exchange Ceremony prior to the official Closing Ceremonies.

Further info about Leapfest can be found online and on Facebook.

To view all of the photos taken during the competition, visit strikehold.net/2019/08/04/leapfest-2019.

Thanks Lawrence!

3rd Bn, 75th Ranger Rgt Jump Test SPEAR Packs

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

FORT BENNING, Georgia — Army Rangers here are evaluating three Mystery Ranch backpack variations by jumping out of U.S. Air Force C–130 Hercules aircraft.

The three commercial off the shelf variants tested by Soldiers with the 75th Ranger Regiment’s 3rd Battalion included an Assault Pack, Patrol Pack, and Recce Pack.

Forty-seven Soldiers from the 75th Regimental Special Troops Battalion conducted 45 static line infiltration training jumps on Benning’s Fryar Drop Zone, using the backpacks as part of their combat equipment load.

The new backpacks range from 3,200 cubic inches for the Assault pack to 6,200 cubic inches for the Recce pack, according to Lt. Col. Dave Dykema, with the U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s (OTC) Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate (ABNSOTD) based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

He said the new backpack variations provide modularity to support various mission requirements not supported by the Army’s legacy All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment (ALICE) backpack.

“The ABNSOTD was professional and user friendly,” said Capt. Joshia Auerbach, the 75th’s Regimental Air Officer.

“They responded to our need rapidly, and tested the equipment in a manner that was quick and efficient for the Ranger Regiment, expertly incorporating testing into our training schedule.”

“These rucksacks provide a modern load carrying solution that can now be certified for static line airborne operations,” said Staff Sgt. Jake Leveille, 75th Regimental Air NCO.

Spec. Thomas Lewis, Squad Rifleman, said he understood the importance of operational testing the new backpacks.

“Participating in this test provided me with insight on how the Army ensures our equipment is safe and suitable, before fielding it to the force,” he said.

“Soldiers enjoy getting involved in training hard during operational testing,” said Dykema.

“They have the opportunity to operate and offer up their own suggestions on pieces of equipment that can impact development of systems that future Soldiers will use in support of combat missions,” he added.

Highly-instrumented test drops help test overall survivability of equipment used during airborne operations, according to Dykema.

By SFC Ian Seymour, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command

Editor’s Note: The test packs are the SPEAR program packs, selected for issue by USSOCOM which were being certified for static line jumps.