Archive for the ‘Parachuting’ Category

2020 ADS Ft Bragg Warfighter Expo – Capewell Helo Static Line Anchor System

Friday, March 13th, 2020

My vote for the best product at the Expo was the Helo Static Line Anchor System from Capewell Aerial Systems.

No more making your own. This system is preconfigured, complete with padding and will sustain more than the required 5200 lbs dynamic load (two jumpers simultaneously falling 14 feet). In fact, they tested the system all the way up to 12,000 lbs.

It also comes with a kit bag for storage which can also be used for recovered d-bag storage while in flight

USAF Parachute Riggers: One Ripcord at a Time

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (AFNS) — The Air Force uses more than 20 types of parachutes to conduct personnel recovery, airdrops and asset insertion into combat zones. Knowing what type of parachute is required for each mission and verifying the safety of those parachutes is the job of a parachute rigger.

This responsibility on Camp Lemonnier is up to the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment riggers, deployed from Moffett Federal Airfield, California.

“Being a rigger, everything we do has to be 100 percent,” said Tech. Sgt. Isaac Corniel, the 82nd ERQS AFE NCO in charge. “There is no room for mistakes. There’s no room for error. Their lives are in our hands. Even if we have a small twist in a line we want to make it straight, as it can mean someone’s life.”

Being deployed to Djibouti has allowed the 82nd ERQS AFE to train on real-world missions unlike any other training they can get at home station.

AFE riggers are required to pack a variety of chutes in a variety of conditions throughout the world to meet mission needs. The packing can take from 35 minutes to several hours to inspect and repack. Along with the complex quality control measures that must be performed.

“We just try to be the best that we can. We preach quality, quantity and efficiency,” Corniel said. “We are combined with a variety of military forces being deployed, so our guys get to train on more scenarios than they would at home.”

According to Corniel, being deployed to Africa has allowed the team to have hands-on experience with more airdrop missions, whereas back home they would only provide chutes for one or two drops a month. The AFE Airmen said they have grown their understanding on the job to make their deployment a success.

“The guys have been great. They all live up to the riggers creed; they know now what it is to be a rigger,” Corniel said. “We are a part of something special and we strive to keep the history of excellence between the pararescue teams and riggers.”

By SSgt Carlin Leslie , Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Public Affairs

The Baldwin Files – The Issue MOLLE 4000 Airborne Rucksack

Monday, December 30th, 2019

It has been awhile since I have done an article on tactical gear. In the last few days, I managed to get my hands on the new issue version of the Molle 4000 “Airborne” Rucksack. I do not own a lab coat so I am not in the position to objectively and scientifically test this ruck; but I can provide my initial professional evaluation. The opinions I am offering are influenced by my specific experiences and individual preferences; but I think I can provide some broadly applicable and valid observations and hopefully useful practical information for the reader.

Up front, I will make these points to frame my comments and for the reader to keep in mind. There is no such thing as perfect gear. I have never been issued or bought any load-bearing item that I was completely satisfied with out of the wrapper – ever. I believe that everything can be improved and even the best and most expensive gear still needs at least some “customization” to be optimized for each individual user. Indeed, I have already done some of that to this sample and will point out a couple of my modifications and my rationale as we go alone.

I did spend most of my military career on Airborne status as a jumper and Jumpmaster; so I have a great deal of hands-on experience with Airborne operations and techniques. I am also incorporating a number of pictures for illustrative purposes, and a couple of earlier SSD articles with other pictures are here and here for additional reference. As pointed out in the previous pieces, this ruck is being issued to the 82nd Airborne Division and other Airborne units in the Army. I expect that will eventually include the Ranger Regiment, SF Groups, and other ARSOF units because of the Army’s Title 10 responsibilities. There is also some indication that the Army is exploring expanding the issue of this ruck to at least some non-Airborne units.

Let us start with a size comparison. From left to right, and largest to smallest, are the Molle Large, the Molle 4000, the ALICE Large, and the Army’s Medium Rucksack. The Medium Rucksack has ~3000 cubic inches of space. I have a couple of extra pouches mounted as well as a beavertail so this one is probably in the ~3500 cubic inch range. The ALICE is approximately ~3800 cubic inches including the exterior pockets. The Molle Large bag is ~4000 alone and ~5000 cubic inches with a pair of Sustainment Pouches added as shown. As the name implies, the Molle 4000 is ~4000 cubic inches including the external pockets. Compared to the Molle Large, the Molle 4000 has considerably less available real estate for additional pouches. Still, although it may not look like it, it is possible to mount the issue Army or USMC Sustainment Pouches in a somewhat compressed fashion on either side as shown on the right of the ruck.

As the picture also shows, the 3 bottom exterior pockets on the Molle 4000 are approximately the same volume as those on the Large ALICE. Although, since the cordura material is stiffer than packcloth, I found that I could stuff just a little more into the ALICE pouches. The two on either side have a pass thru channel behind them like their ALICE counterparts. However, the opening is just barely big enough for a GI Machete Sheath to be slipped in – nothing any wider or fatter. The horizontal strap shown comes with the ruck and is labeled “Molle 4000 Compression Strap.” Back in the day, we used a GP Strap to do the same thing on the ALICE as shown. It serves to cinch the pouches and attached items like E-Tools to the ruck to minimize flop or bounce – much like the Brits use bungee cord around their old-school belt kits. No doubt, an old ALICE hand like me added this throwback item. I think today’s soldiers will find that it is a useful accessory.

The three smaller pockets towards the top of the rucksack look to be identical to the same pouches on the Large ALICE. They are indeed just as wide but are actually about an inch shorter. On the ALICE, those were very popular for everything from toilet paper, 550 cord, bungies for shelters, to dip cans and smokes. I have been told that they were originally sized to hold a 30 round M16 magazine. A magazine will indeed fit in the pocket; however, I never saw anyone use it for that purpose. I am not sure I believe the story anyway because the Large ALICE was type classified several years before the 30 round magazines became standard issue. Because they are not as deep, an M4 magazine will not fit in the small pockets on the Molle 4000. Still, I think the small pockets will be well received and provide troopers the option to segregate small items for quick access.

In its Airborne role, the Molle 4000 is actually only one-half of the equation – truly even less than half. IMHO, the true star of the show is a much improved Harness, Single Point Release, Molle (HSPR-M) that is being issued concurrently as a separate component. Note: NO portion of the new HSPR-M or any other air item is permanently sewn into the rucksack. Indeed, while rigging and de-rigging of the ruck is much faster with this new harness, the process would be very familiar for any American trained as a static line jumper in the last 30 years. That is a big plus; this new harness will be an easy transition for all jumpers and will actually be considerably easier and faster to check during Jumpmaster Personnel Inspections (JMPI). The new harness is also reverse compatible and can be readily used to rig any rucksack or jumpable load that could be rigged with the older HSPR.

In a nut shell, the big difference between the old and the new is that the release mechanism and attaching straps have been moved to the center of the HSPR-M rather than being positioned at one end near the friction adapters (metal buckles), as it was with the earlier version. Now, when rigged, the release mechanism remains centered on the bottom of the ruck while the friction adapters are routed all the way to the top. Throughout the Airborne operation, the jumper has full access to all the exterior pockets and can even access the main rucksack compartment rapidly if needed without completely derigging and rerigging. That feature alone is an especially important and welcome enhancement. That is because, in real-world contingency operations, mission critical items including ammunition and rations are routinely delivered to the jumpers at the airfield and right up to the point of boarding the aircraft. In short, the new HSPR-M represents a significant product improvement.

As far as I can tell, there is no intention to change the current Hook and Pile Tape (HPT) Lowering Line. Hook and Pile Tape = Velcro. As is Army SOP, I expect that current HPT Lowering Lines in OD (as shown) or Foliage will continue to be used as long as they are serviceable. Eventually, new lowering lines will be produced in Tan 499 as replacement items as required. The ALICE was issued with an instruction pamphlet and the Molle System has a manual; however, if there is a pamphlet for the issue Molle 4000, I have not seen it yet. I presume it will be an addendum to the Molle System and other applicable combat equipment rigging manuals shortly.

Consequently, since I have not seen the instructions, some of my observations – especially about rigging procedures – are just educated guesses. However, while I might not have rigged it precisely in accordance with the official SOP, I bet I am real close. I can guarantee that I have rigged this ruck in a way that is safe to jump and will work as intended. However, this is not a rigging class and I will let the pictures speak for themselves for the most part. As I said, those of you with experience with the old HSPR will find it mostly familiar.


In some of the pictures, the reader may notice that I replaced all the elastic loops and two sided Velcro that comes with the Molle 4000 for strap management. Instead, I prefer to use ITW triglides. The triglides provide an additional tensioning device and failsafe to keep straps from slipping or coming inconveniently unstowed from an elastic retainer. If you read my three-part article on the ALICE, you also know that I am no fan of wrap around waist belts / pads. Therefore, I also traded out the pad that came with the Molle 4000 for a DEI pad designed for the 1606 frame. It hugs the full curvature around the bottom of the frame. I find that spreads the felt weight across the entire area of the body in contact with the pad. Because of the curve, the pad “cups” the back and sides rather than putting pressure on any one spot.


In combat, soldiers put a pack on and off countless times a day in sunlight and darkness and in blizzards and driving rain – and often under fire as well. It is tiring. Uncomplicated is better. Rucksack configurations that are not prone to getting tangled up with other gear or require a lot of fiddling steps to mount and dismount are eminently more practical and appreciated. From my perspective, the DEI style pad integrates much better, especially with the belt worn gear I personally favor, and provides about as much comfort as possible without the negatives. Warfighting ain’t backpacking; and if I am going into a fight this is how I prefer to run my ruck. Otherwise, as the reader can see, the Molle 4000 bag and suspension system is pretty basic. As previously reported, it is a hybrid, half ALICE and half Molle. For example, on the inside (not shown) is an ALICE style sewn in radio pouch and a Molle style zippered panel that can be used to divide the main compartment in half. I think soldiers will actually appreciate the pack’s utilitarian nature.


I am not about to throw shade on the people involved in the design, development, or testing of the Molle 4000. I appreciate their hard work and I am sure they delivered exactly what they were asked to deliver. However, I would be negligent if I did not point out the areas that I feel strongly need improvement. Specifically, there are four problems I see with the Molle 4000: one relatively minor, and three major. First, the minor issue. The current drain grommets on the exterior pouches and the bottom stow pocket are too small. They are much smaller than those on the ALICE or the Molle Large. I do not know why. More importantly, while there are small grommets at least on the bottom of the air items stow pocket, there are no drain grommets at all on the bottom of the rucksack itself. Therefore, if water gets into the main compartment of the ruck it will not drain. That should be an easy and quick fix.


The second problem is that the zipper providing access to the bottom of the rucksack’s “sleeping bag compartment” is too short. It does not even go half way around the ruck. That means the opening is narrow rather than a fuller size as found on the Molle Large or FILBE. In turn, that means soldiers will have a difficult time getting something the size of a patrol sleeping bag – let alone a full sleep system – through that unnecessarily restrictive opening. In contrast, the zipper on the air items stow pocket goes a full 2/3 of the way around. It is a good thing they added the bottom access zipper; the prototype Molle 4000 did not have one at all. No doubt, soldiers can live with it as is – if absolutely necessary – but they should not have to. Therefore, the bottom of the rucksack needs some modification or even redesign (see problem four) to make access much more user friendly then it is now.


The third – and more significant – problem is that the wide upper pad of the Molle 4000 entirely covers the horizontal recurved arms of the 1606 frame. I submit that those arms are its single best feature. Certainly, the center crossbar has to be padded because otherwise it would press uncomfortably against the soldier’s spine. However, as long as about 2 inches on each end are exposed beyond the padding, those arms provides essential “hard points” to tie down heavy and outsized items like mortar baseplates. It would be a shame to keep something like that completely covered up and unavailable when they could be of great utility to the soldier carrying a combat load. Note: the USMC FILBE rucksack also uses the 1606 frame. A friend pointed out to me recently that the FILBE prototypes had a wide pad similar to the Molle 4000, thus leaving the recurve arms unusable. However, the issue FILBE featured a changed pad system that left the ends of those arms exposed rather than covered. I presume that the USMC saw the greater tactical value in making that modification. I suggest the Army do likewise before the Molle 4000 goes into expanded production.


The fourth, last, and most glaring, problem with the Molle 4000 is the air item stow pocket arrangement itself. It is a superfluous design gimmick that is more trouble than it is worth. I know someone asked for it – and some people must like it. It is still demonstrably unnecessary. I would argue emphatically that paratroopers have no pressing requirement for a pocket on their rucksack dedicated solely to the storage of air items. The first clue should be the fact that we have gone DECADES without ever identifying the need for such a pocket before. In all my years of jumping, I do not ever recall a single time when stowing my air items – without a dedicated pocket – was a problem. I do not remember it being an issue for anyone else either.


Even more to the point, paratroopers have no TACTICAL need whatsoever to carry air items off the dropzone. Once those items have served their one and only purpose – to deliver a paratrooper and his combat load safely to the ground – they are all expendable. They always have been. The stuff is meant to be abandoned in order to unburden the trooper as he moves as rapidly as possible to his unit assembly area and / or combat objective. That includes the parachute, harness, kit bag, weapons cases, HSPR, lowering line, and any other packing material that dropped with us. The troopers shed it all, either immediately upon landing or at the first opportunity. It is dead weight.


Sure, we have a habit of bagging it all up and carrying everything to a convenient centralized location so that the Riggers can take the chutes and accessories back to repack and refurbish. That practice is a sensible conservation of our training resources and money. The fact is, we only issue select air items (HSPR & HTP Lowering Line) to individuals because it is convenient and a time saver for troopers to rig their rucks – and perhaps get their rucksacks pre-inspected by a unit Jumpmaster – before they get to the departure airfield to draw their parachutes, weapons cases, kit bags, etc. to finish the rigging process.


However, all of that represents an entirely ADMINISTRATIVE requirement we levy on ourselves that has nothing to do with jumping into combat. And after all, a successful combat jump is ultimately the only jump that really matters – tactically, operationally, and strategically – to the individual paratrooper, the Airborne unit, the Army, and finally the Nation. We do not need to teach our troopers bad habits or add an unneeded design feature to our load carrying gear to support a bad habit. Airborne leaders should constantly be making the clear distinction between what we do routinely on some CONUS dropzone in training vice what needs to happen on a hot DZ in some hostile place.


The air items stow pocket is certainly not necessary for the rigging process. In fact, the pocket actually slows down the procedure rather than making it smoother. It would be much cleaner if the bottom of the Molle 4000 just had four web bars sewn on that would index the HSPR’s release mechanism in both directions on the ruck. See my mockup using the blue painters tape (above). Then, the entire design of the bottom of the rucksack could be significantly simplified. The bottom of the rucksack itself would be just that – the bottom. The now redundant sleeping bag compartment zipper could be eliminated entirely. The 2/3s zipper would be retained and would give better access to the interior anyway. The ruck could be rigged even faster and there would no longer be a need to secure the flap of the open stow pocket anymore either. That would be markedly better.


Bottom line: the new HSPR-M is a home run for Natick and whoever designed it. The Molle 4000 Rucksack is a solid base hit but has some shortcomings that really need to be addressed. I think that perhaps some decision maker(s) got a little too fixated on securing air items rather than concentrating on optimizing the ruck itself for combat. Even in an Airborne unit, the Molle 4000 will just be a rucksack on a soldier’s back 95% of the time. It could be a much better ruck with some relatively modest adjustments. As is, I think soldiers will generally like it. If those things I have identified are fixed, I think they might even love it. Granted, no one asked me for my opinions, but there they are. De Oppresso Liber!

LTC Terry Baldwin, US Army (Ret) served on active duty from 1975-2011 in various Infantry and Special Forces assignments. SSD is blessed to have him as both reader and contributor.

82nd Paratroopers Test Command and Staff Palletized Airborne Node

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

Recently, the 82nd Airborne Division’s Devil Brigade conducted an Airborne Operation. While many Devils were in flight to the drop zone, members of the Brigade Staff were testing the CASPAN (Command and Staff Palletized Airborne Node) – a large, roll-on/roll-off workstation designed for in-flight mission command collaboration with the Key-Leader Enabler Node, allowing Devil 6 to maintain communication with subordinate commanders during flight.

The CASPAN – equipped with ten airline-style seats, four LED screens, ruggedized laptops and headsets – provides yet another advancement to the Devil Brigade, and will allow them to maintain real-time comms during Airborne operations and exercises, like next Spring’s Defender 20 in Europe.

Viral Filmmaker Honors Life of America’s Most Deployed Soldier Killed in Action

Monday, November 11th, 2019


On the 75th anniversary of D-Day, one of YouTube’s most popular filmmakers, Devin Super Tramp, traveled to Normandy with a team of Special Forces soldiers, veterans and Gold Star Mother Scoti Domeij, to document as they jumped from a WWII aircraft to honor the life of Sgt. 1st Class Kristoffer Domeij. Domeij was the most deployed U.S. soldier (14 deployments) to have been killed in action (Oct. 22, 2011).

The film will debut on YouTube on Veterans Day, 11/11, and will be sent to film festivals worldwide. We’d be honored if you’d consider covering this moving piece on service and memorializing someone who gave all to our country this Veterans Day.


“Participation in the 75th Anniversary of D-Day was a lifetime experience of lifetime experiences,” said Matthew Griffin, former Army Ranger and Co-founder of Combat Flip Flops. “A team of Rangers, Green Berets, pilots and filmmakers came together to honor a legend, Army Ranger Kris Domeij. We did this to memorialize his character, provide perspective, and honor the sacrifice of the thousands that lost their lives on D-Day to ensure freedom for the oppressed.”

“We took on this project not knowing exactly what we were going to capture or even how, but we knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime and that we had to be a part of it,” said Devin Graham, Director/DP at Devin Super Tramp. “It ended up being a more meaningful experience than we could have imagined. Due to the subject matter, historical locations, and the personal stories shared, each day after filming there was an immense emotional weight. It genuinely opened our eyes and changed our perspectives on sacrifice, family and gratitude.”

“While we by no means want to compare ourselves to the veterans we had the privilege to work with there, we chose Here Am I, Send Me for the title of the documentary feeling it not only represented so many of these soldiers but also fell right in line with how we felt when this project was first presented to us. Filming these veterans, and a Gold Star mother, and sharing with them this experience in Normandy, was an intimidating and overwhelming responsibility but we essentially raised our hands and said “we’ll do it, send us!” and we are forever grateful that we did.”

Search Ongoing for Special Tactics Airman After Training Jump

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, a search remains underway for an Airman who exited a C-130 aircraft November 5, 2019 over the Gulf of Mexico approximately 4 miles south of Hurlburt Field. The incident is ongoing and under investigation.

Search and recovery crews were immediately called to aid in locating the Airman from the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field at approximately 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Units participating in the efforts include:

– 24th Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field Air Force Base

– 1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field Air Force Base

– Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter aircrew

– Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew

– Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew

– Two Coast Guard Station Destin 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crews

– 96th Test Wing, Eglin Air Force Base

– U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group, Duke Field

– Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office

– Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

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