Airmen train for contingency operations

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs

The blood vessels dilate. The heart starts pounding faster as adrenaline kicks into full gear. The jumpers manage to keep a calm bearing as they wait for the signal. They're ready. The light turns green, and from the dark cargo hold of a C-130 Hercules, they jump into the bright tropical skies of the Pacific.

As part of the 36th Contingency Response Group, members of the 736th Security Forces Squadron provide an integrated force protection element that arrives first at operating locations. Without existing airfields, CRG members are sometimes required to arrive by parachute.

"The whole 36th CRG falls under a designed operational capability statement that requires us to respond within a certain time frame," said Capt. David Bullock, 736th SFS director of operations. "Our airborne capability is intended to be the advanced echelon of that force protection element. They facilitate the follow-on forces that support the air base opening package."

Members of the 736th SFS conduct regular static line jump training on the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in order to maintain airborne qualification.

"Once the parachute opens, it's just peaceful and quiet," said Staff Sgt. Jacob Thompson, 736th SFS fire team leader and jumpmaster. "Yesterday I hit about 41 jumps overall. I used to be really nervous, but now, with all the experience, I'm getting a lot more comfortable with it. You just focus on steering to where you have to land."

The Air Force static line capability falls under the Personnel Parachute Program. Jumpers first attend a three-week basic airborne course at Ft. Benning, Ga., where they learn jumping proficiency. After passing the course, jumpers can maintain their qualification from their designated bases if training is available.

The jumpers receive standardized airborne training right before every jump, starting with a pre-jump brief from jumpmasters. The training includes everything from emergency landing procedures to activation of reserve parachutes. The training also involves simulations for static line control, emergency exiting and red-light procedures. Additionally, the jumpmasters receive a briefing from the aircrew regarding the flight path, different jump scenarios and safety precautions.

"The briefings refresh everything we learned in the airborne course," Thompson said. "We do it every time because safety is one of the main priorities here at the 736th SFS. We don't want anything to happen to our jumpers, especially since we're conducting a high-risk activity. If anything is unsafe, we cancel the jump or ask the pilot to do another pass."

Along with supporting contingency missions of the U.S. Pacific Command, Bullock said having airborne capability is also beneficial to humanitarian aid and disaster response operations.

"That's huge in this theater because PACOM and all our regional partners are scattered in a geographical location that is historically subjected to natural hazards and disasters," Bullock said. "Our airborne capability plays into that role by providing a means of getting into areas that an aircraft may not be able to land on. With the strategic pivot to the Pacific and international attention on this region, it's our responsibility to maintain the capability of providing aid in the event of a disaster."

Despite rigorous airborne qualification procedures, members of the 736th SFS continue to train regularly to keep their proficiency and ability to jump into any situation in support of missions all over the Pacific.