For the third year in a row, the winner of the 82nd Airborne Division Jumpmaster of the Year competition, held April 16 through 25, comes from the Falcon Brigade.
Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Sessoms, a Belleville, Mich., native, is the division’s 2012 Jumpmaster of the Year.
“The competition was a great test of individual jumpmaster proficiency,” said Sessoms. “It took a great deal of hard work but I felt prepared to do whatever they threw at me.”
Sessoms, a cavalry scout, with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 73rd Airborne Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, is the troop’s assistant operations noncommissioned officer in charge.
“Jumpmaster of the Year is a very prestigious honor,” said Command Sgt. Major Timothy Guden, as he looked at the Jumpmaster of the Year trophy on the shelf next to his desk. “Being the only airborne division in the free world, and having the distinct honor of having a Jumpmaster of the Year come from our unit is quite the title.”
During the competition, five candidates went head-to-head to decide this year’s Jumpmaster of the Year.
The candidates who competed in this year’s competition with Sessoms were Sgt. Nicholas Hardin, with 3rd Squadron, 73rd Airborne Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Strickland, who is assigned to 1st Battery, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Staff Sgt. Brandon Conway, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, and Staff Sgt. Raul Mancera, with the Headquarters Support Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division.
“Each candidate went through a tough selection process that considered experience as a jumpmaster, character and brigade competitions to determine who would represent their units during this annual test of skills,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Antipuesto, U.S. Army Advanced Airborne School tower committee chief. “The competition is meant to build esprit de corps within the individual brigades and to find the best qualified jumpmaster in the division.”
The Jumpmaster of the Year competition began with the Army physical fitness test before the break of dawn. The performance-based events tested the candidates’ attention to detail and their jumpmaster competency.
“The instructors are going to test the heck out of you throughout the competition,” said 1st Sgt. Douglas Kirk, the Advanced Airborne School first sergeant “We’re not going to give you anything, but we’re going find out how much you really know.”
Testing throughout the competition included the 100-question written exam, 100-question nomenclature exam, a six-station rigging exam, the jumpmaster personnel inspection examination, and the practical work in the aircraft event completed over a week in April.
The rigging examination, one of the most difficult events, consisted of six stations where each candidate had 30 minutes to properly rig a particular item for an airborne operation. Items rigged included the A-21 cargo bag, the AT-4 jump pack, the M7 large base plate, M170 bi-pod and M225 cannon, M240B machine gun and M249 squad automatic weapon.
“The rig-ex tends to be the most difficult exams, due to the fact that they often don’t see these items on a day-to-day basis in normal airborne operations,” said Antipuesto.
The jumpmaster personnel inspection, which followed the rigging exercise, tested the candidates’ ability to properly inspect three jumpers in five minutes or less and quickly identify each jumper’s major and minor equipment deficiencies.
The candidates had to thoroughly inspect each jumper to the standard, however much time it took. In the end, they agreed it was all about safety versus speed.
The 82nd Airborne Division’s Jumpmaster of the Year is now a part of an exclusive group of paratroopers who continue to live the 82nd legacy.
“This is what we, as leaders do in the 82nd Airborne Division”, said Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Payton, Task Force All-American.