Paratroopers begin to step out the passenger doors of the airplane 1,000 feet above the ground traveling at a speed of 140 miles per hour. It’s a familiar feeling, knowing they have about six seconds before their parachute opens and catches air. The only thing different this time is the commands to jump are in a different language.
Soldiers assigned to 16th Military Police Brigade completed an airborne operation led by German Army jump master Sgt. Maj. Ronny Hahnlein, Nov. 18. Hahnlein, of Coburg, Bavaria, Germany, serves as liason to the XVIII Airborne Corps here.
The event began with airborne refresher training shortly after 9 a.m. at the ‘mock doors’ – a training aid similar to the inside setting of a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft they would jump from later in the day. The purpose for the operation was both to continue certification for those on jump status, but more uniquely, it was led by a German jumpmaster so the military police would have the rare opportunity to earn foreign wings.
“You have the opportunity to do what no other military police battalion in the U. S. Army got to do today, earn foreign jump wings,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey A. Maddox, a member of the jumpmaster team for the operation.
The paratroopers lined up on the lawn in flight-manifest order for identification verification and initial equipment checks. Once the manifest was completed, they formed a large circle to review the T-11 parachute malfunctions procedures. They also rehearsed when and how to activate the reserve parachute if that became necessary.
Hahnlein gave the commands in German and they were repeated in English by the jumpmaster team. Due to aircraft noise, some of the commands use hand signals while voice commands are repeated by each member of the flight to ensure everyone is ready when the jump light turns from red to green.
“It’s a lot of fun having a different kind of jumpmaster,” said Sgt. Veronica L. Calzada, assigned to 65th MP Co. “Luckily they echoed the commands or I would have no clue what he was saying.”
On the command “final equipment check” each Soldier taps the back of the person in front of them from the rear of the line to the front, and the last person gives a hand slap to the jumpmaster standing by the jump door.
“I think it was fantastic,” said Pfc. Ronnie Jackson assigned to material supply with HHC, 16th MP Brigade. “The weather was more than perfect.”
They all land without incident or injury, pack up their parachutes and hike off the drop zone to a parking lot at the edge of the field where the busses are waiting to return them to the unit.
The Soldiers stand in formation after sunset to receive their foreign jump wings from German army Lt. Col. Andreas Wiechert, liason to XVIII Airborne Corps.
The German wings were awarded in bronze for first time foreign jumpers, silver for second foreign jumps, and gold for three-time foreign jumps to the paratroopers who had spent all day training for their minute and a half glide to the ground.
“What can I say?” said Wiechert. “This is more than just exchanging badges, it is a visible sign of our partnership and our friendship.”