Pfc. Mariana Alvarez, 11th Quartermaster Company, 189th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, 82nd Sustainment Brigade, lives in the barracks on Fort Bragg. Every weekday, she wakes up at 5:50 a.m., eats breakfast at the dining facility, and drives to Provider Field where her platoon begins their work day at 6:30 a.m. with a flag salute.
From there, she does physical training until 7:45 a.m. Though they don’t have to be in the facility until 8:50 a.m., she arrives at 8:20 a.m., like many other riggers looking to get a head start.
On Mondays, the start time is later because formation takes longer, so this Monday, she didn’t arrive at the facility until after nine.
Alvarez worked quickly, grabbing her tools and unfurling her first parachute. She had to make up for lost time.
That day, they were packing main and reserve parachutes. She packed reserves on lane 13, the lane at the very back of the warehouse.
She’s more comfortable with the main parachutes, since she packs them more often, but packing the reserve parachutes has its pros, too. They’re less demanding physically, so she’s not as tired when she goes home, she said.
Inspection Parachutists (IP) in red hats stood near as supervisors. Drake played at the front of the warehouse and one of the IPs, Sgt. Rafael Rodriguez, did a little jig. The fluorescent lights buzzed and the tools clanked, metal on metal.
At 9:38 a.m., her first parachute was packed, signed, and documented on the pack sheet. She was ahead of the two riggers in front of her.
Her pace slowed a little on her third parachute, and she stopped to answer a question from the rigger ahead of her.
A red hat calls break, but she kept working, finishing her fourth chute.
Staff Sgt. Michael Moody teased her, telling her he could teach her a trick to make the whole process go quicker.
“Move your hands faster,” he said.
She suggested he show her this trick, and the red hats laughed. Rodriguez joked that she was just trying to get a chute out of the way.
Usually, the warehouse is more full of banter like this, she said. Pushing each other to improve helps keep them motivated.
It also helps to be packing next to people who are quick. Alvarez said she likes to pack next to people she knows are fast. They compete against each other, starting their packing at the same time to race. The competition keeps her motivated and helps her get off work early, she said.
When you first become a parachute rigger, she said, you pack about nine chutes each day and wonder how the rest of them can pack so fast. Your hands are swollen and you’re tired from the cardio of running up and down the lane. Then it becomes second nature.
The best part, besides getting to leave early, is the jump. Once every three months, they themselves jump, utilizing the parachutes someone in their facility may have packed.
When she jumps, she remembers, this is why I joined.