MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Military parachutists received a rare opportunity recently when an aircraft that normally isn’t found here travelled to the base to drop them from the skies above.
Soldiers from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 111th Aviation Regiment, a Florida Army National Guard unit out of Jacksonville, Fla., who recently returned from an OEF Deployment, were on station March 2, 2013, in their CH-47D helicopter to drop 60 jumpers in 2 lifts. Those participating in the training were from various airborne units on MacDill AFB.
Although the 1-111th Aviation Regiment frequently supports 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and on occasion Special Operations Command Central’s Special Operations Detachment-Central, the opportunity to simultaneously support jumpers from the units that participated does not occur as often.
Training events such as this not only allow servicemembers to brush up on skills and stay current in training, it also allows active and reserve units to build relationships and train together, according to Army Master Sgt. Kevin Allen, SOD-C, who was the driving force in coordinating the training opportunity.
“It is always a great opportunity when the Florida National Guard and its units can come together and support training with our active duty counterparts here at MacDill,” Allen said. “I enjoy taking the lead and bringing together the pieces to make a jump with non-standard aircraft, such as the CH-47. The CH-47 is such a great platform for airborne operations."
This training opportunity also displayed the close relationship between USSOCOM and the various Theater Special Operations Command elements. Army Master Sgt. Stephen Jones, who is stationed at SOCCENT, served as the drop zone safety officer (DZSO) and the jumpmaster for the final drop of the day. He said the training illustrated the unique aspect of how Army aircraft approach the base’s drop zone compared to the computer generated approach by the Air Force.
"The use of Army Rotary Aircraft for the operation requires some mathematical calculation by the DZSO using table calculations with a weather balloon and compass on the drop zone, prior to the operation, that will determine [the] approach used by the aircraft versus a predetermined computed approach the Air Force uses on board in flight, referred to as Computed Air Release Point,” Jones said. “It gives the DZSO more flexibility when using Army aircraft, because the DZSO stays in contact with the aircraft and can make adjustments for each pass based on changes in wind and observed drift of the jumpers. Essentially, the DZSO is managing the landing of the jumpers within the surveyed drop zone for the operation in real time.”