RAF MILDENHALL, UNITED KINGDOM--The groundwork begins hours before the execution of a mission Dec. 14, 2016, on RAF Mildenhall, England. U.S. Air Force Air Commandos assigned to the 321st Special Tactics Squadron familiarize themselves with equipment they have known since the beginning of their jump careers. No detail is left untouched—even those that would be considered minor.
After a thorough review of landing groupings and the patterns they must be positioned in, the air commandos go as far as physically acting out how the ripcord will be drawn. They ensure everything will be implemented flawlessly before performing the high-altitude, low opening Military Free Fall.
Though the preparation is no different, this jump from a CV-22 Osprey, assigned to the 7th Special Operations Squadron, was a little more unusual.
The 8,000 foot drop was performed to certify a 321st STS jumpmaster, with use of Night Vision Goggles, as well as the standard full combat and oxygen equipment, during future missions of similar conditions.
“This was an advance-skill jump, meaning that it isn’t in our training requirements, but it’s a good method to use,” described the jumpmaster. “There is more risk involved when using this technique because Night Vision Goggles will be attached to our helmets.”
Although the use of NVG equipment does increas risk, there’s an added safety factor.
Being able to see the other jumpers while airborne and landing more safely and accurately adds benefits that outweigh having the equipment exposed, which causes drag.
The certification will also give this jumpmaster the ability to train others within the unit to use the new equipment.
There is an added responsibility that is placed in the hands of the jumpmaster, not only for this particular jump, but for each free fall—so safety is always paramount. With this training, the 321st STS will be able to better safely deploy personnel out of aircraft and reach remote objectives more effectively —adding to their mission success.