The Life of a Cone series follows an AFSPECWAR trainee through his pipeline schools and provides real world experiences at some of the DoD’s most coveted schools.
The Army Airborne Experience
Our team was assigned to A Company, 2nd Platoon while attending Airborne. Everyone I asked about airborne said the same thing, it sucks. Aside from jump week some of us had a great time because we made the best of it and if it wasn’t for the people and instructors in 2nd platoon it would have sucked. According to a black hat (Airborne Cadre) who instructed us their motto was, “Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.” They focused more on the material being taught instead of the small games some black hats like playing in Airborne. The company started with 311 and after people got pulled for not passing the fitness test, medical and other shenanigans we graduated with 276. Only one Air Force guy didn’t make it but that was because he broke his ankle on a night jump.
The first week was easy since you get a lay for the land pretty quick. During the 3 mile runs at a 9 minute pace if Sergeant Major was around people made sure to yell jodies since he pulled dog tags left and right trying to find people not participating and they usually get paperwork. While at ground week look around and you’ll see some lightning bolts and green feet painted next to some of the Parachute Landing Fall (PLF) pits, bridges, etc. Some are faded but easily recognizable. After ground week there were six army privates (Joes) who took a car and went to Florida State University. These kids decided to blow off 2200 curfew check by drinking the night away and to add insult to injury didn’t show at the 0800 formation. They were removed from training and that ended their 18x pipeline quick. This justified why the course is structured the way it is with constant formations and curfews. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
Week two tower week was an easy one as well. With the constant PLFs in different contraptions and quick timing to and from the areas in boots at a slow formation pace peoples shins and knees were getting sore so just take care of your legs. Aside from that it wasn’t bad since a majority of our team were assigned to the same element. We got to hang out and enjoy any downtime throughout training together. We took advantage of the downtime by hanging out and talking with some Marine Recon, Rangers, Sapper and other misc. members of different communities. It’s nice to see others pipelines and see how they differ from ours.
Jump week (week 3) never goes according to schedule and we can attest to that. Day one we couldn’t jump since the previous company still had to get their five jumps in. Day two we did all pre-jump training and rigged up only to sit there for six hours with no jumps. Day three through four was no better because the whole company was rigged up but only one out of the three aircraft was operational with only one working door. During these groundhog days an Army sergeant unbuckled his chin strap to his helmet and scratched his head under his helmet after the black hats already checked his gear and he was prepped to jump. Because he touched his equipment they washed him back to day one of training in another company so they take certain items very seriously when in the shed. Finally on a Friday we got three jumps in including the night jump. Saturday was a wrap up with the combat jump and cleaning of the area.
Airborne Lessons learned
- Cadre pulled all Air Force members aside and reminded us they hold us to a higher standard than the regular Joe. We have been in service longer and have been held to higher standards in previous schools so they expect us to act accordingly. Basically, you’re still in the pipeline so be humble while learning what your there to learn. For most who are there, this is the coolest training they will get to experience so don’t ruin it for others.
- The Smith Gym on Fort Benning is a 6 minute walk away and has a lot of machines as well as a 1 mile track in front. Audie Murphy is a little further but a great functional fitness gym with plenty of space and equipment for you to use.
- We kept snacks in a teammate’s car to have a decent breakfast instead of MREs especially during jump week. When jump week comes its longer hours and you only get MREs so no good chow.
- Bring any linens you want for a twin bed if you’d like. An extension cord and power strip helped a lot. Power outlets are far and few between in the open bays.
- Week 1 tower and week 2 ground, I recommend to get a good workout in and eat well while you can after the duty day.
- You will wear Air Force PT gear every morning the first two weeks so to keep from doing laundry all the time bring more than one pair.
- A lot of guys were sore from the constant practice parachute landing falls so make sure you take care of your body by stretching, yoga, etc. if that’s your cup of tea. During jump week you’ll do a formation run to the airfield every morning so make sure the boots you bring are broken in and bring ones you can run at a 9-10 minute pace in.
- You’ll want to be purposely dehydrated during jump week because once rigged up you are not allowed to use the latrine. You’ll be sitting in a shed with your gear on for hours on end with cadre enforcing the no sleeping or talking rule so get a goodnight rest.
- If you plan on people visiting or seeing your graduation, stay flexible with the course timelines. We were supposed to finish up on Thursday but because of weather and aircraft issues we were not able to get the five jumps in until Saturday night and graduated Sunday. This is common so if you have family, friends, etc. coming to see you, plan accordingly.
- Lastly, enjoy this time and make the best of it.