908th a valuable mission partner for U.S. Army's Airborne School

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jay Ponder
  • 908th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The U.S. Army Airborne students lined up behind the C-130 Hercules, its four engines running, and marched into the prop blast, up the ramp and into the plane. Their three-week course was almost over; five jumps and finally, graduation.

But without a ride, soldiers and sailors in the airborne course can't graduate, and often that's where the 908th Airlift Wing comes in.

The 908th works closely with the Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga., coordinating airdrops of student classes, which can talley between 300 to 450 students.

"We've always had a great relationship with the 908th," said Lt. Col. Korey E. Brown, who presides over the school  and is battalion commander for the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.  "Every time they come here, they always pull their share - and more - of the tasks. Their timing is also very critical to us to get our young paratroopers through the training, and to their airborne assignment, on-time. So the 908th is a critical piece of that."

Providing airlift support for the school, attended by members of all services, is one of the missions undertaken by the 357th Airlift Squadron, explained Chief Master Sgt. James Rickels, loadmaster superintendent.

"Anyone who jumps has to go here, Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine. A class may not only be Army, but consist of Air Force Pararescuers or combat controllers," he said, "If you're in the military and you jump out of an airplane, you'll go here."

The three-week basic course trains paratroopers in order to provide the United States military with members capable of conducting airborne operations. Every student is a volunteer and can be from any branch of service.

The course consists of academics, physical activity and practicing various phases of jumping. It all culminates in the third, or 'jump week', where students make their five jumps to receive the coveted jump wings.

"When we see them, they're getting onto the airplane to jump out," said Capt. Donald Huber, the 357th Airlift Squadron's mission commander on this particular evolution.

The airborne students are not the only ones benefiting from the 908th's participation. Aircrews get to hone their skills as well.

"It's good for us, especially for a young Airman because it's a lot of repetition," said Lt. Col. Craig W. Drescher, deputy commander of the 908th Operations Group. "My first experience in a C-130 was with this unit so I went over there and did it over and over, so the light bulbs came on because of the repetition."

Huber said the experience is even more beneficial for the aircrew because the drop zone is so close to the airfield.

"We take off and in a matter of minutes, the doors are open and we're dropping troopers out of the back," he said. "It's a very fast-paced mission. You take off, drop the guys, land, pick up more. It's a unique experience for the aircrew in that you're running a lot of checklists, doing things happening really, really fast. There's nothing boring about it."

Captain Bryan Powell, who's flown the airborne mission several times, said flying the airborne students is one of the most important missions for the 908th and that he is always excited to have the opportunity to be part of it.

"We do this mission on a monthly basis, so to be asked continually to always come back is huge," he said. "Everyone is incredibly good at what they do. We come here, take care of business, have fun at the end of the day, we always end up on top."

"The 908th has been great support," said Lt. Col. Korey E. Brown, who presides over the school and is battalion commander for the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment. "There have been many air wings that support us, but when the 908th lands, we're always happy to see them!"