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The Army Airborne School, located in Fort Benning, Georgia, is the U.S. Army's program for paratrooper training. It is also commonly known as Jump School. The program is completely voluntary and all members of the U.S. Army are able to enroll — provided they meet the school's physical requirements. All students undergo the school's Basic Airborne Course (BAC), a three-week long training session which prepares soldiers for combat parachuting. There are different themes for each week of the course: Ground Week, Tower Week, and Jump Week. Students who graduate from the Army Airborne School are known as Airborne Soldiers.
The first week of the BAC is Ground Week. During Ground week, volunteers undergo basic physical and parachute training. Before being allowed to move on to additional weeks of training, students must pass the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). Students also learn the basics of operating a parachute. During this week, the school takes students through mock jumps, using a lateral draft apparatus and a 34-foot tower.
If students pass the requirements of Ground Week, they are cleared to move on to Tower Week. During the second week, students undergo a more rigorous set of training, which they must satisfactorily complete in order to move on to Jump Week. Students still practice on the 34-foot (10.36-meter) tower, but must also master procedures on the 250-foot (76.2-meter) tower. In addition, students are also required to qualify on the Swing Lander Trainer (SLT), which is used to practice landings.
If students have passed all the necessary physical training and parachuting requirements, they're allowed to move on to Jump Week. During Jump Week, students must put all their training to the test by successfully completing five jumps out of an airplane. The jumps have to be made from a height of 1,250 feet (381 meters), and out of a C-17 or C-130 aircraft. Trainees are required to demonstrate proficiency with different types of parachutes on different jumps. Upon passing the five jumps, students have officially made it through the Army Airborne School, and are awarded the "Silver Wing," which the soldier may place on his or her uniform.
The Army Airborne School is recognized across military branches as being the gold standard of paratrooper training. Rather than conducting their own Jump School, other military branches — Air Force, Navy, Marines — often send students to the Army Airborne School for training. As such, students of the school may have the unique experience of learning alongside and being trained by service members of all military stripes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of the Army Airborne School?
The Army Airborne School, also known as the Basic Airborne Course (BAC), is a three-week training program designed to teach military personnel the skills and techniques necessary for parachute operations. The purpose of this school is to qualify soldiers in military parachuting and prepare them for service in airborne units, which are often deployed for rapid response or special operations missions.
What are the requirements to attend Army Airborne School?
To attend Army Airborne School, candidates must meet specific requirements, including a minimum physical fitness score, a medical examination to ensure they are jump-qualified, and a recommendation from their unit commander. Additionally, they must be volunteers, as the school and subsequent airborne operations entail a higher level of risk and demand a significant physical and mental commitment.
What does the training at Army Airborne School entail?
Training at Army Airborne School is divided into three phases: Ground Week, Tower Week, and Jump Week. During Ground Week, students learn the basics of parachute landing falls and mock door training. Tower Week involves practice jumps from a 34-foot tower and a 250-foot tower to simulate actual parachute jumps. Finally, Jump Week requires students to complete five parachute jumps from an aircraft, including at least one night jump and one with combat equipment.
How difficult is it to pass Army Airborne School?
Passing Army Airborne School is challenging due to its physical and mental demands. The dropout rate varies, but it is not uncommon for a class to start with over 400 students and graduate less than 300. Success requires physical fitness, attention to detail, and the ability to overcome fear, particularly during the high-stress Jump Week.
What opportunities are available after graduating from Army Airborne School?
After graduating from Army Airborne School, soldiers are awarded the coveted Parachutist Badge and become eligible for assignment to airborne units such as the 82nd Airborne Division or the 173rd Airborne Brigade. These units are often involved in rapid deployment and special operations missions. Graduates may also pursue additional training in advanced airborne techniques or apply for selection in elite units like the Army Rangers or Special Forces.