Equally as important as the practical physical side of the training is the basic classroom understanding of what the processes and equipment are; why they are adopted and what purpose they serve. Physical training is inter-dispersed with classroom theory and work. A combination of audio visual presentations and video footage explains the concepts and safety procedures to all recruits. Before each practical training phase, each concept and process is explained in detail in the classroom. A final written test will determine if a candidate shows sufficient understanding of these concepts to enable them to pass onto the final stage of training.
The World War II Airborne Demonstration Team currently operates a Jump School twice a year at Frederick Army Airfield, OK, in January and July, where novice students or experienced jumpers can familiarize themselves with military style round canopy static line jumping. This Jump School runs for ten days, part of which is made up of an intensive training program followed by a series of tests that will ensure the students have been able to grasp the techniques and procedures that will enable them to make a successful static line jump. Once the tests have been passed, each student is then able to make WWII style jumps from the team’s C-47 aircraft.
The WWII Airborne Demonstration Team Jump School training consists of a number of different modules that encompass both classroom and hands on physical activities designed to develop and unconscious but immediate response to any eventuality. Training is arduous and physically demanding as well as requiring a level of co-ordination and understanding while under pressure. The focus of the Jump School is to enable a recruit to attain the level of competence and skill required to make five safe qualifying jumps and therefore attain their jump wings and become an active member of the Parachute Company. Several candidates have been unable to reach this standard and where there is a chance of placing the recruit at risk to themselves or their fellow recruits, they have sadly not been able to pass to the final jump phase and graduate from a class.
Training under canopy, canopy control and emergency procedures while under canopy are also key features that receive a great deal of focus. Students are required to go through “suspended agony” where they are fitted into a parachute harness and suspended from it while going through this training. They will be taught the basic rudiments of steering and what to do in emergency situations as well as having the opportunity to deploy their reserve parachute. Each student’s safety is the Team’s primary responsibility and recruits who are unable to grasp these concepts thoroughly and the emergency procedures will not be able to participate in the final jump phase.
Once the student is safely on the ground, the final stage in the jump process begins…..recovery. It is important that each recruit knows and understands what to do in these circumstances and how to recover and pack their equipment to get it back to base. Each candidate will have ample time to experience this unique process and what to do should a gust of wind grasp your canopy once you have hit the ground. They must also be able to comprehend the emergency safety processes required should one of their fellow students gets dragged. Being dragged along the ground or into obstacles can cause serious injury and so recruits who fail to demonstrate competence in this area will not be able to participate in the final jump phase.
"THE FIELD OF DREAMS OF WWII AIRBORNE JUMP EXPERIENCES"
A typical Jump School will see recruits spend a large proportion of their time practicing the Parachute Landing Fall (PLF), which will take place in a sand filled pit, designed to help soften a landing, while recruits come to terms with correct landing process. This challenge is often made more arduous by the local weather which can reach temperatures in excess of 100F in the summer or -5F in the winter. If candidates can demonstrate an effective PLF during their time in the pit, they should be able to complete that final important part of their jump phase and therefore eliminate the most likely opportunity for injury. Failure to demonstrate an effective PLF will result in automatic failure of progression to the jump phase of the school. The ability to execute the correct PLF will mean that the student should be able to make a safe landing on the ground without sustaining injury.
Probably the most likely place for a new jumper to make a mistake that could cause them to have a problem is when exiting the aircraft and a great deal of time is spent preparing students for this critical moment. Students are taken through the process of aircraft safety procedures as well as onboard commands and the hook up processes before adopting the correct stance, exit and body position when jumping. These key features are repeated from the aircraft until they become second nature. Failure to grasp the concept and assume the correct body position and safety procedure will also see a recruit fail to progress to the jump phase.