Military Free Fall School
Considered to be one of the military's most demanding and potentially hazardous advanced skills, military free-fall parachute operations are used to infiltrate enemy areas under the cover of darkness to avoid detection. Infiltration of operational elements, pilot teams and personnel replacements is conducted under the cover of darkness, varying weather conditions and terrain. Military free-fall parachutists land at their objective as a combat-ready, tactical unit. As of 2007, the school trained about 540 military free-fall students yearly.
The John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School's Military Free Fall School is a tenant organization of the US Army's Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, a general-purpose desert environmental test facility. The Yuma Proving Group is also the host for the annual winter training of the US Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights, and the British Royal Air Force precision parachute team, the Falcons.
The freefall school is made up of nearly 100 permanent instructors who annually train approximately 1000 students from all the military services in free-fall parachute techniques. Taught by Company B, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne), Special Forces military free-fall parachute team members are taught to conduct operational high-altitude, low-opening (HALO) missions by exiting an aircraft at altitudes up to 35,000 feet above ground level. The military free-fall parachutists free fall to about 2,500 feet from ground level before deploying their canopies. During high-altitude, high-opening, (HAHO), parachute missions, military free-fall parachutists exit at high altitudes and deploy their canopies at high altitudes using highly-maneuverable, gliding parachute systems to silently travel distances of more than 50 kilometers.
Special operations forces personnel make the transition from static-line airborne parachutist to military free-fall parachutist in a 4-week course taught at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona. During the first week, called ground week, students learn body stabilization while flying in the vertical wind tunnel at Fort Bragg, as well as basic aircraft procedures, altitude physiology and other military free-fall parachuting ground training.
Students go to Yuma Proving Ground for their airborne operations during the last 3 weeks. Advanced aircraft procedures beginning with individual exits while wearing combat equipment introduce students to the military free-fall infiltration mission. Students learn mass exits, grouping exercises, night airborne operations and high-altitude airborne procedures in combat equipment and oxygen gear.
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