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37th conducts St. Michael's Jump operation at JBB

Oct 23, 2009

By 13th Sustainment Command Expeditionary Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - The 37th Engineer Battalion held a St. Michael's Jump operation Oct. 18 at the outdoor pool at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

"The St. Michael's Jump is an airborne operation that's traditionally sponsored by a chaplain," said Capt. Timothy Behnke, battalion chaplain with the 37th Eng. Bn. out of Fort Bragg, N.C. "St. Michael is the patron saint of the paratrooper and the reason why is that St. Michael is the angel that leads God's armies, the army of angels, against the forces of evil."

The unit command decided to bring a spiritual fitness event to the troops to boost morale because the unit is roughly one-third of the way through its deployment, said Behnke, a Wales, Wis., native.

St. Michael's Jump is an annual event at Fort Bragg, N.C., so this reminds the Soldiers of the training they do at home, said Capt. John D. Pritchard, assistant operations officer for the 37th, who assisted Behnke with the set up of the event.

Soldiers reported to five training stations before taking the big jump off of the high dive, said Pritchard, a Spokane, Wash., native.

Initially, Soldiers received the mission statement in a manifest brief, he said.

Soldiers practiced rigging their equipment for a drop at the rigging exercise station and the jump masters checked to make sure it was done properly, said Pritchard.

Another station trained troopers on proper aircraft exiting and landing procedures during sustained airborne training, he said.

Paratroopers practiced preparing to execute the airborne operation during the mock door training, which covers all actions taken before the jump and emergency procedures. Ultimately, it is the big rehearsal before the actual jump, said Pritchard.

The last station was the parachute landing fall, where troopers practiced their parachute landing, he said. For training they just jumped into the pool, he said.

After all stations were completed, the final stage of the event was an airborne-style leap from the high-dive platform at the outdoor pool, said Pritchard.

Non-airborne qualified service members took part in the event as well, said Behnke. It was a way to tighten the unit bond and convince more Soldiers to become airborne qualified, he said.

"(The St. Michael's Jump) brought a lot of motivation to the unit," said Sgt. 1st Class Cedric Mize, a heavy-construction equipment operator supervisor for B Company, 37th Eng. Bn. and an Akron, Ohio, native. "I'm a non-airborne personnel and in my platoon I have quite a few airborne personnel, so it brought a lot of experience for me to learn what the airborne Soldiers that I coach, teach and mentor do."

"There's a special kinship that an airborne battalion has," said Behnke. "We bring a lot of pride and history with us."

Behnke said Air Force Brig. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, the JBB commander, was supportive of the event, as were the outdoor pool staff and dining facilities workers who provided lifeguard support, as well as food and drinks for the event.

Behnke said other units planning events like this need to "think big and be creative."

"So many units get stuck in a rut and get complacent, and these kinds of events help break up complacency," he said. "We need to never neglect the Soldiers as a whole. Soldiers are our most important asset. We have physical fitness, mental fitness, spiritual fitness, social fitness. That's one of the things we want to do here; is value the Soldier as a holistic individual."

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