Airborne School (2003)
At the request of Cal, I'm posting this for future paratroopers in the hopes that it can better prepare them for Airborne School, but as I went in 2003, things may have changed a bit since now and then, and I'm sure I'll forget some things... since I can't remember what I've had to eat 24 hours ago, but I'll give it a shot. The post directly after this one will contain a similiar message except containing information about Air Assault School. Hopefully a moderator will come by and sticky this thread.
Guess I'll start from the beginning...
I was shipped directly from AIT to Airborne School in Ft. Benning, Georgia. I didn't have it in my contract, but there's a clause in everyone's contract that says something to the effect, "I realize that I may be selected to attend Airborne School and language training.. blah..blah..blah". Well I, as well as a few others in my class used this to our advantage and made the Drill Sergeants think that we thought we had signed up for ABN School at MEPS. We'd volunteered at AIT, but were told that they weren't taking anymore fuelers, so we had to perform a little trickery to get our slots. Anyway, we ended up doing the Airborne runs at AIT on a regular basis and the Drill Sergeants hooked us up with ABN School, since they thought that we thought it was in our contract. Anyway you can get there, get there... and NEVER give up.
WHAT CAN I BRING TO AIRBORNE SCHOOL?
You can bring pretty much anything you like, however you must realize that it all has to fit in your wall locker (a little smaller then the wall lockers at basic training in Ft. Jackson). You can bring cameras, dvd players, cd/mp3 players etc, but don't be the dumba.ss that tries to bring your camera on a jump. And remember soldiers have sticky hands so if your sh.it comes up missing don't be surprised. You also can not wear contacts on any of your jumps, so it would be a good idea to get those black prescription "Ranger goggles" that strap around your head for jumping.
The boots you wear must be your standard basic issue boots. No Jungle, Jump or re-soled boots (No ripple or aqua tread soles etc.) will be authorized for wear. So just bring the unaltered boots you were issued in Basic Training and you'll be fine.
I shouldn't have to explain why you shouldn't give up, because that should be ingrained in you as a soldier already, but if you do quit, you will NEVER be allowed to attend Airborne School again in the future. If you have an "owie" that could wait until you graduate, cowboy the **** up and drive on, don't use it as an excuse to get out of school. You MIGHT be able to get Airborne school again in the future since you were dropped for medical reasons, but slots fill fast and it can be hard to get one again.
If there's any way at all that you can bring your vehicle to Benning, BRING IT. If you want to get anywhere, the taxi services there will charge you an arm and a leg (and that's putting it nicely). I had a friend who wanted to go to Circuit City to talk to someone about his cell phone, it cost him $20 just to get off post and then another $10 to get to Circuit City from there. He ended up paying $60 in cab fare to get from the barracks to Circuit City and back. So you can see how important having a vehicle is.
"Hold-Unders" are wannabes waiting for a slot to open, who will perform details during the duty day, while the students train and are generally treated like sh.it.
"Hold-Overs" are graduates, waiting to be transferred to their unit or other schools. They will perform details just like Hold-Unders, but be treated with slightly more respect. Be sure you have your wings pinned or sewn on as soon as you graduate.
Whether you're a hold-under, hold-over or in training, you'll usually get released for the day at about 1700 HRS and you have the weekends to yourself. Now if you have friends in the area, yes you can go visit them on the weekends, but remember you're there training for one of the best schools in the military, so if you think that there's even a remote chance of you not being able to make it back to formation on Monday morning - DON'T GO. Graduating from Airborne School is more important than getting drunk with an old buddy and looking for some ***, so keep your priorities straight.
If you're a minor DO NOT DRINK - you will get caught and possibly thrown out of Airborne School, although you may get recycled into the next class if you're lucky. Even if you are over 21, don't drink during the week - it's just one more thing to worry about. If you show up for formation with alcohol on your breath, you'll be in the same predicament as the underage minor and will have successfully screwed yourself. Also note that alcohol is NOT allowed in ther barracks at any time.
WHEN YOU GET TO BENNING
So anyway, we arrived at Ft. Benning around 0600-0700, and started in-processing at a building called "Patches". You can tell which building is Patches, because the outside walls have unit patches painted on them. Going from a Quartermaster school to the home of the Infantry was an eye opener, although I never saw anyone get beaten - I wouldn't put it past them. Their game was intimidation and they were good at it.
Well anyway, after we in processed patches, they weren't really sure what to do with us, because there were hundreds of people trying to get into class and they only had so many slots they could fill. So we spent most of the morning, getting in formations, by duty station and whatever else they could think of to try and figure out who they were going to let be accessed for class.
Well as "luck" would have it, being a PFC and a fueler ta boot, I didn't get picked, so I ended up staying at beautiful Ft. Benning Georgia for two more weeks doing details while waiting for a slot to open up. I'd been through basic and AIT and had never been away from my wife and kids for that long and the news that I was going to be in Benning for a minimum of five weeks as opposed to three weeks didn't sit well with me. I almost said screw it and to just send me to my duty station... that would've been the stupidest mistake of my military career. Thank God, I bit my lip and decided to ride it out another two weeks as a "Hold-Under"
When a slot finally opened up for me two weeks later it was on like Donkey Kong.. I was nervous as hell, but nothing was going to stop me from graduating short of death.
Now I can't remember the exact order of whether you in processed into class first or if you did the PT test first and if you made it then processed into class, (which is how I think I remember it happening).
At any rate, you take a PT test, which you have to pass at the 18-21 year old category.
10 sec flexed arm hang (You do a pull up and hold it for 10 seconds)
42 Push Ups
52 Sit Ups
15 min 54 sec or less on the 2 mile run.
After that, you go in process in a classroom, get assigned to your platoon and sticks. If you're an NCO, you'll be marked with an "N" identifier in front of your roster number and commonly referred to as a "November", same thing goes with officers, except you'll be called "Alpha's" and have an "A" preceding your roster number. I forget if cadets and ROTC guys have an identifier though. If you have a buddy you want to room with or at least get on the same stick with, this is where you want to try and do it. When you get in there, they'll have you sign in on a form. There are several different forms to choose from, but whichever line you get in, make sure your buddy gets in the same line and signs right after you. (Each paper is a different stick within a platoon.)
I don't remember what we did the rest of that day, probably got set up in our rooms etc.
Unless in formation, every time you enter and exit the company you will do 10 Pull Ups and 10 Push Ups.
I've heard they were remodeling the barracks, but if they haven't yet, you'll be surprised to see how disgusting they actually are. I remember having to clean one of the bathrooms as a Hold-Under and was disgusted to see half inch thick mold growing on the sides of the shower walls, pipes above you that would leak cold rusty water on you as you showered, and no doors on any of the rooms except the bathroom. The place basically looked like hell, I think it was built in the 40's or 50's.
Well the first week is what they call Ground week. After this week you will be very sore and the barracks will change it's aroma from stagnating water and mold to that of a Ben-Gay factory.
During Ground Week you learn how to execute Parachute Landing Falls or PLF's for short. A PLF is exactly what it sounds like... the way you are taught to fall when you hit the ground. All week long you will practice these, in gravel rocks, all the while wearing a Ballistic Helmet (A Kevlar, with straps on it starting from the back of the helmet that route around your chin strap and back again to the back, to hold it on better when you jump). You will practice PLF's in slow motion, by the numbers, holding that damn helmet up with your head as you lay on the ground trying not to let your neck go into muscle failure. You will realize why paratroopers say that a ballistic helmet weighs 10,000 lbs. You also practice PLF's from off of a small wall about 2-3 feet high, and then you'll move on to the Lateral Drift Apparatus, a zip line type thing which you will perform PLF's off of (It's not very high). You will bunny hop in line, sideways, until it's your turn to do PLF's to strengthen your leg muscles.
Picture of the Lateral Drift Apparatus:
You'll do PT in the mornings just like anywhere else. You'll have muscle failure days, and even a day of log PT, and of course runs. You run to go run. Never in Airborne School will you walk anywhere. If you're PT for that day is to go for a run, you will form up and double time to the start point of the run.... and THEN your run will begin.
In BAC (Basic Airborne Course AKA Airborne School), I think there were either three or five runs that actually were counted, you could fall out of one run and not get dropped from class, however the five mile run is mandatory. I don't suggest falling out of any of the runs however. We had a few people fall out of the four mile run just because they knew they could fall out of one run and they hadn't fallen out of any yet. They receieved a smoking of which the likes I've never seen. If you don't know what a smoking is, it's basically you do PT and/or assume stress positions until the black hat (instructor) gets tired... and they don't tire easily.
During this week you will also perform mock jumps out of a 34 ft. tower while being connected to a zip line that simulates lateral movement across a "DZ". You'll practice doing this "Hollywood" style (no ruck sack or weapon, and you'll also do it rigged up with combat equipment, which you have to lower before you get to the end of the zip line. Supposedly some smart guy somewhere found out that jumping from 33 feet has the same effects on a person as it does from any other increased height. So the Army in all of it's infinite wisdom threw on another foot and created the 34 ft. tower. If you're to scared to jump from that, you'll be to scared to jump from an aircraft.
Picture of the 34' tower:
The second week is Tower Week, where you will use the Swing Landing Trainer to perform PLF's from a little higher than the first zipline you used in Ground Week. (I think you're on a 12' ledge, not sure of the height though.) The Black Hat has control of your harness at all times, and he'll drop you on your *** if you jerk him by just jumping off the ledge instead of easing into it.
Picture of the Swing Landing Trainer.
Also during Tower Week, you may or may not jump from the 250' towers, which, create an actual jump from 250'. You canopy is already deployed and inflated, and it simply releases you and you try not to run into the tower itself, any telephone lines or any other obstacles, and perform your PLF upon contact with the ground. Many people don't end up jumping these towers as the conditions have to be just right to utilize them, and often times they are allegedly "broken", or closed down for the winter.
Picture of the 250' tower:
Finally is Jump Week, this is what you've been training for. You'll get a chance to make five successful jumps from an Aircraft while in flight. Your first jump will be the biggest rush you've ever gotten in your life.
Every day that you jump, you will run in formation wearing your ballistic helmet, BDU's and boots to the flight line. It sucks, and I think it's close to two miles but you're running to the thrill of a lifetime, so it's not that bad.
If I remember right, I don't think you do any PT during jump week, (except for the runs to the flight line).
Jump week was only 3 days long for me, we did 1 jump on a Monday, 2 on Tuesday and 2 on Wednesday (one of which was a night jump - those kick ***). Thursday you out-process, get all your paperwork, jump log and course certificate, etc and Friday you graduate and are gone by about noon if not earlier I think.
Again, I'm sure I probably missed a few things as it was a while ago, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask me and I'll do my best to answer them for you.
Good luck, and AIRBORNE!