Fort Valley Army Reserve unit packs parachutes
Attendees at the upcoming Robins Air Force Base air show might see some of their co-workers floating down from the sky.
The Army Reserve 421st Quartermaster Company in Fort Valley is among the list of performers both days of the show, Oct. 1-2.
The unit of about 160 people specializes in air dropping pallets of supplies in remote regions. That was especially useful in Afghanistan, said Master Sgt. Brian Steverson, a member of the unit.
However, they won’t be dropping pallets at the air show. It’s too uncertain which way a pallet might go when it gets pushed out a plane.
“We don’t want one landing on one of our Thunderbirds,” he said, referring to F-16 jets of the Air Force flight demonstration team set to perform.
Instead unit members will parachute out of a C-130 from about 1,300 feet. Although they don’t usually jump when deployed, it’s a requirement of members in the unit that they regularly jump.
Similar units in other branches of the military don’t require that, Steverson said, but the Army does.
“They want to know that you trust the parachute you packed,” Steverson said.
The unit deploys small numbers regularly, and from 2010-11, the company deployed in full to drop supplies in Afghanistan. Steverson said they set records for the number of air drops.
Although they drop whatever troops might need, barrels of fuel are the most common item dropped. They ensure the safety of that by using large parachutes for a slow, soft landing and a padded pallet bottom.
The unit has performed in the air show before, but it has been many years since its last appearance, Steverson said. Most of those who will be jumping have never been in the air show.
The unit will do a practice jump the Friday before the show then will do one each day of the show at 12:35 p.m. Ten will jump each time, and it will be different members on each jump to give as many people as possible a chance to do it.
Members of the unit were at the armory Tuesday packing personal parachutes, although not for the show. They pack parachutes daily to be sent to other Army units for use. Members come from around the state and some come from other states.
Spc. Isaac Herrera will be among those jumping in the show. He lives in Ocala, Florida, but is moving to this area because he works full-time at the 421st.
As he packed a parachute Tuesday, he recalled the first time he jumped.
“It was pretty scary for me, honestly,” he said. “I remember standing at the door, just shaking. It’s still a little intense for me now, but I’m a little more comfortable now that I know how everything is packed.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Dean said the troops go to a 12-week course to learn to rig a parachute. At numerous points during the packing process, an inspector confirms each part of it is done right.
Dean didn’t hesitate when asked about his confidence level in jumping with any of the parachutes packed in the unit.
“100 percent,” he said. “I trust any one of them.”