DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — In order to run a combat free fall jump and deploy Airmen safely from an aircraft at high altitudes, there has to be someone specially trained to direct the operation. They must be highly proficient in every component of the jump process, from ensuring equipment is donned properly, to coordinating with the aircrew during the release so jumpers land on the designated drop zone.
In the past, the only place to receive the formal training required to lead a jump was the Military Freefall School at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona.
Master Sgt. David Biddinger, Guardian Angel Freefall Jumpmaster instructor, had experience working at the school in Yuma before being stationed at D-M about four years ago.
“We realized that the Air Force had a need for the jumpmaster course,” Biddinger said. “Working with contacts in U.S. Special Operations Command and at the MFFS, we were able to convince the Army and Air Force of that need.”
During an approximately 3 1/2 year process, Biddinger worked side-by-side with the 68th Rescue Flight/Guardian Angel Formal Training Unit to establish a new USSOCOM approved course at D-M.
“Getting officially recognized by the Army and USSOCOM as a validated course is special, it is a difficult standard to attain,” Biddinger said. “This is the only Military Freefall Jumpmaster Course in the Air Force and it’s one of two in the Department of Defense.”
The course will graduate 12 Airmen at the end of its fifth 3-week-long rotation; reaching a total number of 58 certified jumpmasters across the Battlefield Airmen career fields.
“Before this course we only had the option of attending the school in Yuma,” Biddinger said. “We only saw about 28 slots per year spread between all the different groups that jump in the Air Force.”
The course is intended to train mid-level NCOs and officers. Students very from tactical air control party specialists, combat controllers, pararescuemen, and survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists from all different commands. In addition, as a joint accredited organization, the Guardian Angel Formal Training Unit also affords this training and qualification to other services such as the Navy, Army and Marines.
“I go back to my unit as a freefall jumpmaster,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan, 321st Special Tactics Squadron combat controller. “Anytime my unit has a jump, I’ll either be the primary person in charge of all the coordination or the assistant.”
During each free fall, the success of the mission and the lives of others are in the hands of the jumpmasters.
“We’re training special operations Airmen to be able to deploy personnel out of the aircraft safely and ensure that those guys reach the ground to do their mission.” Biddinger said. “Whether the mission involves rescuing someone, calling in airstrikes, or recovering downed equipment or aircraft.”