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Black Hats in Afghanistan



Sgt. 1st Class Michael Spencer, an instructor at the Jumpmaster Refresher Course held at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, watches as 82nd Airborne Division Jumpmasters practice jumpmaster personnel inspection, Feb. 28. Jumpmasters from the U.S. Army Advanced Airborne School came to Afghanistan to administer the Jumpmaster Refresher Course to 82nd Airborne Division Jumpmasters preparing to return from a 15-month deployment.  Date Taken: February 28th, 2008.  Location: Bagram Airfield, AF. Photographer for photos: Sgt. Jim Wilt, Combined Joint Task Force - 82 PAO.


With sweat dripping down his face, Chaplain (Maj.) Michael Klein, a student at a Jumpmaster Refresher Course held at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, checks the elasticity of a pack opening spring band on a modified improved reserve parachute system soft loop center pull reserve parachute during jumpmaster personnel inspection practice, Feb. 28. 

Story after the Jump.

Advanced Airborne School Comes to Afghanistan
Story and photos by Sgt. Jim Wilt
CJTF-82 Public Affairs Office

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Jumpmasters from the U.S. Army Advanced Airborne School are holding jumpmaster refresher classes for 82nd Airborne Division Paratroopers, and throughout Afghanistan, until the end of March.
The class recertifies jumpmasters allowing them to perform the duties and responsibilities of a jumpmaster or safety.
Jumpmasters are responsible for the safety of Paratroopers during airborne operations.
According to Sgt. 1st Class Michael Spencer, the USAAS tower committee chief at Fort Bragg, N.C., and an instructor at the course, jumpmasters who successfully complete the course will be certified to perform duties for 180 days following the course.
Students also need to perform one safety duty and one assistant jumpmaster duty upon return to Ft. Bragg before being able to act as a primary jumpmaster. If a jumpmaster has not completed a duty in more than 18 months, the jumpmaster will have to perform an additional safety duty, Spencer said.
By having the class here, instead of at Fort Bragg, returning jumpmasters will not have to take their attention away from reintegration or their families to take the refresher class, Spencer added.
“The advantage [of taking the class here] is you have nothing but time,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Michael Klein, a student at the refresher course.
Also, by having the course here, students do not have to worry about studying for the class after work, instead it will allow more free time for their families, said Sgt. 1st Class Tony J. Quismundo, a communication platoon sergeant with Company A, 82nd Division Special Troops Battalion and a student in the class.
The class covered various jumpmaster tasks to include practical work in the aircraft and jumpmaster personnel inspection.
The paratroopers are currently winding down a 15-month deployment. While deployed, they have not had the opportunity to perform as jumpmasters or parachute from an aircraft. For Klein, it has been approximately 12 years since he last acted as a jumpmaster.
With Army parachuting continually evolving, Klein said the refresher is needed.
“There is a lot of new equipment,” Klein said. “I am seeing a lot of stuff I have never seen before.”
Quismundo, who has been a jumpmaster for six years, jokingly said he forgets about half of what a jumpmaster needs to know.
“Fifteen months is kind of a long time to be away from this,” he added.
Students’ knowledge of parachuting equipment is tested during the JMPI portion of the class. The students have four and a half minutes to properly complete a safety check of two paratroopers’ equipment. A jumpmaster ensures a jumper is properly wearing his parachuting equipment and that the equipment has no deficiencies during JMPI. One of the troopers wears full combat equipment to include a rucksack and weapons case.
If a student is unable to perform the JMPIs correctly in the allotted time, he will not be recertified as a jumpmaster.
Approximately 90 percent of the students are expected to pass the refresher course, Spencer said.
“This is the honest truth,” Klein said. “If I am doing something so stupid it would endanger a paratrooper, I hope I fail.”
Throughout the month of March, the USAAS team will be visiting various forward operating bases in Afghanistan to teach the Jump Master Refresher Course.