JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the 176th Wing's 211th and 212th rescue squadrons as well as 144th Airlift Squadron led the Precision Jumpmaster Course during January and February 2019 at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii.
Alaska Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Jeremy Diola, a pararescueman with the 212th RQS Combat Development Team, said the course qualified 12 precision jumpmasters with the ability to jumpmaster a group of military parachutists to land precisely at an identified objective landing zone.
“Once we get to the objective area, we have to worry about so many other things,” Diola said. “We have to worry about water survival. We have to worry about technical rescue.”
Alaska Air National Guard Master Sgt. Chris Bowerfind, a pararescueman and 212th RQS Silver Team noncommissioned officer in charge, said participants included pararescuemen from the 131st, 308th and 212th Rescue Squadrons as well as combat controllers and pararescuemen from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron. Other Special Warfare Airmen from the 3rd and 25th Air Support Operations Squadrons participated as well as 211th RQS and 130th Rescue Squadron HC-130J Combat King II crewmen, 144th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III crewmen, Marine Corps KC-130J Super Hercules crewmen, Navy parachute riggers and Army paratroopers.
Bowerfind said the training expanded beyond its origins as a rescue-exclusive course.
“It's evolved from a rescue-centric jumpmaster course,” he said. “The reason why we call it precision jumpmaster now – specifically under Air Force Special Warfare – is because it's no longer relegated [solely] to pararescuemen.”
Previously called Battlefield Airmen, Air Force Special Warfare Airmen include pararescue, combat rescue officer, combat control, special tactics officer, special operations weather team, tactical air control party personnel and non-rated air liaison officer.
Precision is the name of the game, and jumpmasters learn how to use instruments like wind-drift indicators, a disco-ball-like device that measures wind speed and direction in real time, to accurately predict how parachutists will descend to their objective.
Bowerfind said one aspect, which differentiates Precision Jumpmaster from similar training in other services, is the close integration between the jumpmaster and the aircrew.
“Crucial is actually an understatement,” he said of aircraft pilots, combat systems officers and loadmasters. “The mission is not doable without them.”
During a standard parachute drop, traditional jumpmasters are accustomed to sending out a stick of parachutists after the pilot activates a light indicating the aircraft is generally over the objective. Bowerfind said the training can be an eye-opener for otherwise experienced military parachutists.
“They're used to the green-light-go method of the standard jumpmaster programs,” he said. “What they're seeing now is we have more accuracy and more team cohesion. All of our guys land in the water 10 feet apart from each other.”
When it comes to continually achieving precision results, Bowerfind said pararescuemen of the 212th RQS have a particular advantage at their home station of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, because they are stationed meters away from their partner flying squadrons.
“We are extremely fortunate in the 176th Wing to be able to literally walk across the street and talk to any aircrew on any given day about any operation – whether it's just a basic training sortie around the local area or a real-world mission in the middle of the night,” he said.