Army paratroopers train for water landings

Pvt. John Hudspeth
21st Theater Support Command

***image1***Airborne Soldiers of the 21st Theater Support Command earn their fins along with their wings.
Members of the 5th Quartermaster, 191st Ordnance Battalion, 29th Support Group, recently spent training time in a Baumholder swimming pool to get their Navy class II certification, a basic understanding and ability to jump into water and survive in the water for long periods of time.
“This training prepares us for what can potentially be the most dangerous type of landing an Airborne Soldier could ever experience,” said Spc. Roger Sharp, a parachute rigger with 5th Quartermaster, who added he is terrified of swimming.
“There is somewhat of a misconception among many paratroopers, that a water landing is easy and soft,” said Navy Chief David Johnson, the Diving Division Head of the Naval Special Warfare Unit II in Stuttgart. “Just the opposite is true.”
Improperly preformed landings in the water can be just as hard and punishing to the joints as improper landings on the ground, he said.
Ground landings are very rarely on the flattest of planes, said Navy Chief Andrew William Neff Jr., who is also with the training team from the Naval Special Warfare Unit II.
Water can be choppy, extremely inconsistent, soft or hard and uneven, all in a very short amount of landing space.
“It’s the kind of surface that can quickly throw even the most well trained paratroopers out of their normally great landing positions,” said Chief Johnson. “When that happens the chances for injury are raised, and then it is very easy for someone to find themselves panicking in a situation where panicking is the worst thing you can do.”
Undercurrents can suck a Soldier down under the surface. Other hazards include cold temperatures that could cause hypothermia and plant life or the Soldier’s own parachute that could entangle and impede the Soldier’s attempts to swim away and trap a Soldier underwater.
“It is imperative that Soldiers keep their heads when they’re in a potentially life threatening situation, like a water landing,” Chief Johnson said.
Soldiers learned how to use many different swimming strokes to prolong their amount of energy and maintain body temperature. They also learned several ways to turn their Battle Dress Uniforms into floatation devises, a technique that is essential to spending a large amount of time in the water.
“It’s no secret that Airborne personnel have to be well trained,” said Sgt. David Baker, NCO in charge of the 5th Quartermaster’s motor pool. “That’s why training like this is so valuable. If Soldiers don’t know how to do their job then people get hurt real quick.”
Even Spc. Sharp, who said he never really wants to have to swim again, gained a good perspective on valuable training. “I’d rather jump out of a plane than have to get into that swimming pool again,” said Specialist Sharp. “But I feel much more aware and confident after getting this training that I could survive a landing in the water, even if I had to stay afloat for awhile.”