Fort Gordon hosts joint airborne operation
By JOZSEF PAPP | The Augusta Chronicle, Ga. | Published: August 22, 2019
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Tribune News Service) — Staff Sgt. Mallorie Darcus was one of the lucky paratroopers who got to partake in a Joint Airborne Operation at Fort Gordon.
"It was actually a really great experience and I'm glad I got to do it, especially with JCSE. It's really a great unit," she said. "We do a lot of great things, so it was pretty awesome."
Darcus, a Grovetown native, was among 45 members of the Joint Communications Support Element who jumped out of a Black Hawk helicopter over Barton Field. The operation was part of TechNet, a weeklong military technology conference taking place in Augusta.
She enlisted as a private and went through Advanced Individual Training at Fort Gordon in 2011. Her mother, daughter and other family members watched her two jumps.
"My daughter always likes to see me jump," Darcus said. "She has seen me jump one other time, but because she is my daughter it's more a humbling experience and feeling because I know she is looking up to me and she is literally looking up to me just watching me jump."
The JCSE oversaw the whole operation. Command Sgt. Maj. Kristie Brady said the jump helps paratroopers maintain jumper proficiency. Paratroopers from Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Benning in Georgia and MacDill Air Force Base in Florida participated in the operation. Brady said working with other signal organizations and doing the event during TechNet has its benefits.
"It's great for networking and it's also great to share lessons learned across the community," she said. "We try to do this once a year. We try to align it with the TechNet, which is going on in Augusta at the convention center here in town, so it works out great because we are already showcasing what different technologies are out there."
The paratroopers are selected based on experience and if they need to jump, as well as availability. Lt. Col. Simon McKenzie, JCSE Squadron Commander at MacDill Air Force Base, was the officer in charge of the event. He said this is a unique opportunity for paratroopers.
He said every signal leader in the operation went through Fort Gordon. Most of the airborne operations take place at a secluded area of Fort Gordon, so it was a treat to jump in front of Signal Tower at Barton Field.
"To get here, in front of the signal tower before it gets torn down, I don't want to say once in a lifetime, but it might be once in a career-time for these individuals to be able to say they get to jump here," McKenzie said.
The operation was also used as a way to potentially recruit soldiers at Fort Gordon to join JCSE and become paratroopers. McKenzie said there has been a decrease in the number of Army paratroopers.
"The airborne community in the United States Army has gotten significantly smaller due to budget constraints and changing in mission, so what is interesting here and what you have is basically the rest of what the airborne community has as far as signal leaders are concerned," he said.
Brady said those interested in becoming paratroopers need to complete a physical, go to airborne school and get assigned to a unit. Darcus said she would like to see some of those in attendance sign up.
"When I first went, I was unsure and I was unaware of how great of an experience it is, but, honestly, being a paratrooper, you are set to a higher standard within the military and you are looked up to for that guidance and experience," Darcus said. "You jump out of planes for a living. Who wouldn't want to do that?"