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Lousy weather and a pandemic couldn't stop paratroopers from jumping at Ramstein

Air Force Master Sgt. Jim Burke, an airfield manager and jump master with the 435th Contingency Response Group at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, ensures Senior Airman Cody Paynter's parachute equipment is secure and ready to go before a rare jump Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, at Ramstein.

JENNIFER H. SVAN/STARS AND STRIPES

By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 18, 2021

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For the Air Force and Army paratroopers on the C-130J aircraft that took off from Ramstein on Thursday, the day was good enough for a jump — and that’s all they needed.

German weather, coronavirus restrictions and maintenance issues had forced the Ramstein-based 435th Contingency Response Group to scratch several jumps, including one earlier this month at a field near the city of Worms.

They were “getting close to being non-current,” said Master Sgt. Jim Burke, a jumpmaster and airfield manager with the unit.

“That’s not a good situation,” he said.

Paratroopers in the 435th have to acquire and maintain the skills needed to jump into an austere environment where there may be enemy activity, and then conduct airfield operations. They need to jump about every three months to stay current.

They knew it wouldn’t be possible to get an off-base drop zone approved on short notice, Burke said. So with their critical skills needing a refresher, the group’s jumpmaster team sought permission from Ramstein’s 37th Airlift Squadron and 86th Operations Support Squadron to use the base’s busy airfield.

Working with the squadrons, and with some cooperation from the German weather, they made the jump happen. Airborne service members from other units in Germany were invited to participate, Burke said.

The C-130 took off from Ramstein early Thursday, made a loop to the west and then headed back to base, making three low passes over the grassy drop zone where 30 paratroopers jumped out, 10 at a time.

It was Burke’s 72nd jump and one of his last in the Air Force. The 44-year-old has been parachuting from planes since 2012 and is retiring this summer.

For Senior Airman Cody Paynter, 25, it would be the first time he’d deploy his parachute since graduating from jump school last fall.

He nailed the jump. Everyone else landed safely, too, although one person sprained an ankle after landing on concrete.

“It feels good, yeah,” Paynter said after he’d landed. “Once they open up those doors, that’s when the blood starts flowing.”

svan.jennifer@stripes.com
Twitter: @stripesktown
  

Paratroopers sit with their gear inside a hangar at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, before a jump on Feb. 18, 2021. About 30 paratroopers from Army and Air Force units in Germany had the rare chance to jump at Ramstein's busy airfield to maintain their jump requirements.
JENNIFER H. SVAN/STARS AND STRIPES