Ramstein airmen practice parachuting skills close to home
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 2, 2019
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Three dozen Air Force paratroopers dropped from a clear, blue sky Tuesday onto this base’s busy airfield, getting a rare chance to practice their parachuting skills close to home.
The conditions were nearly perfect, said Staff Sgt. Charles Valcarcel, a jumpmaster with the 435th Security Forces Squadron.
Winds were minimal as the 36 airmen plunged from a Ramstein-based C-130 transport as it made two passes over the airfield.
Though it was jump No. 49 for Valcarcel, he said he still gets butterflies.
“It’s exhilarating being up in the air,” he said. “Seeing the ramp open, seeing all the little German villages around — it’s an unbelievable view.”
The jump might have been equally exciting for onlookers assembled at a staging area.
“They’re going down,” one little boy giggled as the parachutists landed on the grass.
Most of the airmen participating were with the 435th Contingency Response Group. One of their chief duties is to establish airfields rapidly at deployed locations, if called on to do so by U.S. Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa. That can entail leaping into remote areas, officials said.
Airmen with the 435th Security Forces Squadron earlier this year deployed to Mozambique, in southeastern Africa, to assist with humanitarian relief efforts after Cyclone Idai, said Maj. P. Doug Dinkins, the squadron’s commander.
The airmen also might have to drop onto existing airfields, so the jump onto Ramstein provided realistic training, he said.
But because Ramstein’s runways are usually busy with aircraft movements, they’re not often used by paratroopers. The last time was about two years ago, Dinkins said. The airmen typically use other training sites in Germany and France.
Though the drop was planned several weeks out and the 86th Airlift Wing and the 86th Operations Support Squadron worked to clear a window for the drop, a German medical evacuation helicopter unexpectedly sought clearance to fly near the airfield in the midst of the jump on Tuesday.
This forced the C-130 to remain in a holding pattern after the first pass until the runway was clear again. As a result, a third pass wasn’t possible and several airmen didn’t get to jump, Dinkins said.
Dinkins jumped with the first group. Like Valcarcel, he admitted to still feeling nervous before taking the plunge from about 1,200 feet.
Those who don’t are “either real big adrenaline junkies or they just like punishing themselves,” he said.