U.S., South Korean troops earn their jump wings
May 22, 2003
TAEGU, South Korea — To paratroopers of the world’s armies, “jump wings” are signature emblems, coveted badges of membership in a warrior elite.
“You’re almost a disgrace if you’re a paratrooper to not have them on” your uniform, said Pfc. Brent Rummelt, a parachute rigger with the Army’s 4th Quartermaster Detachment in Kimhae, South Korea.
And Airborne units are known widely as being fraternal, tight-knit and proud.
The U.S. Army Airborne, Rummelt said, “is almost like a small army within the Army. The Airborne is an army inside itself.”
So it was no small thing when paratroopers of the 4th QM made parachute jumps recently with their counterparts from a South Korean army special forces unit, and followed the jumps with a wing-exchange ceremony on the drop zone.
About 60 Airborne troopers made the jumps from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter on a gray, cool afternoon last week at Rigger Drop Zone, about a 45-minute drive north of Kimhae.
The 4th QM operates out of Kimhae Air Base, a South Korean air force installation that shares space with commercial Kimhae Airport. About 20 Americans and 14 South Koreans jumped.
The South Korean troopers spent several days as guests of their American rigger counterparts. During that time they toured the 4th QM’s parachute-rigging sheds and saw the Americans demonstrate their packing methods.
But the visit’s high point was the post-drop wing-exchange ceremony on Rigger Drop Zone.
With the South Koreans and Americans facing one another in ranks, the Americans stepped forward and pinned U.S. Airborne wings on each South Korean trooper, then returned to their formation.
The South Koreans then stepped forward and pinned South Korean jump wings on each American.
“And it was … an honor to have them pinned on by someone you jumped with who was from … a different country and from a totally different culture,” Rummelt said.
“He placed my wings on me,” Rummelt said. “… and … he gave me just the look like, ‘I’m proud to wear what you’ve given me, and I hope you’re proud for these.’ And shook my hand and said, ‘I really enjoyed this.’ And just this little amount of English was enough for me. I’m glad they enjoyed it, because I know I did.”
The Americans await written orders that will authorize them to wear the South Korean wings on their Class A uniforms.
“It was a good opportunity for us to come together,” said Spc. Eric Hannas, an operations clerk with 4th QM.
“Their English was limited at best. … However … I did learn a little bit about their camaraderie. You could tell that they were a pretty tight unit.”
Staff Sgt. Christopher Camp is the 4th QM’s air operations sergeant.
“For myself, it’s always been … interesting to see how other militaries go about their jumps.… Plus … these are going to be our allies in war. Who’s to say that you wouldn’t jump on an aircraft with them?”