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Happy "National Airborne Day"
Posted by: McQ on Friday, August 17, 2007

RobB reminds me that yesterday was "National Airborne Day". So a belated greeting to all my airborne bretheren.


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Oh how true that poster is.....You’d think that jumping out of perfectly good airplane and letting gravity do its thing would not be the cause of such a gigantic ego thing, but it is.....Personally repelling and Air Assault always seemd more technically challenging.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"De Oppresso Liber"; All the way!
 
Written By: &amp
URL: http://
Somehow the poor paratrooper shot while hanging from the Church in The Longest Day, or the group machine gunned in the fields come to mind. Brave men, all.

Dad was a P-47 pilot, and he said the sme thing about perfectly good airplanes.
 
Written By: MarkD
URL: http://
How can an airplane configured for people to leave it while in flight be described as "perfectly good"?
 
Written By: triticale
URL: http://triticale.mu.nu
How can an airplane configured for people to leave it while in flight be described as "perfectly good"?
It’s a choice thing, the crew goes home, the paratroopere choose to jump out...so it’s not the airplane that is uh....defective.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Oh how true that poster is.....You’d think that jumping out of perfectly good airplane and letting gravity do its thing would not be the cause of such a gigantic ego thing, but it is.....Personally repelling and Air Assault always seemd more technically challenging.
I’ve done both and still find the biggest thrill to be parachuting.

Making a jump, at night, from 1,100 feet (500 on a combat jump) with a hundred pounds of stuff hanging on you is simply the ultimate thrill for an adrenaline junky.

I’ve rappelled from helicopters and while fun, just not the same rush. And I’ve been on more air assaults than I can remember (to include nap of the earth, at night, before night vision goggles, with the tops of trees banging off the skids). Still not the same ... well, unless someone is shooting at you, then the pucker factor goes up and the adrenaline rush might be a little stronger.

As for the technical aspects. Try configuring aircraft loads so that your air dropped crew served weapon doesn’t end up at one end of a mile long drop-zone and its crew at the other. Or ensuring proper cross loading so you don’t kill the whole headquarters if one plane goes down, etc. Airborne operations are a ton of fun to plan. ;)
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
McQ,
I too have done both. Biggest rush and attitude builder? Nighttime combat insertion HALO with that 100 lbs.
 
Written By: RRRoark
URL: http://soslies.blogspot.com
Well McQ I have fallen from a perfectly good airplane, as a civilian, and I have rapelled from a helo...I will admit that falling was neater than sliding down a rope...I just have trouble with the whole "Maroon-Machine/Leg thing". Really I had no idea that falling out of a plane, letting gravity and a piece of webbing do their thing, made a human being INHERENTLY better than another.

I am fairly certain that the US needs no airborne unit larger than a brigade, though. The 82 Airborne Division is an anachronism, as a unit. The last time the 82nd jumped Hitler was still alive. Come to think of it, a vast majority of the combat jumps made since then have been a waste of time...I can only think that the airborne insertion in 1989 in Panama was worthwhile, and maybe the move into northern Iraq. Everything else has just been a way to secure a combat jump patch for the Airborne Mafia.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I too have done both. Biggest rush and attitude builder? Nighttime combat insertion HALO with that 100 lbs.
Never had a chance to do HALO, but would have loved to have had the chance.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Never had a chance to do HALO, but would have loved to have had the chance.

A chance for hypoxia, hypothermia, and death by massive collision with the ground, and people wonder why parachutists are considered suspect?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Well McQ I have fallen from a perfectly good airplane, as a civilian, and I have rapelled from a helo...I will admit that falling was neater than sliding down a rope...I just have trouble with the whole "Maroon-Machine/Leg thing".
Well the "civilian" thing isn’t even close to the military thing, having done both. You’ll just have to take my word for that, but a Bn mass tactical jump is just something amazing in which to participate.

As for the airborne/leg stuff, it’s just the culture. Being airborne is as much attitude as anything, and it is the attitude of an elite unit. Folks in elite units like to remind others they’re just, well, legs. Heh ...

As for whether or not airborne units still have a place, you mention the two times recently that they indeed filled the role for which they were designed and intended.

I think the latter is probably the best example of being able to go where others can’t when necessary. When the 4th ID wasn’t allowed to come through Turkey, they reassessed the situation decided that an airborne BCT could hold the area (they weren’t going to be attacking so a division wasn’t needed) and sent the Herd.

Don’t forget, abn units have specific missions and if used properly, doctrinally, can really quickly help the overall commander take control of his battle space.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I don’t denigrate aiborne units, per se, just the 82nd Airborne DIVISION, which is a waste of money, IMO. The combat drops in Korea and Vietnam were just a waste of time, too, although they didn’t involve a whole division. As I understand it, the 82nd was pushing desparately for a combat drop in Desert Storm, after all got to take every opportunity to get a combat parachute badge, I guess. Certainly in Panama and in Iraq the airborne brigade and brigade-sized units were very important. Though in Panama I was amazed at the concept of operation and can’t believe someone actually planned on using the airborne troops as they did! Sorry, from what I read it was lucky that the PDF were so incompetent or bad things might have occured.

What airborne does grant you is the ability to place a battalion on the ground in 16-24 hours and I think that’s a great capcity to have. Airborne with air LIFTED grants a Brigade of light infantry in fairly short order. It is certainly a useful capacity, too. I just don’t see the need for a Division-sized unit, brigades are pretty much all you need. Really the 82nd and the Marine Corps, together, are the best rapid response force. The 82nd and a MEU can secure a air-sea head, and the MEU brings a long 14 days combat consumables with it, and a battery of artilley (along with another set of insufferable egos, but apparently those can’t be dispensed with any where).

As to Airborne School, I love what a SEAL-granted that they are not noted for humility either- said, about a week’s worth of useful training crammed into three weeks.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I don’t denigrate aiborne units, per se, just the 82nd Airborne DIVISION,which is a waste of money, IMO.
Well as you’ll notice, for the most part, the Brigades are committed in the type war we’re in as BCTs, which is fine. That leaves a Div HQ which is no more of a waste than any other Div HQ we have now (and I don’t agree they are a waste, to get that out of the way).
What airborne does grant you is the ability to place a battalion on the ground in 16-24 hours and I think that’s a great capcity to have. Airborne with air LIFTED grants a Brigade of light infantry in fairly short order. It is certainly a useful capacity, too. I just don’t see the need for a Division-sized unit, brigades are pretty much all you need.
But if you plan on putting more than one brigade on the ground in a particular operation, there has to be a coordinating higher tactical headquarters. And that’s not what a corps headquarters is designed to do. That’s why you still see the continued existence of the divisional order of battle even while we deploy BCTs.

A good example is MG Lynch of the 3rd ID. He’s a division commander, but in Iraq, he also commands the MNFD-Center which includes BCTs from other divisions and services. He’s doing that primarily with his division HQ.
As to Airborne School, I love what a SEAL-granted that they are not noted for humility either- said, about a week’s worth of useful training crammed into three weeks.
Of course everyone going through the school isn’t a SEAL, are they?

Interestingly, when I was with the Department of Instruction at the Infantry school, I worked as a project officer on the possibility of self-pacing the Airborne course. What we found is that there probably was as much as a week (5 training days) which could be cut out of the course, but that the attrition rate and safety record might suffer. However, given their record, we felt that was an acceptable risk (sounds pretty cold blooded doesn’t it?) since they went so overboard to ensure safety and fitness.

We broke down all the tasks, standards and conditions and showed where we thought there were areas that some time savings could be made. Of course that went over with the Airborne school like a lead-balloon as you might imagine, and, as expected nothing really changed. Still have that study around here somewhere.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
As to Airborne School, I love what a SEAL-granted that they are not noted for humility either- said, about a week’s worth of useful training crammed into three weeks.
Of course everyone going through the school isn’t a SEAL, are they?

Actually yes, they could be or would be...after BUDS the SEALS get sent to Ft. Benning, to make life miserable for my friends. My friends having the misfortune to be in the platoon with the SEALS and having to endure the extra scrutiny of the Instructors.

As to the idea of the 82nd Division I guess my point is not against a divisonal HQ, but simply that since 1945 did the US REALLY need a Airborne DIVISION, you know a large multi-regimant/brigade organization the bulk of which was air droppable? And I’d say "No." Did we need an airborne logistics unit(s) and airborne artillery brigade, and airborne this an airborne that...or really just airborne infantry battalions and airborne artillery battalions? Everything that constitutes a divison in terms of combat support and combat service support does not need to be airborne, IMO.

Today the 82nd MIGHT control the airborne brigade delivered, the light infantry/Stryker Brigade delivered by air (assuming it can be) and even the Marine Expeditionary Brigade that might be deployed, but it really would not be commanding an "Airborne" unit. A divisional HQ is or ought to be the command element for several independent brigades, not necessarily the command element for a specific sort of unit, again IMO. So I’d say yes to the HHC 82nd Airborne, and all the illustrious history that accrures, but no to the 1177th Finance Battalion (Airborne)-the Free Worlds Only Airborne Finance Battalion-Hooyah!

I see a dividonal HHC commanding a number of brigades and Corps-assigned support units, on an ad hoc basis, today 2 airborne and a Stryker brigade, but next week, mayhap only 1 airborne and a light infantry brigade...MG’s would not necesssarily command 3-4 brigades and a DIVARTY brigade and a DIVAVN unit, plus a DISCOM Brigade and the Divisional Cavalry Squadron. I guess I’d see them as the same, in a sense, as a Brigade HHC, commanding various unit’s temporarily "op-conned" to them. Unlike a brigade, they’d command Brigades not battalions, and the time and space constraints of their command, and hence the staff size, would be larger than a brigade’s areo of operation.

Finally I would imagine that any changing of the sacrosanct Airborne School would have been met with howls of protest and invocations of Gavin and Ridgeway(?).
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Actually yes, they could be or would be...after BUDS the SEALS get sent to Ft. Benning, to make life miserable for my friends.
What I meant was the bulk of those going through the Airborne school aren’t SEALS.
My friends having the misfortune to be in the platoon with the SEALS and having to endure the extra scrutiny of the Instructors.
Yeah, I saw a similar thing with a platoon who had some recent ranger school grads in it (back then they still had "leg" Rangers in the course who were sent to Airborne school after they graduated. Of course after Ranger school, Airborne school was a bit of a lark and some of ’em played around a bit too much much to the chagrin of the platoon mates).
As to the idea of the 82nd Division I guess my point is not against a divisonal HQ, but simply that since 1945 did the US REALLY need a Airborne DIVISION, you know a large multi-regimant/brigade organization the bulk of which was air droppable?
Power projection, back then, didn’t leave you with many options, and the most inexpensive, not to mention quickest, option for getting a division just about anywhere on the ground was to do so by parachute. So yes, I’d say at that time, they did need it, given the options available at the time.
I see a dividonal HHC commanding a number of brigades and Corps-assigned support units, on an ad hoc basis ...
Absolutely. That’s why they still exist. And, when not deployed, they would train under and be supported by that tactical headquarters. Additionally that headquarters would train as well to work with supported BCTs and Corps.
Finally I would imagine that any changing of the sacrosanct Airborne School would have been met with howls of protest and invocations of Gavin and Ridgeway(?).
Oh there were howls alright. Essentially our suggestions boiled down to cutting some of the reps they required in training. Instead of 5 good exits from the 34 foot tower, how about 3? Instead of 5 qualifying jumps, how about 4 (there was nothing magic about 5 jumps that I could uncover). Instead of wasting a day giving a PT test, have them certified at having met the minimum requirements by their battalion before they show up? Etc. Nothing particularly earth-shattering, but certainly not particularly well received by the school who, as with most bureaucracies, felt that if it was working it shouldn’t be messed with. And then there was the "tradition".

Anyway, it went nowhere.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Strike Hold!
Well McQ I have fallen from a perfectly good airplane, as a civilian, and I have rapelled from a helo...I will admit that falling was neater than sliding down a rope...I just have trouble with the whole "Maroon-Machine/Leg thing". Really I had no idea that falling out of a plane, letting gravity and a piece of webbing do their thing, made a human being INHERENTLY better than another.

I am fairly certain that the US needs no airborne unit larger than a brigade, though. The 82 Airborne Division is an anachronism, as a unit. The last time the 82nd jumped Hitler was still alive. Come to think of it, a vast majority of the combat jumps made since then have been a waste of time...I can only think that the airborne insertion in 1989 in Panama was worthwhile, and maybe the move into northern Iraq. Everything else has just been a way to secure a combat jump patch for the Airborne Mafia.

Written By: Joe
Okay, Joe... I don’t mean to patronize you, but there is a big difference between a civilian skydive and a night brigade mass tactical static-line jump at 800 feet with 100 pounds of combat equipment with a follow-on field problem.

Yes, you are correct that we will probably not in the near future use anything larger than a brigade -size (battalion really) element for an airborne assault. However, the 82nd Airborne Division, as the nation’s conventional rapid deployment force, has a system called the Division Readiness Force (DRF). This has changed in the last few years with the advent of the new so-called ’modular’ brigade combat team, which now means divisions have four instead of three brigades (albeit with less maneuver battalions).

Anyway, the DRF consists of one infantry battalion that is on "18-hour alert" (not realistic, but that’s the standard line) for worldwide deployment by airborne assault. The other battalions in the brigade would potentially be airlanded after an airfield seizure by the DRF battalion. The rest of the division supports the DRF by providing personnel for security, outloading, rigging equipment for heavy drop, etc. You need more than a brigade to have this system in place 24/7/365. Believe me.

If you think our airborne forces are a waste of money, you are barking up the wrong tree. There is plenty of fat to be cut from the military, and the large majority of it is not even in the Army! (I would like to see a cost-benefit analysis of running eleven carrier groups, for instance....)

Second, I will tell you from firsthand experience that the discipline and overall quality of airborne units seems to be a cut above comparable non-airborne units. When I was a parachute infantry platoon leader, I never had the kind of disciplinary and criminal problems that my friends as ’leg’ infantry platoon leaders in the 101st "Airborne" (in name only for historic reasons, really an air assault unit) Division, 1st Cavalry Division, 25th Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division, etc. And I’m not talking about a slight disparity, I mean a huge one; there were some gross disciplinary issues in those units, compared with virtually none in my entire infantry battalion.

No disrespect to non-airborne personnel, they have many stellar soldiers just as any other unit. And there are certainly things I don’t like about ’Division’.... Nothing such as being airborne-qualified makes one soldier "inherently" better than another, but volunteering for airborne training and overcoming their fear to complete it does speak to a paratrooper’s character and determination. Just as Ranger or Special Forces training does the same. Again, that does not mean there are not lousy soldiers in SF or Ranger units or with tabs (again, from firsthand experience, there are plenty who fit each of those criteria).

As an aside: I have never heard of any American airborne units referred to as "the maroon machine", as far as I know that’s a strictly British term for their Parachute Regiment.
As to the idea of the 82nd Division I guess my point is not against a divisonal HQ, but simply that since 1945 did the US REALLY need a Airborne DIVISION . . .
I can understand how you could argue against the need for an airborne division in the current operational environment. However, you don’t have a leg to stand on arguing against its necessity during the Cold War:

- The 101st was ready to jump into the Congo to rescue Belgian civilians, but were kicked off the planes to put onboard Belgian and French paratroopers.
- Both airborne divisions were on alert to jump into Cuba during the Missile Crisis.
- During Vietnam, the 101st (then a ’real’ airborne division) was deployed to Southeast Asia for the duration, leaving the 82nd alone to take up rapid deployment duties to worldwide contingencies (including deployment in case of a potential Soviet invasion of Europe). (They eventually deployed 3rd Brigade to Vietnam in response to Tet)
- They were mobilized (along with the entire CONUS military) to deal with the MLK Riots.
- They deployed to the Dominican Republic.
- The entire 82nd was put on alert during Jordan’s Black September in 1970.
- A brigade(+) jumped into Honduras and saved their government from destablization by the Nicaraguan Sandinistas.
- And I am certain there were plenty of contingency OPLANs involving division size airborne operations (I personally know of at least one that was never executed)...
Yeah, I saw a similar thing with a platoon who had some recent ranger school grads in it (back then they still had "leg" Rangers in the course who were sent to Airborne school after they graduated. Of course after Ranger school, Airborne school was a bit of a lark and some of ’em played around a bit too much much to the chagrin of the platoon mates).
McQ: There are still ’leg rangers’, there was a new 2LT leg ranger in my airborne class, and I have some buddies who went to airborne school as ’golf-series’ rangers as well.
 
Written By: J
URL: http://
I’m a former paratrooper and I would argue that it’s fair to say conventional paratroops had their day shortly after WWII. The day of the conventional paratroooper has passed, accept it and move on!
 
Written By: Michale Sutcliffe
URL: http://www.sutcliffe.com/blog
The day of the conventional paratroooper has passed, accept it and move on!
And I’d argue that, as we’re all taught in the military, "it depends on the situation", and there have been situations since where airborne troops were the perfect answer.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog

 
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