JSPW(N) Exercise Intrepid Sky ’17 – My 200th Jump at Skydive Miami, Florida, USA
I joined JSAT junior staff at Joint Service Parachute Wing at Netheravon in January 2016, and a year later I have just returned from Exercise Intrepid Sky 2017. Here is a brief outline of the training I have undertaken in that time, and the qualifications and experience I have gained during my time at JSPW (N). Intrepid Sky is our annual staff training exercise for all staff working at JSPW(N). The exercise was held at Skydive City in Zephyr Hills, Florida, and at Homestead USAF Airbase near Miami. During this time I received some world class coaching from world champion skydivers, and got to jump with the Golden Knights, the US Army’s Parachute Display Team. The three weeks spent in America was incredible, and my skydiving has improved massively, which I’ll cover in more detail later.
The Aim of Joint Service Adventurous Training
“To promote, through the conduct of arduous outdoor activities with exposure to hardship and danger, the Army’s core values, leadership, teamwork and other qualities necessary to enhance the Operational effectiveness of all military personnel.”
The Definition of Adventurous Training
“Challenging outdoor training for Service personnel in specified adventurous activities, involving controlled exposure to risk, in order to develop leadership, teamwork, physical fitness, moral and physical courage, among other personal attributes and skills vital to Operational capability.”
I qualified as an AFF (Accelerated Free Fall) skydiver in Florida immediately after joining JSPW, and on return to the UK began my normal daily work routine. Primarily the job of junior staff is to assist with training delivery to basic, intermediate and advanced parachute students from across the tri-services. Courses run from the end of February through to November, and in 2016 over 40 courses were delivered.
A big part of my job involves teaching students to pack their parachute rigs safely, which at times can be challenging, especially when, following a lengthy packing lesson students are sent off to start packing their own rigs (usually after their first jump), and all you can then see are blank confused looks on their faces! It really is rewarding to see that “light bulb” moment when everything you’ve taught them falls into place.
In addition to parachute packing lessons and assisting instructors, staff also deliver other lectures and presentations to all ranks, including the History of Parachuting, and briefs on the Category system and progression within the sport.
The OC at JSPW(N) recognises that staff development is crucial not only for ensuring soldiers remain fully fit for deployment during their time at the centre, but also for maintaining good relationships with parent units who allow their soldiers to join the staff. Additionally he is also keen to recruit more reserve soldiers at the centre, as he appreciates the additional skills and experience they can bring to the team.
One of the main aims for JSPW is to create a new generation of parachute instructors both from within the staff and also the students who attend courses. The aim is to make sure everyone who jumps is given every opportunity to continue the sport, and personal development for staff includes regular phys sessions, MATTs training, and of course skydiving. All staff are developed to ensure they return to their parent units with new skills and hopefully as potential instructors and leaders.
In April 2016 an advanced parachute course was run at our sister site in Cyprus, which I attended. Here I consolidated some of the jump skills I had learned as a student doing AFF in Florida, and was able to attain my FS1 qualification.
Whilst in Cyprus I was also interviewed by Forces TV for a report they were doing on military skydiving, and later appeared on TV!
On return from Cyprus, and in keeping with my agreement with my parent unit to maintain my infantry competency, I had been booked on the Assault Soldier Cadre, which was to be run by 1 PWRR. Unfortunately at the end of the first week of the cadre I broke my ribs in a Go-karting accident whilst on R&R, and had to be returned to unit.
I hope to complete the Assault Soldier cadre at a later date, as this was my trade when I previously served in the TA with 5PWRR. Following my injury, I was off sick for a while then out of jumping for a period of around 3 months.
When I started jumping again in September 2016 it took me a few jumps to get back into the swing of things, but finally I was fit and ready for our next challenge, Exercise Skyfall ’16 – a basic parachute course being run in Cyprus in November. With my new downsized canopy (175 square foot Triathlon) I was looking forward to some quality jumping.
Our staff assisted with the instruction for the course students, but I did manage to squeeze in a few jumps myself, including jumping with a couple of members of the famous Golden Knights, the US Army’s Parachute Display Team.
On return from Cyprus it was time to close down JSPW(N) for the season, and then we had Christmas leave. Almost immediately on return we were off again, for this year’s 2017 Staff exped to America. Ex Intrepid Sky ’17 would be a staff training exercise and bi-lateral exercise with the Golden Knights in Florida.
During this exercise I completed my 200th jump, I received coaching from World Champion skydivers, and I jumped with one of the most famous parachute display teams in the world.
All in all, it’s been a great year. I’ve now completed 205 skydives, gained multiple qualifications, I can deliver briefings and lessons to large groups irrespective of rank, and my self confidence and ability to overcome fear have improved immeasurably. All this has been attained by working at JSPW(N), and I hope it will continue for the foreseeable future.