Air Transportation: October 21, 2004


On October 13th, a paratrooper at Ft Bragg, North Carolina, while making a practice jump, found himself being dragged behind the aircraft he jumped from, but was safely hauled back in. Both of his chutes became entangled with parts of the Casa 212 aircraft he went out of. The Casa 212 is a two engine aircraft that can carry 16 paratroopers, and is used when only a small number of troops are jumping. Military parachuting is still a dangerous thing to do, with about one percent of all jumps resulting in some kind of injury. Although helicopters are the preferred mode of transportation when troops are moving into a combat zone by air, the U.S. army still maintains some 22 battalions (or equivalent) of infantry trained to use parachutes. Half of these are regular paratroopers, the rest are rangers, Special Forces and commandoes. 

For several decades there has been pressure to restrict military parachute training to those who are most likely to use it. But this would eliminate at least half the current paratrooper force. Despite the few times airborne infantry battalions have actually been needed, the expense of parachute training, the special equipment and regular practice jumps, many in the army insist that a large parachute force is still necessary. Part of this is tradition, part of it is the realization that simply having that large a force of paratroopers, and the aircraft able to carry them anywhere in the world on short notice, has a pacifying effect on potential troublemakers. However, the helicopter and non-parachute infantry communities will continue to agitate for more efficient allocation of funds, and the shrinking of the paratrooper force. 


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