TAKES TOUGH CONSTITUTION
by John H. Thompson
Chicago Tribune Service
FORT BENNING, Ga., Dec. 4
--- Young men are still learning to conquer
fear and jump out of airplanes here at the airborne school where Lt
Col. Richard J. Seitz has qualified more than 100,000 basic
paratroopers since Jan. 1
Only they don't call it a school any more. The course, now three weeks instead of five, is part of the airborne department of the bigger infantry school. The department, including 48 officers and 392 enlisted men, teaches airborne techniques and tactics, the techniques of dropping heavy equipment by parachute, and how to load planes to transport men and equipment by air.
Five Jumps Required
The volunteers come here after receiving 16 weeks of basic and advanced individual training. When they graduate, after five jumps, and with a paratrooper's wings, they look more like proud, snappy, cocky soldiers.
School enrollment, however, has fallen from its peak of 880 a class. The classes now average about 350. The drop is attributed to fewer volunteers and lessening of airborne replacements for the 82nd and 11th Regimental Combat Team in Korea.
Most of the: candidates come from selective service, via the training divisions. The average age is 19. The school standards are high, for its main purpose is to provide basic jump training, give a man confidence in himself and his equipment, and conditions him mentally for leaping from a perfectly safe plane.
For the first week, the men and officers are taught the technique of the safe exit and a safe landing. They jump through meet airplane doors on the ground, make practice tumbling falls, and leap from the 34-foot tower.
The tower jump causes more elimination than any other phase of training. Each class loses from 4 to 10 percent.
In the door of the tower a man straps on a parachute harness only there is no chute. Instead his harness is hooked outside the door to a rope which ends in a saw-dust pile. He jumps, and, in effect, slides down the rope, suspended by the harness to an easy landing. But its hard to make that first jump.
The second week is spent in perfecting his techniques, in jumps from the 250 foot towers by parachute, guided to earth by cables, and in mass jumping.
Jump From C-46s
Then, in the third week, he begins making individual jumps from obsolete C-46 planes, the only planes available, because the new C-82 and C-119 planes are required in Korea and Europe. On the fifth jump he carries 25 pounds of equipment, plus his 40-pound chute. When he lands, he is a paratrooper.
Throughout the rigorous training the school tries to groom a man’s muscles, to make his jump techniques become habit, and to make him pull his reserve chute only in case the main canopy fails to function properly.
In the last year there have been two fatalities, none due to a malfunctioning chute, Col. Seitz says. The injury rate, which was 14 percent in 1943, is now one-tenth of 1 percent. One reason for this is that
the drop zone is a soft, plowed field.
Jumping considered by many observers the best conditioner for combat, finds strong adherents on the other side of camp, where Col. Joe S. Lawrie commands the 508th Airborne RCT. it was reactivated last April and has probably the sharpest spirit and élan of any regiment in the country.
About 75 percent of his officers and almost all of his noncoms carne from the 82nd Airborne Division, which conducted its own basic training for a long period. The other officers are from the 11th Airborne Division.
In addition, whole classes of paratroopers moved directly from the jump school into the 508th. Approximately 650 officers and noncoms have also taken the higher training courses at the infantry school here.
[The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Corpus Christi,
TX, Tuesday, Apr 4, 1951, Page 7]