In the past, the only place to receive the formal training required to lead a jump was the Military Freefall School at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
Master Sgt. David Biddinger, a free-fall jumpmaster instructor, had experience working at the school in Yuma before being stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base about four years ago.
“We realized that the Air Force had a need for the jumpmaster course,” Biddinger said. “Working with contacts in U.S. Special Operations Command and at the (Military Freefall School), we were able to convince the Army and Air Force of that need.”
For about 3 1/2 years, Biddinger worked side by side with the 68th Rescue Flight to establish a new SOCOM approved course at Davis-Monthan AFB.
“Getting officially recognized by the Army and (SOCOM) as a validated course is special; it is a difficult standard to attain,” Biddinger said. “This is the only Military Freefall Jumpmaster Course in the Air Force and it’s one of two in the Department of Defense.”
The course will graduate 12 Airmen at the end of its fifth 3-week-long rotation, reaching a total of 58 certified jumpmasters across the battlefield Airmen career fields.
“Before this course, we only had the option of attending the school in Yuma,” Biddinger said. “We only saw about 28 slots per year spread between all the different groups that jump in the Air Force.”
The course is intended to train middle-level NCOs and officers. Students vary from tactical air control party specialists, combat controllers, pararescuemen, and survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists from all different commands. In addition, as a joint accredited organization, the 68th Rescue Flight also affords this training and qualification to other services such as the Navy, Army and Marine Corp.
“I go back to my unit as a free-fall jumpmaster,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan, a 321st Special Tactics Squadron combat controller. “Anytime my unit has a jump, I’ll either be the primary person in charge of all the coordination or the assistant.”
During each free fall, the success of the mission and the lives of others are in the hands of the jumpmasters.
“We’re training special operations Airmen to be able to deploy personnel out of the aircraft safely and ensure that those guys reach the ground to do their mission,” Biddinger said, “whether the mission involves rescuing someone, calling in airstrikes, or recovering downed equipment or aircraft.”