AVON PARK RANGE, Fla. --
Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. -- There's an art to ejecting yourself from an HH-60 Pave Hawk, traveling at about 86 miles per hour from 1,500 feet in the air.
But each of the men who prepared to jump mastered the skill.
After receiving a tap on the back, it was go time.
Each member pushed off from the edge of the aircraft, their bodies propelling from the helicopter, slicing through the air, rapidly descending hundreds of feet to the ground below.
They're all trained to count in their heads awaiting for their parachutes to deploy.
Suddenly, the SF-10 static line parachute swiftly escapes its packaging, snatching each man back and slackening his descent.
Jumpers need to be able to recall exactly what measures to take once they exit the aircraft and are sailing through the air with nothing but the parachute on his back and a reserve parachute attached to his abdomen.
Prior to entering the helicopter, members from the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron from Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Texas, completed an elaborate safety brief to ensure each jumper was aware of any instance that could possible occur before jumping December 18, 2013, during a weeklong training exercise here.
The brief is in addition to the vast amount of preparation jumpers, riggers, and the pilots undergo to ensure the safety of all involved.
With the help of Army Reserve parachute riggers from the 421st Quartermaster Company at Warner Robbins, Ga., and a helicopter flight crew from the 301st Rescue Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., the tactical air control party members were able to complete a total of nine jumps as part of their currency training during the December training exercise.
"We're the subject matter experts on jumping," said a staff sergeant with the company.
After the extensive safety brief, the members rehearsed parachute landing falls at the range, enacting different directional landing positions.
This practice allowed them to build muscle memory on how to land based on the direction they're landing in order to prevent injuries.
Throughout the scenarios, the men were required to display competency in each proposed situation.
With their hands in the air, twisting, jumping, jerking, and thrusting their bodies in different directions, each TACP displayed his expertise on airborne operations.
The winds had to be just right and the calculation of the drop zones accurate before any of the members were cleared to jump.
First, the drop zone was prepared and VS-17 signal marker panels were laid out in the shape of a code letter to ensure the air crew and jumpmaster knew where to release the men.
Then a supply bundle, with a chute attached, was thrust off the Pave Hawk to test the winds so crews could best estimate how and where a jumper will land.
While jumpers awaited their cue from the ground crew, which used a verbally initiated release system to notify the jumpmaster to give each jumper the green light to execute, the wind was constantly monitored with a handheld anemometer.
It is important to constantly monitor the wind because if the wind is at speeds higher than 15 knots, it is deemed unsafe to jump, said a master sergeant with the squadron.
Though not all TACPs are airborne qualified, airborne operations play a large part in the TACP career field. To ensure all members are current with their knowledge in airborne operations, it is required that they jump at least once per quarter.
Airborne operations are a strategic asset for the military and a valuable technique used to deliver personnel, equipment or supplies, and just one aspect of a TACP's job.
For more information on the TACP career field, call 832-632-1387 or 800-864-6264.