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Paratroopers review safe exits after two fatalities during training

Posted May 1, 2015

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— Jumpmasters with the 18th Airborne returned to the classroom Friday for a refresher on parachute safety following the deaths of two young paratroopers within 10 days of each other.

Pvt. Joshua Phillips died April 16 during airborne operations in Louisiana. Then, 10 days later, Spc. Nicholas Roberts died during a parachute jump at Fort Bragg.

"That was enough of a trigger to me that we'd better reassess what the issue is based on these two cases," said Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commanding general of the 18th.

Both Phillips and Roberts were using the Army's new T-11 parachute. The old T-10 was lighter, but soldiers hit the ground harder. Military leaders say while the new T-11 makes for a softer landing, it makes exiting the aircraft a little more complicated.

On Friday, jumpmasters, the experienced paratroopers who make sure everyone gets in and out safely during airborne operations, reviewed their training. They will return to their units and give refresher classes to their soldiers.

"They can communicate the proper way to do something to their jumpers, making those jumpers understand that if you do something wrong that it could become an issue with your parachute system,” explained Maj. Craig Arnold, the jumpmaster school commander.

"If you don’t come out at the right angle, it may cause you to hit the rear of the aircraft which may cause you to get towed or entangled or all of the above," Anderson said.

Military leaders say serious accidents are extremely rare. Since March of last year, more than 63,000 jumps have been made with three fatalities.

Still, Anderson says one death is too many. That’s why he ordered training suspended until all units complete the safety refresher.

"We do it for motocycles. We do it for automobiles. We do it for weapons. Airborne operations are is more dangerous than all those combined," Anderson said.

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