Although the United States Army conducted its first-ever combat parachute drops in the early morning hours of July 10, 1943 as part of the invasion of Sicily, it did not establish an insignia to recognize the essential work of Parachute Riggers until nearly 43 years later (June 9, 1986). To its credit, the Army did allow the Parachute Rigger badge to be awarded retroactively to any personnel who had fulfilled the qualification standards—but only if they had done so after May, 1951.

To earn the Parachute Rigger badge, enlisted Soldiers must have completed Basic Airborne Training, informally called “Jump School,” and have been awarded MOS 92R Parachute Rigger; Sergeants Major and Master Sergeants who currently hold an MOS of 92Z or 00Z through career advancement and were previously awarded MOS 76Z or 43E also qualify to wear the badge. Officers must complete one of four qualifying courses (two of which are open to enlisted personnel). Warrant Officers must have been awarded MOS 921A, Officer Airdrop Systems Technician, to wear the badge.

Essential to earning MOS 92R or 921A is completion of the Parachute Rigger Course, conducted by the Aerial Delivery and Field Services Department hosted at U.S. Army Quartermaster School at Fort Lee, Virginia. Spanning nearly twelve weeks, the course is divided into three phases, with the Phases 1 and 2 focusing on cargo and personnel respectively. Phase 3 teaches Warrior Sustainment skills and techniques, including rifle marksmanship.

Interestingly, the United States Navy had a Parachute Rigger insignia decades before the Army in the form of a specialty mark for the Parachute Rigger rating. In 1965, however, that rating was redesignated as Aircrew Survival Equipmentman. Also, United States Air Force personnel are now allowed to wear the Army Parachute Rigger Badge on a permanent basis; previously it had been authorized only for Airmen who were attached to Army units.

The intricacies of parachute rigging formed a critical plot element in the 1974 episode of the television series Columbo titled “Swan Song,” which featured Johnny Cash as a country-music star who had been a parachute rigger during the Korean War. Cash’s character used his knowledge of parachute rigging to manufacture a non-regulation-sized chute that was small enough to fit inside an attaché case holding flight plans.

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