Rapidly establishing forward operating areas capable of calling in air drops, serving as landing zones, performing air-traffic control, and providing navigational assistance is an integral component in the Global War on Terror, which relies much less on sheer manpower as opposed to surgical strikes with overwhelming accuracy and force. In this type of warfare, the role that U.S. Pathfinders play is almost indispensable.

While Soldiers from just a few MOS’s and in select paygrades are authorized to attend the Army Pathfinder School held at the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning in Georgia, waivers are available for Soldiers serving in a non-qualifying MOS and meet other requirements (GT score of 110 or higher, cleared for airborne operations, no speech impediments, and so forth). During the three-week Pathfinder Course, candidates learn how to set up and operate helicopter landing zones, USAF Computed Air Release Points, and the Army’s Ground Marked Release Systems and Verbally Initiated Release Systems, all designed to facilitate re-supply of both materiel and personnel. Other skills that are taught involve sling load operations and air-traffic control, including navigational assistance to a broad array of aircraft types.

Roughly speaking each week of the course is devoted to a general topic: Week 1 is spent on sling loading, Week 2 is dedicated to helicopter landing and drop zones, and Week 3 covers more drop-zone information, concluding with hands-on field training testing what the students have learned.

If past numbers are a good predictor of future outcomes, incoming Pathfinder candidates would be well-advised to bone up on Drop Zones and Sling Loads. In 2014, the average Pathfinder class size was sixty and featured a 50 percent dropout rate, with a staggering 83% of the washouts coming during the Sling Load Hands-On Exam or the Drop Zone Written Exam.

The Pathfinder Badge’s simple design combines the image of a lighted torch, symbolic of leadership and guidance, with the wings representing the airborne capabilities of the wearer.

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As a certified manufacturer of uniforms and insignia, The Salute Uniforms considers it a privilege to provide the members of our nation’s military services with superior-quality apparel and accoutrements. We guarantee that every product we offer is made in the USA and meets or surpasses Mil-Spec standards. Browse our online catalog and discover how our tradition of excellence and commitment to innovation makes us your best source for military uniforms, insignias, medals, and accessories.


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