USAF PARACHUTIST BADGE

While many Air Force officers and enlisted specialists are required to earn the Parachutist Badge as part of acquiring an occupational badge or operational insignia, many others seek to earn it voluntarily as a source of accomplishment and pride. It’s a badge that will be recognized not only by their fellow Airmen, but also by men and women from the Army, Navy, and Marines: All of those branches offer Parachutists badges that have essentially the same levels of requisite training. Indeed, the vast majority of members of the United States Armed Forces have earned their basic Parachutist badges by completing the U.S. Army Basic Airborne Course held at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Commonly referred to as “jump wings,” Parachutist badges are awarded at three levels—Basic, Senior, and Master—in two major categories: Basic and Military Free Fall (MFF). In the USAF, the first step toward earning the basic Parachutist badge is successful completion of one of three school-conducted programs: the aforementioned Army Airborne Course at Fort Benning, a course conducted by Mobile Training Team (MTT) that’s been approved by the U.S. Army Infantry Center, or the USAF Academy Airmanship Program. Note that the last program doesn’t include combat employment methods, and those who earn their Parachutist badges this way can’t take part in tactical parachuting programs. (They can, however, qualify as non-military free parachutists, which enables them to take part in a wide range of promotional activities and sport parachuting events).

In addition to completing these authorized training courses, Airmen seeking the basic Parachutist badge must also make fives successful jumps.

Things get considerably more difficult for those working toward the Senior Parachutists badge. For starters, they must complete a full two years (24 months) on jump status with an organization that’s been assigned a parachute jump mission—and any time they spent in training for their initial qualification as a basic Parachutist doesn’t count toward that time requirement. Second, they have to make a total of thirty jumps. Of those, two of them have to have taken place during hours of darkenss, fifteen have to be made with operational equipment, and seven must be performed as a Primary Jump Master, and one must be performed as a night jump acting as the Primary Jump Master.

Which brings us to the last requirement for the Senior Level Parachutists Badge, i.e., qualifying as a Jump Master. Jump Masters (JMs) have to exhibit an extremely high level of parachutist skills, readily displaying their ability to deploy both people and equipment to the intended landing spot. Only Airmen who’ve proven they’ve acquired both the requisite level of knowledge and have developed a high standard of proficiency will even be admitted into a JM training program. (On a related note, military parachutists must become JM qualified as static-line jumps before they can move on to become qualified as JMs in MFF jumps.) Having said all that, static-line JM qualifications are given only to those Airmen who complete a USAF-approved JM course and who pass an evaluation of their duty performance as a JM during an actual static-line airdrop mission.

To learn more about Parachutist qualifications, please refer to Air Force Instruction 11-402, Aviation and Parachutist Service, Aeronautical Ratings and Aviation Badges and Air Force Instruction 11-410, Personnel Parachute Operations. Also, please refer to our badge devoted to the USAF MFF Parachutist Badge.
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