Army Parachute Riggers Strive for Safe Landings

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Gary A. Witte, 642nd Regional Support Group

For soldiers in the 421st Quartermaster Company, “attention to detail” is less a catch phrase than a lifesaving mission statement.

Parachute riggers with the 421st, based at the Army Reserve Center here, pack hundreds of chutes every month for use by reserve and active-duty troops across the southern United States. And, there isn’t just one kind of parachute. There are more than a dozen types, each with a specific method for packing to ensure they open correctly.

Army 1st Sgt. Richard A. Davis of Musella, the senior noncommissioned officer for the unit, said one mistake by a parachute rigger can lead to a fatality or injury.

‘Everything Has to be Precise’

“A lot of things can go wrong,” Davis said. “Everything we do to pack a parachute has to be done by steps. Everything has to be precise.”

Military jumps typically involve the use of a thick cord — called a static line — to pull the chutes open. If the static line is routed wrong, the parachute won’t open. If the static line is faulty and the problem isn’t discovered, it can shred and the parachute also won’t open. If the risers which connect the jumper to the chute are flipped, its canopy might only partially open — sending the soldier speeding toward the ground.

Army Master Sgt. Brian W. Steverson of Bonifay, the…

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