Airborne All the Way: ROTC Students Jump from Airplanes

John Wahman
Staff Reporter

Every summer several McDaniel Cadets step foot at Fort Benning Georgia ready to take on the massive task of learning how to safely jump out of a perfectly good airplane and land on the ground in one piece.

The experience is part of a U.S. Army program called Airborne. For over 50 years, McDaniel’s ROTC program has participated.

“Airborne afforded me an insertion capability as a reconnaissance team member, which allowed me to get to areas within enemy held territory that would be difficult to do by any other means of insertion,” said Captain Paul Gump, a military science instructor at McDaniel College.

“When people ask me what I did last summer, I tell them that I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane five times (twice in one day even, and once at night),” said Cadet Tom Boehm, a sophomore at McDaniel.

Now you may think, psh! I can do that, but when you factor in the excessive heat, extensive physical training received in the three week course at Benning, and then the fact that right before you jump the only thing between you and death is a few string in a piece of canopy, you may think twice.

“On some days it gets to be 105 degrees with 70% humidity,” said Cadet John Lower, also a sophomore at McDaniel.

So far, McDaniel cadets have had a 100% success rate here at McDaniel, and this year’s ’09 class is already intensely competing for their own slot to jump school.

“In the past we have enjoyed an outstanding graduation rate among cadets. This is due in no small part to the quality of cadets we have in our program,” explained Captain Gump. “These are truly some of the most outstanding young men and women this generation has to offer. I am sure we will continue to enjoy future success in ROTC based upon the quality of student that McDaniel College draws to our ROTC program.”

Only the top cadets get slots and there are not many available. Recipients of a slot are not only physically qualified, but also maintain strong GPA’s and have no conduct issues. Once cadets graduate successfully from jump school, they receive a set of wings, which is pinned on their uniform on the left side of the chest.

If you see cadets walking around in uniform with a set of wings, go up and congratulate them; they have completed a rather awesome feat.

I mean who doesn’t want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?