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On the road to being a path finder
A Soldier sits and waits before he jumps from a C-130 Hercules Aug. 24. Approximately 50 members of the 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion participated in a three-week path finder course at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Instruction included sling load operations, helicopter landing and pickup zone operations along with drop zone operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher Gross)
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On the road to becoming a path finder

Posted 8/25/2010   Updated 8/26/2010 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Christopher Gross

8/25/2010 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Approximately 50 members of the 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion recently participated in a three-week path finder course taught by instructors from the U.S. Army Path Finder School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

"A path finder is a subject matter expert on all sling load operations, helicopter landing helicopter landing zone and pickup zone operation and drop zone operation," said Staff Sgt. Chris Russon, a path finder instructor.

During the first of three weeks, participants inprocessed and took several classes relating to ground-to-air map markings, air traffic control, medical evacuation operations and sling-load operations. They spent the later part of the week doing hands-on operations to familiarize themselves with what they were being taught in the classroom. Participants also performed several jumps and learned how to calculate the proper release point for the jump.

"It's a great skill set to have," said Sergeant Russon. "Especially in the war we're fighting now in Afghanistan. A lot of what (they're doing is dropping supplies,) so it's a good idea to have path finders out there, to help all this go right."

The course is typically for those who have been in a few years and has an 85 to 90 percent pass ratio, added Sergeant Russon.

Two major challenging aspects of the training are usually the sling load hands-on operations, which is where cargo is attached to a helicopter by a lead line and swivel, and the academic portion of it, mentioned the sergeant.

There's a lot of math, formulas and memorization that go into the drops, he added.

"You have to go home and study," said Sgt. Lawrence Inks, who went through the course for the first time. "It sounds pretty simple, but it's a lot to think about."

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