How to Join the Army Airborne

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From D-Day to the present day, one of the elite images of the U.S. Army is the paratrooper jumping from a "perfectly good airplane" into combat. Anyone who wants to become one of these Airborne soldiers must join and pass the Army's Basic Airborne Course.

Before the Course

Make sure you qualify for the Basic Airborne Course. Although you can be an officer, enlisted man or even a U.S. Military Academy or ROTC cadet, you must be less than 36 years old and have completed your basic training requirements.

Request and receive assignment to Airborne training. How you do this depends upon your status in the military. New enlistees can speak with a recruiter about qualifying. Those in advanced individual training, who have already completed basic training, can speak with their drill instructor or recruiter. Those already in the Army can speak with a retention officer, while those in the Army Reserve can speak with unit officers.

Pass the Army Physical Fitness Test. You can pass with a minimum score of 180, or 60 percent, though it's always better to achieve a higher score to ensure you are in the best shape possible. This test is administered to would-be paratroopers on the first day of training. To receive a 180, male students must complete 42 push-ups, 53 sit-ups and a 15-minute, 54-second 2-mile run. Female students must complete 19 push-ups, 53 sit-ups and an 18-minute, 54-second run.

The Basic Airborne Course

Complete the first week of training, known as Ground Week. After the Physical Fitness Test, this week includes training on a mock plane door, 34-foot tower and lateral (side-to-side) drift apparatus, or LDA. This training is intended to teach soldiers how to jump and land properly. Qualify on the tower and LDA to advance to the second week of training.

Complete the second week of training, known as Tower Week. This training builds on the first week's tower work but adds an element of teamwork. Students work on mass exits from the 34-foot tower and mock door, learn another apparatus known as the swing lander trainer, and finally jump from the 250-foot tower. Qualify on the swing lander and master the mass exit to advance to the third and final week of training.

Complete the third week of training, known as Jump Week. During this week, students must make five successful jumps of 1,250 feet from a C-130 or C-17 airplane. These normally include two jumps carrying combat equipment loads, and one nighttime jump. Upon successful completion of the course, a soldier qualifies to wear the Airborne wing insignia.


Soldiers hoping to use Airborne training as the first step in special forces training should be prepared to pass the Physical Fitness Test with a score much higher than the minimum required.