First Female FreeFaller

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Staff Sergeant becomes first female Marine to attend coveted HALO course

5/5/2010 By Cpl. Bobbie A. Curtis, 2nd Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs , 2nd Marine Logistics Group

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — There are very few airborne-qualified Marines. Even fewer of those devil dogs happen to be female. So a person could probably imagine how honored, then Sgt., Jacquelyn Samuel was when she became the first female Marine in history to attend the U.S. Army High-Altitude, Low-Opening parachutist course.

Attending the course for Marines in military occupational specialties requiring “jump wings” can be compared to a college football player getting a job in the National Football League. Not everybody will get the chance to go, and for those who go, it isn’t guaranteed they will make it through the rigorous program.

After attending the U.S. Army Basic Airborne Course in Ft. Benning, Ga., a physically demanding 3-week crash course focused on the art of jumping out of a C-17 Globemaster, Marines serving in specific MOS’s can earn the Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia, indicating a Marine or sailor completed a minimum of five additional static-line jumps. If a Marine is in a billet or job requiring them to freefall out of an airplane, then they may have the opportunity to attend the HALO and High Altitude, High Opening parachutist courses.

Unless a Marine is “Ricky Recon” (amphibious reconnaissance), a air delivery specialist (Samuel’s MOS), or attached to one of the Corps’ Air Naval Gun Liaison Companies they will never likely get the chance to attend the HALO course due to the limited school seats that are reserved for those MOS’s that absolutely require the course.

Samuel, now a staff sergeant, was extremely honored when in August 2008, she was put in the position to become the first female Marine to become HALO qualified, and it is obviously an accomplishment she is proud of.

“It’s actually the highest title I carry, and I carry it proudly,” she explained.

Her destined rendezvous with the HALO course came to fruition when she became an instructor at the Parachute Rigger Course in Ft. Lee, Va., where she taught our nation’s future military parachute riggers from October 2006 – January 2010. Her students’ future responsibilities would be to insure that all parachutes are safely packed for use in real-time operations and training throughout all branches of the U.S. military.

She explained that becoming HALO qualified was required for her to teach a follow-on portion of the course all Marines are required to attend after they complete the standard curriculum taught by the school. During this course Marines learn how to pack more advanced, steerable parachutes used on advanced freefall jumps – requiring a more advanced parachutist to teach the skills.

Not many Marines get to make such a prominent mark in history. Throughout Marine Corps Recruit Training, recruits are introduced to famous Marines who accomplished amazing feats, and who were the first to walk along an untraveled path. Samuel may not be Opha Mae Johnson, the first female Marine, but she has certainly made a huge impact on the Marine Corps’ airborne community.

And the pressure of being the first, made failure inconceivable.

“The pressure of knowing you’re the first one makes you know you have to do it … you have to pass,” she said. “It was exciting knowing that I didn’t follow in somebody else’s foot steps. I made the foot steps.”

She hopes her accomplishment will open up the door for future females who wish to attend the course.

“Will it open the door for females going… hopefully it will,” she stated.

Master Sgt. John Abney, a 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps and long -time member of the Corps’ airborne community explained Samuel’s achievement does several important things for the Corps and the airborne MOS’s.

“There are no limits since we started the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq,” said Abney, who has over 400 static-line and free-fall jumps. “It’s asymmetrical … there’s no front and rear anymore. Females have played a pivotal role; this just proves there is no limit to the potential roles they can and will play in our future success.”

Her groundbreaking milestone is proof that females can be successful in filling roles traditionally held by males. Abney also believes this could help improve airborne MOS’s by making them better-rounded.

“It gives the community more diversity and flexibility,” he continued. “You can now spread the responsibilities around so you’re not looking for males to be subject matter experts.”

Both Samuel and Abney agree the HALO course is much more challenging than the basic airborne course, stating the HALO course is a lot more physically and mentally challenging. The course requires servicmembers to learn a lot about their bodies and become familiar with the affects free falling through the sky at 120 mph has on it.

“We all know we have feet, hands, arms and legs … it’s different to have to know where they are while you’re free falling,” Samuel said. “It was a challenge that was well worth it.”

“That’s not an easy school,” exclaimed Abney. “If you’re willing to go down there and deal with the challenge and pass the school, I have a lot of respect for you. I tell you this … they don’t cut corners for you if you are a female.”


http://www.marines.mil/unit/2ndmlg/Pages/2010 Articles/May/HALO.aspx
 

AWP

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Why did they write this article in 2010 if she went in 2008?

The article says "put into position to" so was she assigned that billet in '08 and just now found a slot for the course or did she complete it in '08 and the PAO decided to wake up?

And I've never understood riggers going to MFF. S/L, yes but not MFF especially when slots are hard to come by.
 

Teufel

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She went in 2008. We don't send Marines to YPG anymore because you have to attend the Marine Corps course in order to be MFF qualified. They don't run the Army MFF to Marine Corp MFF transition anymore. Our rigger community gets their own coded slots at our jump course so it doesn't interfere with the fleet. They will also go to S/L JM and MFF JM which helps when you put jump packages together.
 

Chopstick

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I thought this thread was about Free getting a sex change or something. Glad to see it was a legit post!
 
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8'Duece

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The article says "put into position to" so was she assigned that billet in '08 and just now found a slot for the course or did she complete it in '08 and the PAO decided to wake up?

And I've never understood riggers going to MFF. S/L, yes but not MFF especially when slots are hard to come by.

Oh well, some SF guy or Ranger has to wait another 5 years to get to MFF/YPG.
 

AWP

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Oh well, some SF guy or Ranger has to wait another 5 years to get to MFF/YPG.

Yep.

And this isn't a slam on her or the Corps, and not even on riggers, but to say you have to be MFF qualified to maintain MFF equipment is preposterous. Hell, the AF doesn't even send riggers to jump school and since the dawn of aviation your life support specialists weren't jump qualified, yet how many parachutes have they packed resulting in a save? I know of several FAA certificated riggers who have never jumped from an airplane and passing a rigging course isn't a "gimme."

Under the old MTOE, an SF Battalion had two 92R W8 slots, plus there were 2 or 3 at the Group level as well. So 4 riggers per Group times 7 Groups.....pre-9/11 if 20th Group could field a complete MFF ODA without snatching guys from the various "MFF" teams to form a FrankenODA I'd be surprised. (I think at one point 3/20 had more SCUBA qualified guys than MFF).

It's just a bad system.
 

Teufel

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There were two riggers that sabotaged a bunch of parachutes back in 2003 by cutting the suspension lines off of half the parachutes they packed. After that the Marine Corps mandated that riggers have to jump a certain percentage of chutes that they pack. To keep you honest I suppose. That's the urban legend anyway.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/08/07/national/main567249.shtml

Normally you would only send the riggers from the Force Reconnaissance companies to MFF though, I don't know how a random rigger from the school house went. Probably was a hot fill that the operations forces couldn't fill for whatever reason. Right now the Marine Corps' MFF school has a decent throughput. We are deploying entire platoons at 1st Force that are MFF qualified right now, although usually it's just one team and the rest of the guys are double bag static line qualified.
 

0699

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...She hopes her accomplishment will open up the door for future females who wish to attend the course.

“Will it open the door for females going… hopefully it will,” she stated.

Master Sgt. John Abney, a 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps and long -time member of the Corps’ airborne community explained Samuel’s achievement does several important things for the Corps and the airborne MOS’s.

“There are no limits since we started the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq,” said Abney, who has over 400 static-line and free-fall jumps. “It’s asymmetrical … there’s no front and rear anymore. Females have played a pivotal role; this just proves there is no limit to the potential roles they can and will play in our future success.”

Her groundbreaking milestone is proof that females can be successful in filling roles traditionally held by males. Abney also believes this could help improve airborne MOS’s by making them better-rounded.

“It gives the community more diversity and flexibility,” he continued. “You can now spread the responsibilities around so you’re not looking for males to be subject matter experts.”

Both Samuel and Abney agree the HALO course is much more challenging than the basic airborne course, stating the HALO course is a lot more physically and mentally challenging. The course requires servicmembers to learn a lot about their bodies and become familiar with the affects free falling through the sky at 120 mph has on it.

“We all know we have feet, hands, arms and legs … it’s different to have to know where they are while you’re free falling,” Samuel said. “It was a challenge that was well worth it.”

“That’s not an easy school,” exclaimed Abney. “If you’re willing to go down there and deal with the challenge and pass the school, I have a lot of respect for you. I tell you this … they don’t cut corners for you if you are a female.”


http://www.marines.mil/unit/2ndmlg/Pages/2010 Articles/May/HALO.aspx


I'm confused why her going to MFF should lead to other WMs going. If a Marine is in the billet, needs the training, and meets the requirements, who f'king cares whats between their legs. To say "she did it, so we should send other females" doesn't make sense to me.

I'm also confused how diversity leads to a better group of riggers. Use your best qualified people and the diverstiy issue will be solved by itself.
 

Scotth

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If she wasn't a last minute slot fill that some how couldn't be filled by an operational troop then is was wasted training. It's not about whether she was a women of man. Sending any rigger or support person to fill a school slot, especially some school slot needed by so many, is a waste of hard to come by training. Like Free said the justification of needing the training to maintain the equipment or teach the maintaining of the equipment is a weak excuse when compared to operational training needs.
 
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