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The Army Airborne School, located in Fort Benning, Georgia, is the U.S. Army's program for paratrooper training. It is also commonly known as Jump School. The program is completely voluntary and all members of the U.S. Army are able to enroll — provided they meet the school's physical requirements. All students undergo the school's Basic Airborne Course (BAC), a three-week long training session which prepares soldiers for combat parachuting. There are different themes for each week of the course: Ground Week, Tower Week, and Jump Week. Students who graduate from the Army Airborne School are known as Airborne Soldiers.
The first week of the BAC is Ground Week. During Ground week, volunteers undergo basic physical and parachute training. Before being allowed to move on to additional weeks of training, students must pass the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). Students also learn the basics of operating a parachute. During this week, the school takes students through mock jumps, using a lateral draft apparatus and a 34-foot tower.
If students pass the requirements of Ground Week, they are cleared to move on to Tower Week. During the second week, students undergo a more rigorous set of training, which they must satisfactorily complete in order to move on to Jump Week. Students still practice on the 34-foot (10.36-meter) tower, but must also master procedures on the 250-foot (76.2-meter) tower. In addition, students are also required to qualify on the Swing Lander Trainer (SLT), which is used to practice landings.
If students have passed all the necessary physical training and parachuting requirements, they're allowed to move on to Jump Week. During Jump Week, students must put all their training to the test by successfully completing five jumps out of an airplane. The jumps have to be made from a height of 1,250 feet (381 meters), and out of a C-17 or C-130 aircraft. Trainees are required to demonstrate proficiency with different types of parachutes on different jumps. Upon passing the five jumps, students have officially made it through the Army Airborne School, and are awarded the "Silver Wing," which the soldier may place on his or her uniform.
The Army Airborne School is recognized across military branches as being the gold standard of paratrooper training. Rather than conducting their own Jump School, other military branches — Air Force, Navy, Marines — often send students to the Army Airborne School for training. As such, students of the school may have the unique experience of learning alongside and being trained by service members of all military stripes.