Today, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) announced that the Pentagon is failing to meet the Army’s paratrooper training requirements at Fort Bragg, making it clear that Air Force leadership broke its promise when it claimed that dismantling the 440th Airlift Wing at Pope Airfield would not undermine the training and readiness capabilities of the Army. Such capabilities are paramount to the military’s ability to respond to global threats at a moment’s notice.
In May 2016, the Air Force conducted only 4,821 jumps, or 48 percent of the Army’s paratrooper jump requirement.
Parachute Jumps at Fort Bragg – May 2016
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In a February 4, 2016 letter sent to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and then Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy explicitly promised that removing the C-130H presence from Fort Bragg would not hamper training requirements:
“Without dedicated C-130 wings, the Air Force will continue to meet training and contingency support requirements of the 18th Airborne Corps, 82nd Airborne Division, and U.S. Army Special Operations Command with no adverse effect to these units’ daily training requirements or readiness.”
It is now clear their reassurances were nothing more than empty words.
To put the 4,821 jumps in May of 2016 into context, the XVIII Airborne Corps has been clear that it requires 10,000 parachute jumps a month to maintain proficiency. Army regulations state that 8,000 jumps a month are the minimum to keep the Sky Dragons and the All American Division current.
“I warned at the time that the removal of the 440th created unreasonable risks to the readiness of critical airborne units, which must be prepared to respond to a range of contingencies on short notice,” said Senator Tillis. “The Pentagon claimed that following the deactivation of the 440th, out-of-state aircraft would support all airlift requirements for Fort Bragg. The Pentagon asked us to suspend disbelief, and this reassurance has fallen woefully short. The Air Force has missed the Army’s minimum jump requirements every month this year, threatening the training and readiness of America’s Global Response Force.”