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Cumulus clouds and plenty of sunshine is a picture-perfect day with acceptable conditions for Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) 4000 rucksack risk reduction jumps as Capt. Jonathan Zerebiny, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate Test Parachutist, exits from the ramp of a CASA 212 airplane at an attitude of 15,000 feet followed by Staff Sgt. Corey Riser, ABNSOTD Test Parachutist and Video Flyer over Maxton Airfield, North Carolina, during MOLLE 4000 risk reduction trials. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Birkner, Test Jumper and Video Flyer, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

By Mr. Mike Shelton, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command

FORT BRAGG, North Carolina — Test jumpers here are making sure Special Operations Forces military freefall (MFF) parachutists can safely use their rucksacks without compromising their missions.

Risk reduction testing begins inside vertical wind tunnels, which simulates MFF conditions.

Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate MFF-qualified test jumpers observe the Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) 4000 rucksack under canopy of current parachute systems used by Special Operators.

A host of risk reduction measures ensure potential test items are safe and effective from the intended user’s standpoint, according to Mr. Mike Tracy, chief of ABSOTD’s personnel operations.

Capt. Johnathan Zerebiny, an Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate Test Parachutist conducts risk reduction evaluations inside the vertical wind tunnel while rigged with the RA-1 parachute and Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) 4000 rucksack. A jumper must prove a stable body position, perform emergency procedures unimpeded by the test item both with and without external oxygen systems and display a reasonable range of motion that would allow them to maneuver as required. This phase of testing is critical prior to executing military free fall operations. (Photo by Mr. James Finney, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

“We routinely take systems developed for the 5th – 95th percentile of all Soldiers to be used in ground combat and evaluate those items for forced entry operations,” said Tracy.

Following risk reduction testing in the wind tunnels, ABNSOTD takes their verdicts and conduct MFF operations out of a CASA 212 airplane to validate the rucksack’s safety and effectiveness.

Tracy said ABNSOTD serves both Soldiers and the airborne community as a whole.

“Most of these efforts go largely unknown in the airborne community as they are accomplished prior to the start of operational testing,” explained.

With the infrastructures and vegetation of Maxton Airfield, North Carolina below, Staff Sgt. Corey Riser, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate Test Parachutist and Video Flyer, is not easily distracted as he observes the risk reduction jumper’s military free fall maneuvers (left turn, right turn, high lift track) while rigged with a Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) 4000 rucksack. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Birkner, Test Jumper and Video Flyer, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

“We strive for ‘Truth in Testing’ while never compromising safety or performance,” he added.

One ABNSOTD test jumper explained the process he takes involving risk reduction efforts.

“Virtually all test items receive ground and reliability testing prior to airborne testing,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ross Martin. “It’s the test jumper’s job to ensure that the potential test item is suitable and effective from a paratrooper’s point of view.”

ABNSOTD’s chief of airborne testing said his outfit exists to serve both Soldiers and the airborne community.

Blue skies and warm temperatures make for a great Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) 4000 military free fall airborne operation as Staff Sgt. Corey Riser, an Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate Test Parachutist and Video Flyer, captures Capt. Jonathan Zerebiny, an ABNSOTD Test Parachutist flying at 15,000 feet above ground level, executing MFF testing of the MOLLE 4000 while stabilized over Maxton Airfield, North Carolina. Riser captures flight characteristics of the MOLLE 4000 during free fall and collects data for later analysis during the risk reduction jump. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Birkner, Test Jumper and Video Flyer, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

“Testing promotes and delivers a safe, and more durable piece of equipment to the Warfighter,” said Maj. Cam Jordan.

“Soldiers relish in participating in day-to day testing. It ignites their enthusiasm to rig and load a piece of equipment which will ultimately serve our future Soldiers during combat missions.”

Operational readiness is a key factor in testing airborne equipment, according to Col. Brad Mock, ABNSOTD’s director.

“Operational testing is a technique that our subject matter experts ensure the quality, performance of, as well as the operational readiness of the product tested,” he said.

“We ‘Test for the Best,’ conducting, rigorous, realistic, honest, service unique and joint testing; making sure the systems developed are effective in a Soldier’s hands and suitable for the environments in which our Soldiers in today’s Army train and fight.”

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About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:

The Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based ABNSOTD plans, executes, and reports on operational tests and field experiments of Airborne and Special Operations Forces equipment, procedures, aerial delivery and air transportation systems in order to provide key operational data for the continued development and fielding of doctrine, systems or equipment to the Warfighter.

The U.S. Army Operational Test Command is based at West Fort Hood, Texas, and its mission is about ensuring that systems developed are effective in a Soldier’s hands and suitable for the environments in which Soldiers train and fight. Test units and their Soldiers provide feedback, by offering input to improve upon existing and future systems with which Soldiers will ultimately use to train and fight.

Staff Sgt. Corey Riser, an Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate Test Parachutist and Video Flyer at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, observes Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Droski as he conducts Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) 4000 rucksack risk reduction testing; completing his pull sequence over Maxton Airfield, North Carolina. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Birkner, Test Jumper and Video Flyer, Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)

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