Face of Defense: Airborne Soldier Tells Army Story

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Jump­ing into a two-hour air­borne class of his own design, Army recruiter Staff Sgt. Joseph Trem­blay shares his expe­ri­ences as a sol­dier with rapid-fire com­mand and enthu­si­asm.

Civil Air Patrol Harrisburg International Composite Squadron 306 on the 193rd Special Operations Wing's Pennsylvania Air National Guard base in Middletown, Pa.
Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Trem­blay shows how to rig com­bat equip­ment onto a para­chute jumper with assis­tance from Cadet Chief Mas­ter Sgt. Joseph Dempsey dur­ing a June 29, 2011, air­borne class for 15 cadets from the Civ­il Air Patrol Har­ris­burg Inter­na­tion­al Com­pos­ite Squadron 306 on the 193rd Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Wing’s Penn­syl­va­nia Air Nation­al Guard base in Mid­dle­town, Pa.
U.S. Army pho­to by Chris­tine June
Click to enlarge

“Check body posi­tion, toe to toe, heel to heel, knees off to the rear, elbows in tight — 45-degree angle — hands on the side of your reserve — pre­tend you have one — chin on your chest, eyes open,” drilled Trem­blay to 114 future sol­diers in April and 15 Civ­il Air Patrol cadets in June. 

An infantry­man in the Army for 10 years, Trem­blay is almost halfway through his tour as a recruiter at the Har­ris­burg Oppor­tu­ni­ty Cen­ter, which cov­ers an area of 954 square miles and is home to almost 260,000 peo­ple. His pre­vi­ous assign­ment was as an instruc­tor for almost two years at the three-week U.S. Army Air­borne School — wide­ly known as Jump School – held at Fort Ben­ning, Ga. 

“He has found a way to relate to teenagers and young adults, and their par­ents by doing some­thing he loves,” said Staff Sgt. James Slough, the Har­ris­burg Oppor­tu­ni­ty Cen­ter com­man­der. “Teach­ing these air­borne class­es helps him to gain expo­sure for the Army in the community.” 

Trem­blay — a jump­mas­ter award­ed the senior para­chutist badge and who has 42 jumps — devel­oped hands-on train­ing ses­sions for the pub­lic that can be as long as two hours or as short as 45 min­utes. He said he was able to do this by con­dens­ing the infor­ma­tion taught at Ground Week — the air­borne school’s first week — to give youths a basic knowl­edge of air­borne operations. 

“You are going to be learn­ing how to prop­er­ly wear a para­chute har­ness and land with­out injur­ing your­self,” Trem­blay explained at the two train­ing ses­sions he has con­duct­ed so far in the Har­ris­burg community. 

Imag­i­na­tion replaced hav­ing a mock door of a C‑130 or C‑17 air­craft like at the school, but Tremblay’s stu­dents did­n’t have to pre­tend to have para­chute har­ness­es. Bor­row­ing from local Army units, Trem­blay ensured each stu­dent had one. He also bor­rowed a full para­chute ensem­ble for one stu­dent to wear as an exam­ple for the class. 

Civ­il Air Patrol Cadet Mas­ter Sgt. Joseph Dempsey, 17, was cho­sen to put on the full gear dur­ing the air­borne train­ing held June 29 at the 193rd Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Wing’s Penn­syl­va­nia Air Nation­al Guard base here. 

“It was by far one of the best things I have done in CAP so far,” said Dempsey, who has been involved with the all-vol­un­teer orga­ni­za­tion for about five years. 

Work­ing togeth­er in teams of two, Tremblay’s stu­dents helped each oth­er with the para­chute har­ness­es. As he gave instruc­tions on how to put those on, Trem­blay and fel­low recruiters, who also are air­borne sol­diers, would dou­ble-check to ensure stu­dents were prop­er­ly adjust­ing the straps on their harnesses. 

“I was blown away by the train­ing,” said Army Capt. Ryan Greenawalt, the com­man­der of the Har­ris­burg Recruit­ing Com­pa­ny, who wit­nessed the ses­sion Trem­blay gave to the CAP cadets. “You can tell he loves being an air­borne sol­dier, and the cadets were glued to every word.” 

Stu­dents kept these har­ness­es on through­out the basic air­borne class that touched on the five points of per­for­mance: prop­er exit, check body posi­tion and count; check canopy and gain canopy con­trol; keep a sharp look­out dur­ing your entire descent; pre­pare to land; and land. 

“Air­borne! What are you look­ing for?” Trem­blay asked when teach­ing the sec­ond point of per­for­mance, check canopy and gain canopy control. 

“Holes, rips, tears, blown sec­tions, gores and bro­ken sec­tion lines,” the class­es answered in uni­son after repeat­ing it prob­a­bly about 20 times in the past five minutes. 

Trem­blay, who joined the Army at age 19, said that infantry­man was the only thing he saw him­self doing. 

“I just like being in a com­bat job,” said Trem­blay, who has been deployed to Iraq twice. “Both times, [my infantry units] estab­lished a patrol base in the local com­mu­ni­ties, so I was able to live with them, learn their cul­ture and eat their food.” 

Trem­blay said he teach­es air­borne class­es to the com­mu­ni­ty “to give peo­ple a lit­tle bit of expo­sure to the Army and that we have all kinds of dif­fer­ent options and pro­grams.” Then, he smiled and added, “I can talk air­borne all day long.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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