USA — Army Jumpmaster Earns Coveted Master Parachutist Wings

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Army Chief War­rant Offi­cer 2 Michael Sanders, a 43-year-old senior inter­roga­tor with the XVIII Air­borne Corps here, bat­tled a bad knee to earn the cov­et­ed mas­ter para­chutist wings, the high­est-lev­el air­borne skills award, oth­er than the com­bat para­chutists badge.

coveted master parachutist wings, the highest award a jumpmaster can receive
Army Chief War­rant Offi­cer 2 Michael Sanders (right), a jump­mas­ter and senior inter­roga­tor with the XVIII Air­borne Corps, yells “Go” to para­troop­ers dur­ing a tail­gate jump train­ing mis­sion at Fort Bragg, N.C., June 11, 2010. This was Sanders’ 65th para­chute jump, which earned him the cov­et­ed mas­ter para­chutist wings, the high­est award a jump­mas­ter can receive.
Cour­tesy pho­to
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Wear­ers of these wings are expe­ri­enced air­borne troops that have demon­strat­ed exem­plary skills and lead­er­ship. The badge is award­ed to indi­vid­u­als who’ve con­duct­ed 65 jumps from air­craft, grad­u­at­ed from a jumpmaster’s course, and have served on jump sta­tus with an air­borne unit for a min­i­mum of 36 months.

Jump­mas­ters man­age and lead com­bat-equipped air­borne para­troop­er mis­sions involv­ing both train­ing and actu­al com­bat oper­a­tions. Para­troop­ers who com­plete air­borne jumps into com­bat zones can wear the appro­pri­ate-lev­el com­bat para­chutist badge.

How­ev­er, pri­or to becom­ing a sol­dier, Sanders did a five-year stint in the Air Force dur­ing which time he was sta­tioned in the Unit­ed King­dom for three years.

“That was the best time in my life,” Sanders recalled. “I got to play foot­ball, vis­it places like Buck­ing­ham Palace, Par­lia­ment and the Lon­don Bridge. Eng­land has a beau­ti­ful coun­try­side and I loved see­ing all of the his­to­ry.”

Seek­ing a new pro­fes­sion with­in the mil­i­tary, Sanders left the Air Force for the Army Reserve. After his time in the Reserve, Sanders, a fourth-gen­er­a­tion mil­i­tary vet­er­an, decid­ed that the Army was a good fit.

“The Army was my choice,” he explained. “I did­n’t want to go any­where else but the Army because my fam­i­ly has a his­to­ry of serv­ing in the mil­i­tary.”

Sanders served with the 75th Ranger Reg­i­ment from 2002 to 2004, dur­ing which time he changed his mil­i­tary occu­pa­tion­al spe­cial­ty from mechan­ic to inter­roga­tor.

“What do you have that’s crit­i­cal?” Sanders recalled ask­ing his Army career coun­selor. Sanders end­ed up choos­ing the mil­i­tary intel­li­gence field and soon after depart­ed for inter­roga­tor school.

“Once I got through the school and saw how inter­ro­ga­tions were per­formed, I real­ized that I enjoyed it,” Sanders said. “Since then, I’ve stud­ied about how to be a bet­ter inter­roga­tor and how to per­fect my craft.”

Sanders returned to Fort Bragg in 2009, when he was pre­sent­ed with anoth­er chal­lenge.

“When I first got here, I knew I was going to be back on jump sta­tus, but I have a very beat up right knee,” Sanders explained. “The doc has already told me, ‘You’re a 42-year-old per­son with a 65-year-old’s knee.’ ”

Short­ly after arriv­ing back at Fort Bragg, Sanders learned that more jump­mas­ters were need­ed to lead air­borne train­ing mis­sions.

“They told me, ‘Sir, a lot of sol­diers are prob­a­bly going to be thrown to the way­side because we won’t be able to cov­er enough planes,’ ” Sanders recalled.

After obtain­ing autho­riza­tion to wear a sta­bi­liz­ing knee brace dur­ing jumps, Sanders com­mit­ted to jump­mas­ter duty again. Sanders’ lead­er­ship and work eth­ic have gar­nered praise from his supe­ri­ors.

“He loves the Army, his work and his sol­diers,” Chief War­rant Offi­cer 4 John Stocks said of Sanders. “That is nev­er going to stop. He is one of the most moti­vat­ed sol­diers I know.”

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