Historic 26 STS military free fall

U.S. Air Force photo: Senior Airman Eboni Reece Members from the 26th Special Tactics Squadron leap from an MC-130J Commando II during a Military Free Fall jump Feb. 28 at Melrose Air Force Range. Two members of the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, joined by two other special tactics members, conducted the first Military Free Fall jump in conjunction with one of the many aerial assets maintained at Cannon.

U.S. Air Force photo: Senior Airman Eboni Reece
Members from the 26th Special Tactics Squadron leap from an MC-130J Commando II during a Military Free Fall jump Feb. 28 at Melrose Air Force Range. Two members of the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, joined by two other special tactics members, conducted the first Military Free Fall jump in conjunction with one of the many aerial assets maintained at Cannon.

By Senior Airman Eboni Reece
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

History was made Feb. 28 at Melrose Air Force Range as two members of the 26th Special Tactics Squadron conducted the first Military Free Fall jump in conjunction with one of the many aerial assets maintained at Cannon Air Force Base. Simultaneously, the 522nd Special Operations Squadron director of operations received qualification on performing MFF aerial operations.

Equipped with parachutes weighing more than 50 pounds, four special tactics members boarded an MC-130J Commando II with members from the 522 SOS. An MFF jump is a feat each member has completed numerous times before, but this jump was slightly more significant than previous ones for another reason.

A recently fallen tactical air control party member with the 17th Special Tactics Squadron Master Sgt. Josh Gavulic, was on the minds of these men on this day. While these special tactics members were at Cannon preparing for the day’s events, a memorial service for Gavulic was happening more than 1,200 miles away at Fort Benning, Ga. With heavy hearts, these men still took their seats aboard the aircraft and prepared to take off and eventually complete their parachute training.

While in the air, more than 12,500 feet above sea level, each special tactics member, all certified jump masters, began to perform jump master pre-inspections on each other’s equipment and practice emergency procedures. Once confident that each member was ready to safely take a leap of faith down toward Melrose Range, the four men took their positions near the open doorway of the MC-130J.

Almost immediately and without hesitation, each member ran out of the aircraft somersaulting away from the aircraft while in free fall until their presence was so minuscule that it could not be seen by the naked eye.

After parachuting to a safe landing at Melrose Range, each member completed ‘memorial pushups’, a strong tradition for the 26 STS, performed in observance of many significant events. During the pushups, they recited a chant honoring the deployed members, other fallen comrades and finally, Gavulic himself. The chant was followed by a ceremonial flag-folding and sentiments were shared from each special tactics member.