Sports - Air Force

Dec 8, 2011 6:58 PM by Andy Koen

Wings of Blue claim national award

The Air Force Academy's parachute team Wings of Blue will be very busy over holidays. They're jumping at 3 college football bowl games and participating in the National Collegiate Parachuting Championships all during an 8 day span.

The events come on the heels of the team claiming a gold medal at the US Parachute Association National Championships last month, an Academy first.

Cadet team members are all seniors and have completed over 500 jumps. Under their training schedule they average 10 to 15 jumps a week.

"After a couple hundred jumps, you really start dialing in your accuracy to about 3 to 5 feet from wherever you want to land on the ground," explains C/Capt. Richie Brennan.

Being a member of the Wings of Blue also means being a teacher. The cadets train around 700 of their peers in basic sky diving each year in what's known as the 490 program.

"It's definitely nerve-wracking," C/Capt. Casey Habluetzel said of making a first jump. The Academy is the only sky diving education facility in which where a person's first jump is a solo jump.

"Our safety record is amazing" Habluetzel said. "We take a lot of pride in our safety-checks and we make sure we do everything right to ensure their safety."

Habluetzel and fellow cadets Joshua Moore and Chad Henderson were part of the team Air Force Inception which claimed first place in the Freeflying Intermediate Artistic Events. He says competitive sky diving requires precision.

"When you're going 180 miles an hour, you have 35 - 40 seconds to do whatever you're trying to do you have to be pretty precise," Habluetzel said. "If you move an arm you're going to be going 100 feet away."

When they're not jumping, team members are training in a vertical wind tunnel in Denver.

Brennan says the reward for that hard work is a free ticket to literally drop in at a college bowl game. The Wings of Blue have been invited to jump at the Military Bowl on December 28, the Insight Bowl on December 30 and the Orange Bowl on January 4.

"The demonstration team has offered me a lot of opportunities to go to some really cool places, do some unique things," Brennan said. "I've definitely enjoyed it every step of the way."

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