Cadet skydivers build trust through training

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Veronica Ward
  • Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Leaping out of a perfectly good airplane might not seem like a good idea, but for the men and women of the Academy's award-winning skydiving team, it's just another day's work.

"Although it may seem contradictory, the Wings of Blue and skydiving are not about the skydiving itself - it's about trusting in yourself, in others, and in your equipment," said Wings of Blue skydiver Cadet 1st Class Glenn Miltenberg. "It's about pushing yourself to new limits and heights you never thought possible."

These skydivers practice throughout the year, said 98th Flying Squadron training superintendent Bill Wenger. Wenger coaches the Wings of Blue competitive skydiving team.

"These cadets give up Christmas and Thanksgiving vacation, spring break and every Saturday in order to train and compete because to win, that's what it takes," he said.

This formula for winning seems to work, as the team has taken home the national trophy 33 times in 44 years of competition.

These collegiate national champions have earned their titles through personal sacrifice and by focusing on their goals, Wenger said.

"They learn what it means to compete with others," he said. "When looking at jump footage, they are taught to look at themselves first and think about what they each could have done better."

Successful skydiving relies on a mix of individual and team skills, said Cadet 1st Class James Agee, a Wings of Blue skydiver.

"Being on a skydiving team is different because everyone involved has to be solid at all aspects of the flying, unlike many other team sports where you can stack players' strengths and cover weaknesses with the effort of others," Agee said. "Everyone is equally important at all moments, which creates a special team dynamic that is unlike any other sport of which I have been a part."

Miltenberg agrees.

"Jumping has the potential to be extremely dangerous so there is a trust and understanding between one another to be doing the right things in the right places, and always looking out for one another, be that inspecting each other's gear (or) maintaining proper separation on parachute deployment," he said.

These skydivers use each jump as learning experiences to improve their skills and share their lessons learned.

"Every team member is an instructor first and foremost and is required to teach other cadets in the Airmanship course how to jump," Wenger said. "There is no staff in the back of that plane."

Wings of Blue is scheduled to compete in the National Collegiate Parachuting Championships in Eloy, Ariz., Dec. 29-Jan. 2.