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A pair of special ops veterans are attempting a record military freefall from Mount Everest
DELAND, Florida — A military freefall parachuting team has a better reason to conquer Mount Everest than "because it's there."
The 12-member team, assembled by Complete Parachute Solutions of DeLand, will attempt a world record for the highest-elevation tactical military freefall parachute landing. But it's more than a record. It's validation.
"When CPS says we've landed our parachutes at over 20,000 feet, that means we've done it," said Johnny Rogers, the company's vice president.
Rogers, who has about 4,000 jumps himself as a retired Army Ranger, is not going to Nepal, but company President Fred Williams, a former Navy SEAL, has already left to prepare for a series of jumps, escalating in elevation to 20,170 feet above mean sea level on the West Col of Mount Baruntse.
A CPS-led team got to 17,800 feet in 2017.
If skydiving isn't menacing enough, jumping at the world's tallest mountain adds to the danger.
Many climbers and jumpers face altitude sickness due to thin air.
U.S. Department of Defense rules require any military freefall jumps above 12,900 feet include supplemental oxygen, not just for the jump but the long trek back to civilization.
The team will be using a multipurpose tactical oxygen system from TopOut Aero, which Rogers says is a less technical, less expensive piece of equipment than the Department of Defense's current provider.
"After each jump, there's a task. So not only are they jumping, but they have to hike up a mountain, climb down an ice wall to demonstrate that the oxygen — you know, the system — functions with the human body through jumping, through climbing," Rogers said.
Among the team will be human-performance experts to measure heart rates and stress levels as part of the validation.
Complete Parachute Solutions is "a consortium of leading skydiving manufacturers," using the DeLand firms Performance Design for its canopies and United Parachute Technologies for some of its harnessing containers. The company also trains jumpers both in DeLand and Coolidge, Arizona.
The U.S. Navy awarded CPS a $9.3 million contract modification to CPS last week. The company will provide its multi-mission parachute course, all the training and technical support, in Coolidge, with options for the Navy to continue through September 2022, bringing the total value of the contract to nearly $43 million.
Before heading to Nepal, the CPS-led team trained at about 10,000 feet elevation in Leadville, Colorado.
But the Mount Everest region's elevation is unique, as are the elements there.
"Weather in Everest changes rapidly and we need certain winds and air to be able to get up that high," Rogers said. That's in part why the expedition is taking place in October, the most consistent month for weather there.
Orlando military contractor Todd Wilcox, a former CIA officer and Green Beret, will be among those joining Williams in making the jump.
"The military freefall is a way in which Special Forces infil, or infiltrate, a target area," Wilcox said.
"You have to be really accurate," he said. "The changing winds, the terrain as you pick your landing spot ... it requires confined drop zone training and canopy control. It's a lot different way to brake, different steering wheel clutch, an accurately maneuver ... our special ops folks are amazing. They drop at night in the g-zone."
Wilcox is executive chairman of Patriot Defense Group, a defense and intelligence services company he founded following his stints as a CIA officer and Special Forces commander in the U.S. Army. He ran for U.S. Senate in Florida in 2016 until fellow Republican incumbent Marco Rubio decided to jump back into the race following his bid for president.
On a recent Facebook post, Wilcox explained why he's attempting the jump: "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
©2019 The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
It didn't take long for a central theme to emerge at the funeral of U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Livermore, an event attended by hundreds of area residents Friday at Union Cemetery in Bakersfield.
It's a theme that stems from a widespread local belief that the men and women who have served in the nation's armed forces are held in particularly high esteem here in the southern valley.
"In Bakersfield and Kern County, we celebrate our veterans like no place else on Earth," Bakersfield Chief of Police Lyle Martin told the gathering of mourners.
ROCKFORD — Delta Force sniper Sgt. First Class James P. McMahon's face was so badly battered and cut, "he looked like he was wearing a fright mask" as he stood atop a downed Black Hawk helicopter and pulled free the body of a fellow soldier from the wreckage.
That's the first description of McMahon in the book by journalist Mark Bowden called "Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War." It is a detailed account of the horrific Battle of the Black Sea fought in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. It claimed the lives of 18 elite American soldiers.
Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher will retire as a chief petty officer now that President Donald Trump has restored his rank.
"Before the prosecution of Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward Gallagher, he had been selected for promotion to Senior Chief, awarded a Bronze Star with a "V" for valor, and assigned to an important position in the Navy as an instructor," a White House statement said.
"Though ultimately acquitted on all of the most serious charges, he was stripped of these honors as he awaited his trial and its outcome. Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified."
The announcement that Gallagher is once again an E-7 effectively nullifies the Navy's entire effort to prosecute Gallagher for allegedly committing war crimes. It is also the culmination of Trump's support for the SEAL throughout the legal process.
On July 2, military jurors found Gallagher not guilty of premeditated murder and attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter to death and opening fire at an old man and a young girl on separate occasions during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.