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Last  Updated: 05 June, 2016

PART ONE: BACKGROUND

1.0     Introduction

Canadian Basic Parachutist BadgeThis article provides an overview of the recruitment, selection and training process for the Canadian Basic Parachute Course.

Compared with regular infantry, airborne soldiers are required to operate on their own, often behind enemy lines, with no secure rear area and with limited firepower, supplies and ammunition.

These Commandos form the airborne element of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). They are not part of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM or CSOFC) Special Operations Forces (SOF) community, a “fourth service” (Horn, 2012, p.48) of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

It must be emphasised that a candidate must be physically fit at the beginning of the paratrooper training process if they are to stand any chance of success. The training requires far greater expenditure of physical energy than is normally required in other peace time training. It is essential that candidates arrive fully fit, carrying no injuries and with an ability to overcome their fear of heights.

1.1     Aim

The aim of this article is to describe the fundamental entry requirements, selection process and training for personnel seeking to become a member of the Canadian Airborne Brotherhood.

1.2     Women and the Canadian Airborne Brotherhood

In accordance with current Government policy on the employment of women in the Canadian Armed Forces, military service as a military parachutist is open to male and female volunteers.

1.3     Brief History

S-14 Canadian Parachute Training School
S-14 Canadian Parachute Training School

A brief outline of airborne/paratrooper establishments (Horn & Wyczynski, 2006; Pennell, 2012; Smith, 2013):

  • 2013: Training Company CAAWC split into Parachute Training Company and Advanced Mobility Company.
  • 2013: CFLAWC renamed to Canadian Army Advanced Warfare Centre (CAAWC).
  • 2006: CPC renamed to Canadian Forces Land Advanced Warfare Centre (CFLAWC).
  • 1998: Amalgamation with the Canadian Forces Parachute Maintenance Depot (CFPMD).
  • 1996: CABC renamed to Canadian Parachute Centre (CPC) and relocated to CFB Trenton.
  • 1995: CAH ceases to exist and 3 Commando Group re-designated the RCR Parachute Company, part of 3 RCR.
  • 1995: Canadian Airborne Holding Unit (CAH), the designation given to the remaining elements of the CAR, ordered to develop a company-size group to provide contingency troops in the event of short-notice operations (a re-designated 3 Commando Group).
  • 1995: CAR disbanded.
  • 1992: CAR reduced from regimental to battalion status.
  • 1977: CAR moves to CFB Petawawa, Ontario, becoming a unit of the Special Service Force.
  • 1968: The Canadian Airborne Regiment (CAR) established, located at Griesbach Barracks at CFB Edmonton.
  • 1958: MSF restructured and renamed the Defence of Canada Force (DCF), each of the three infantry regiments established a single parachute company.
  • 1957: CJATC renamed to Canadian Airborne Centre (CABC) and located at CFB Edmonton.
  • 1950: The nominal parachute battalions now each field a parachute company.
  • 1949: A (nominal) Mobile Striking Force (MSF) formed (aka the airborne/air-transportable Active Brigade Group), which absorbed the Canadian SAS Company.
  • 1949: JAS renamed to Canadian Joint Air Training Centre (CJATC).
  • 1948: Canadian Special Air Service (SAS) Company formed, composed of one platoon from each of the Army’s three regular infantry regiments: The Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR); Royal 22nd Regiment (R22eR); and the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI).
  • 1947: Joint Air School (JAS) established in Rivers, Manitoba (a Canadian Joint Army/Air Training Centre).
  • 1945: 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion disbanded.
  • 1945: Training of paratroopers ceases at Camp Shilo
  • 1943: “S-14 Canadian Parachute Training School” located in Camp Shilo, Manitoba (Horn & Wyczynski, 2006, p.8).
  • 1943: 2nd Battalion renamed 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion, part of the Joint US/Canadian Special Service Force.
  • 1942: A-35 Canadian Parachute Training Centre.
  • 1942: 2nd Canadian Parachute Battalion formed.
  • 1942: 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion formed.

1.4     Tier 1 or Tier 2 Status

Canadian parachute companies are not considered special operations forces and therefore do not have a Tier 1 or 2 classification.

Special Operations Forces (SOF) units that undertake direct action missions are typically classified as Tier 1 units. Other SOF units are referred to as ‘Tier 2’ units because, typically, they fulfil a supporting role for the Tier 1 units.

1.5     CANSOFCOM Human Performance Programmes

The CANSOFCOM Human Performance (HP) Programmes section sits within Human Performance Research and Development, an element of the Directorate of Fitness (DFIT) (itself an element of Personnel Support Programmes (PSP), a division of the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS)).

The HP Programmes conducts a variety tasks for CANSOFCOM which include:

  • HP Research;
  • Development of physical fitness selection and maintenance tests/standards;
  • Assessment centres;
  • Supporting physical fitness training programmes;
  • Other HP research as directed by the Commander CANSOFCOM.

The HP Programmes may utilise the CANSOFCOM Human Performance Research Team and the CANSOFCOM Human Performance Lab in order to realise these tasks.

PART TWO: ENTRY STANDARDS AND APPLICATIONS

2.0     Introduction

Information regarding the basic requirements for enlistment or commissioning in the CAF can be found by clicking on the link, which the reader is advised to read if not already familiar.

The CAF does not accept direct entry applicants, i.e. civilians with no prior military experience, for military parachutist training. As a result, volunteers for parachutist training may be accepted from both CAF military personnel (both officer and enlisted) from any branch of military service to attend parachutist training.

Consequently, there is one recognised pathway to become a member of the Canadian Airborne Brotherhood:

  1. Attend and complete the Canadian Armed Forces Basic Parachute Course.

2.1     Recruiting Unit

Although the Canadian Army’s Advanced Warfare Centre is, technically, the recruiting unit, candidates must volunteer for parachutist training through their chain of command.

2.2     General Requirements and Eligibility for All Candidates

Subject to the requirements outlined below, all CAF officers and enlisted (other ranks) personnel are eligible to attend the Parachute assessment and selection programme.

General Requirements for all candidates:

  • Obtain approval from chain of command;
  • Complete Pre-Para Physical Fitness Test (Section 3.2).
  • Any Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) ID.
  • Pass appropriate medical examination: V 3, CV 3, H 3, G 2, O 2, A 5.
  • Reserve Forces Personnel:
    • Select Primary Reserve forces personnel from 4th Canadian Division (courses delivered by the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada).
    • Qualified Infantryman for Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.

PART THREE: OULTINE OF PARACHUTE SELECTION AND TRAINING

3.0     Parachute Selection and Training Phases

Para's DroppedThe journey to becoming a member of the Canadian Airborne Brotherhood is not easy, and training is rigorous and highly selective, but the courage and strength individuals will gain as a candidate will stay with them for their entire life.

The Basic Parachute Course is the selection and training process for all candidates wishing to join the Canadian Airborne community.

“This course is a three week, physically intensive course that includes two weeks of ground training and a week of jumping (J-Stage).” (Newman, 2012, p.19).

As noted by Major James Pennell (2012, p. 12), a former chief instructor, the “CFLAWC conducts seven serials of Basic Parachutist per year which consists of 15 training days, 10 days of ground training, and 5 days (weather dependent) of Jump stage.”

There are approximately 48 candidates per course, with five of the seven courses being for the parachute companies, of the Light Infantry Battalions, to replenish their numbers.

Excess capacity on courses is filled by any member of the CAF who volunteers and is recommended by their Commanding Officer. Although these volunteers may never jump again, it is considered a valuable retention tool as they can wear their wings on their uniforms.

The seventh course is solely reserved for Army Cadets and is conducted in the summer (Pennell, 2012).

All candidates will undertake a number of distinct phases of training (Table 1), in which candidates are taught the fundamentals of CAF airborne/paratrooper warfare through formal CAF schooling and on-the-job training.

Table 1: Parachutist training pipeline
Serial Sub-element/Course Duration
1 Meet eligibility criteria Variable
2 Pre-Para Physical Fitness Test 1 day
3 Basic Parachute Course 3 weeks
3a Stage 1: Ground Training 2 weeks
3b Stage 2: Jump Training 1 week

3.1     Training Hierarchy

Candidates undergo training delivered by the Parachute Training Company (PTC), part of the Canadian Army’s Advanced Warfare Centre (CAAWC).

The Officer Commanding the PTC is a Major (OF-3), assisted by a Master Warrant Officer (OR-9). The CAAWC is commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4). Both are located at 8 Wing on Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton, Ontario. The CAAWC is a lodger unit at 8 Wing.

3.2     Pre-Para Physical Fitness Test

BPFA, Sit-upThe purpose of the Pre-Para Physical Fitness Test (PFT), also known as the Canadian Forces Parachutist PFT and the Pre Para Test, is to determine an individual’s physical capability to train as a Basic Parachutist.

All components of the Pre-Para PFT are administered by appropriately qualified Personnel Support Programmes (PSP) Fitness and Sports Instructors (Section 1.5). The results of a candidate’s Pre-Para PFT test are valid up to a maximum of 6 months.

As part of the PFT process, candidates must complete a reporting form, which is composed of three sections:

  • Section A: Service particulars (i.e. name, age and gender).
  • Section B: Health appraisal questionnaire.
  • Section C: Test results, including fitness instructor and candidates signatures.

Table 2 provides an outline of the Pre-Para PFT for candidates. The scores attained from this test are used as part of the selection process.

Table 2: Pre-Para PFT
Event Description
Heaves 7 or more (non-stop)
Sit-ups 31 or more (non-stop)
1 Mile Run 7 minutes 30 seconds or less
600 Metre Indoor Shuttle Run 2 minutes 30 seconds or less (undertaken during inclement weather as an alternative to the 1 Mile Run).

3.3     Stage 1: Ground Stage

Approval of the Canadian Parachute CentreStage 1 of the Basic Parachute Course, also known as the Ground Stage or Ground School, is delivered at the battalion level (The Maroon Beret, 2013).

Day one of the course entails the PFT which must be successfully passed in order to continue with the course.

“Throughout the demanding ground training, the candidates learn everything from aircraft drill, how to properly land from aircraft, all flight procedures from canopy opening to landing, and how to properly rig personal equipment.” (Newman, 2012, p.20).

Ground training includes equipment rigging, aircraft drills, parachute flight and landings. These four topics are covered in daily classes, which become more advanced and difficult as the course progresses, and include:

  1. Equipment Class: This covers ever piece of kit a paratrooper wears while parachuting.
  2. Flight Class (also known as the racks): In this class, candidates hang from their harness and go through the drills that they need to safely descend through the air, including obstacles on the ground, wind and other paratroopers in the air.
  3. Aircraft Drills Class: This covers what paratroopers do inside the plane, where they sit, how they sit, what to do during emergencies and all the drills before they exit the aircraft.
  4. Landings Class: During this class candidates are hung from their harness in a swing and then dropped! As a paratrooper candidates must be able to fight after they land and, therefore, it is imperative that candidates land safely. The feet and knees have to remain together and the body has to complete the landing roll, otherwise the body will absorb the entire shock of hitting the ground and the candidate will not be getting up.

Week two will see candidates begin training drills on the mock tower. The mock tower, at 33 feet, is a replica of a Hercules fuselage which is used to practice exits. It has been suggested that if a candidate cannot jump from the mock tower then they will probably be unable to jump from an aircraft. Parachute Instructors will be watching a candidate’s posture, foot movement and hand movement; all drills must be perfectly executed.

The end of week two is the final test, prior to actual jumps. Candidates are assessed on everything they have done so far. It is a simple pass/fail, with only one chance for a retest and not everyone passes.

Candidates must also take part in physical conditioning during training.

Once candidates have successfully completed Stage 1, they will move on to Stage 2 of the Basic Parachute Course.

3.4     Stage 2: Jump Stage

Successful completion of Stage 1 of the Basic Parachute Course means candidates will move on to Stage 2.

Stage 2, also known as the Jump Stage or J-stage, is delivered by the PTC at CFB Trenton under the supervision of parachute instructors (The Maroon Beret, 2013).

Candidates must complete a minimum of five static line descents (?out of seven) by day and night from both doors and ramps to earn their paratrooper ‘wings’.

Until a candidate has made a jump, they may be known as a LEG (aka lack enough guts).

3.5     Top Student

The top student on the Basic Parachutist Course is awarded a mounted “CR-1 Reserve plague” (The Maroon Beret, 2014, p.21), which was awarded to Major General (Retired) Pitts who gifted it to 3 PPLCI.

3.6     Graduation

Canadian Basic Parachutist BadgeUpon successful completion of the Basic Parachute Course, candidates will be awarded their ‘wings’ and maroon beret, joining the Canadian Airborne Brotherhood as a qualified military parachutist.

In order to remain a qualified military parachutist, individuals must complete the Annual Refresher and a (Expected Performance Level) Fitness Test.

3.7     Further Courses

Canadian Parachute Centre, MugUpon completion of the Basic Parachutist Course, individuals may be eligible for further courses, including:

  • Jumpmaster (JM) Course: Provides the candidates with the necessary skills and knowledge to prepare and control the exit of static line parachutists and equipment from an aircraft in flight).
    • Freefall Jumpmaster Course (FJM).
  • Parachutist Instructor Course (PI): Teaches and tests qualified JMs’ comprehension and authoritative knowledge of round canopy parachuting, qualifying them to instruct Basic Parachutist and Jump Master Courses. They have the responsibility to advice commanders on all aspects of static line parachuting safety.
    • Military Freefall Parachute Instructors (MFPI) Course.
  • Static Line Square Canopy (SLSC) Course.
  • Military Freefall Parachutist (MFP) Course.
  • Parachute Rigger Training Programme (Tucker, 2013):
    • Stage 1: Basic Parachute Course, if not already completed.
    • Stage 2: Packing Module, approximately 2 months and 1 year of packing parachutes.
    • Stage 3: Parachute Maintenance.
    • Stage 4: Parachute Rigger Course, approximately 2 months.
    • Approximately 3 years to complete all stages.

PART FOUR: MISCELLANEOUS

4.0     Summary

The military parachutist training pipeline is open to all male and female officers and enlisted personnel of the Canadian Armed Forces, subject to certain criteria. Military parachutist training seeks to attract determined, highly-motivated, intelligent, reliable and physically fit individuals to serve with the Canadian Airborne Brotherhood. This article provides the basic information to allow individuals to make an informed judgement before applying for the Canadian Armed Forces Basic Parachutist Course.

4.1     Useful Publications

  • Forms:
    • DND 2511 – Parachutist – Physical Fitness Pre-Selection Evaluation.
  • Magazines:
    • The Maroon Beret: The Voice of the Canadian Airborne Brotherhood.
    • Pro Patria: The Regimental Journal of the Royal Canadian Regiment.
  • Academic:
    • Pennell, J. (2012) The Future of Canadian Parachuting Capability. Master’s Thesis. National Defence Academy of Latvia. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.naa.mil.lv/~/media/NAA/Studijas/Magistra%20programma/Magistru%20darbi/MA_Pennell.ashx. [Accessed: 24 May, 2016].

4.2     Useful Links

  • First Special Service Force (FSSF): http://www.firstspecialserviceforce.net/FSSFAssociation.html.
  • Canadian Army Advanced Warfare Centre (CAAWC) on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianArmyAdvancedWarfareCenter.
  • Canadian Airborne Forces: www.canadianairborneforces.ca/
  • 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion Association: www.airborneassociation.com.
  • The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada: http://www.qor.com/.
  • 3 PPCLI Basic Para Photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lfwapao/sets/72157631583371230/.

4.3     References

Horn, B. & Wyczynski, M. (2006) Elite 143: Canadian Airborne Forces Since 1942. Oxford: Osprey publishing Ltd.

Horn, B. (2012) “We Will Find a Way”: Understanding the Legacy of Canadian Special Operations Forces. JSOU Report 12-2. February 2012. Available from World Wide Web: http://jsou.socom.mil/JSOU%20Publications/12-2_Horn_CanadianSOF(Feb12)_final.PDF. [Accessed: 17 April, 2016].

Pennell, J. (2012) The Future of Canadian Parachuting Capability. Master’s Thesis. National Defence Academy of Latvia. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.naa.mil.lv/~/media/NAA/Studijas/Magistra%20programma/Magistru%20darbi/MA_Pennell.ashx. [Accessed: 24 May, 2016].

Smith, M. (2013) Royal Canadians at the Canadian Army Advanced Warfare Centre (CAAWC). Pro Patria: The Regimental Journal of the Royal Canadian Regiment. Issue 95, pp.101.

Tucker, M. (2013) CAAWC Parachute Riggers. The Maroon Beret: The Voice of the Canadian Airborne Brotherhood. 2013: The Year in Review, pp.12-13.