Infantry: June 16, 2001


Paratroopers are better infantry because their training is more dangerous. Everyone in an airborne battalion has to jump regularly and the fact that for every 100,000 jumps there are some 1,500 injuries (only a few are fatal, a few more result in paralysis and about a fifth are broken bones) tends to get the troop's attention. The prospect of those jumps, usually at night, keeps everyone in good physical shape and on their toes. Beyond the usual dangers, sometimes bad weather (unexpected winds are a major danger), no moonlight, and off course pilots can push the injury rate up to five percent or more. Interestingly, the best training methods were quickly discovered. During the first year of parachute training in World War II, the injury rate was 2.7 percent. In the second and subsequent year, the injury rate fell to 1.5 percent. There it has stayed for over half a century as the average for all jumps. While the injury rate has not gone down, the severity of injuries has. There are fewer fatalities and crippled soldiers. And the parachutes are more maneuverable and can carry a larger load down with the soldier (allowing him to get into action more quickly.) And it remain dangerous work. A large training jump in May of 2001, involving 4,400 U.S. and British troops, took place in rain and fog at night and had a 2.4 percent injury rate. In combat, coming in during weather like that would have meant a greater degree of surprise and fewer combat casualties on the ground. That's one reason the paratroopers accept the jump injuries as an occupational hazard. 


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