Spectators young and old eagerly gathered on the shores of Dawson County's War Hill Park on May 5 to watch parachute-clad soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 5th Ranger Training Battalion jump from helicopters into Lake Lanier.
Thursday’s water jump is an annual training exercise. It’s a part of Ranger School, which has three phases, the “Benning Phase” at Columbus’ Fort Benning, the “Mountain Phase” near the Dahlonega area’s Camp Frank D. Merrill and the “Swamp Phase” at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Soldiers have taken part in the annual training exercise for over three decades.
During the jump, army personnel gave a first-person view of soldiers descending from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
Sixteen groups of six soldiers took turns jumping out of two helicopters. Participants loaded up in a parking lot in front of the boat ramps. Black Hawks kicked up clouds of dust and wind as they ascended into the clear, blue sky. Pilots took the helicopters in a loop, later flying straight across a portion of the lake.
Soldiers jumped out of the aircraft in formation, with colorful flares from a boat below helping them know which direction to turn to be in tandem with the wind. A boat met each soldier after they made contact with the water.
The enthusiasm of civilians and military members alike showed that the event was another way for people to come together in the lake-area community.