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Rangers from nearby base practice water jumps
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People near War Hill Park on Aug. 17 would be forgiven if they thought they were in a music video for The Weather Girls. It was, after all, literally raining men.

Approximately 80 jumpers took to the skies over Lake Lanier that Friday to practice parachute jumping into water rather than over land. The trainees, based out of Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, are part of the Army Ranger Battalion. According to instructor Capt. Jon Batt, this is an annual practice that prepares participants for emergency jumps while in combat.

Batt, originally from Virginia, has lived in Dawsonville for around two years.

We went up in two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the Georgia National Guard, he said. Parachutes were provided by Fort Benning near Columbus.

The training began at 6 a.m. and concluded around 2 p.m.

Not only is it practice to learn how to jump into the water, but its also a way for the trainees to learn how to manually inflate their life preservers mid-air if they do not inflate on their own.

War Hill Park was closed in the general area of the drop, but the public was still able to observe. It was a good area for people to be able to see what was going on, Batt said.

For first-timer Corey Remer, the water landing was a different experience than just jumping out onto the ground.

Its definitely a lot softer than where we normally land, he said, laughing. Its a good experience for the guys to jump into water.

Its just a good way to stay current in training, said Jeffrey Shalkowski, who also participated in the training exercise. Ive been airborne for a while in the Army, but its a good refresher.

Batt explained that practice jumps occur typically every month, while a water landing training exercise takes place annually. They also train newcomers to the world of parachuting, jumping out of C-130 airplanes at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta.

The public is encouraged to attend and observe these training events.

Batt said that anyone is welcome to visit Camp Merrill at any time. The camp holds open house once a year, and about 4,000 people attend. The latest open house event was held earlier in 2012.

Were a public resource, Batt said. We participate in a lot of events, like Gold Rush in Dahlonega. You will see us around.

To learn more about Camp Merrill and the variety of events held there throughout the year, you may call (706) 864-3367.