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Landing on Lanier
Army Rangers perform water jump into lake
4 Rangers pic1
A group of Rangers pulls into the dock at War Hill Park after being picked out of Lake Lanier following a parachute jump Friday. - photo by Tom Reed DCN regional staff

A jump from more than a quarter of a mile above Lake Lanier may not be a normal person's ideal morning.

But for a U.S. Army Ranger, it is just another day at the office.

Friday, about 90 Rangers parachuted from 1,500 feet above Lake Lanier during a water jump training exercise near War Hill Park in Dawson County.

"One of our hazardous types of landings that we prepare for during our jump preparations is landing in water," said Lt. Col. Bob O'Brien. "If guys ever land in water, they have some familiarity and training of having done it before."

Soldiers from the 5th Ranger Training Battalion, based out of Camp Frank D. Merrill in Dahlonega, piled into two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, which traversed the airspace over the lake, dropping off its human cargo six at a time.

"It started out just like a typical jump," O'Brien said. "You get a slight falling sensation and then you can feel the tug of your parachute coming in. But it's very different coming down not seeing solid ground - just seeing the lake beneath you."

But, O'Brien said, about eight weeks of preparation went into Friday's exercise, including coordinating with local authorities to help with the jump.

"One of the awesome things about today is we have been able to incorporate a lot of the local authorities," he said. "They're helping out, so it's a good training exercise for us from a coordination standpoint, too, because this is the type of stuff we have to do overseas."

Capt. Thomas Shandy, who was gearing up for the jump Friday morning, said he had "no reservations at all." In fact, he was "just happy to do it" after the many weeks of training.

"After practicing, what we're hoping is it becomes automatic at this point," Shandy said. "I think at this point, we're all just ready to jump."

And while the Rangers were taking the plunge from the helicopters, family and friends lined the beaches of War Hill Park to witness the exercise.

Kristin Snowden, wife of Capt. Joseph Snowden, was one of those spectators.

"I think it's really awesome to be here to witness because [Joseph] loves doing this so much," she said. "He's always loved being a paratrooper, so to get people out here to witness what they do is a pretty cool thing."

Snowden, equipped with a camera, said she had no worries about her husband's jump.

"He's a jump master, so he's done this so many times," she said. "I have faith that he knows what he's doing."

Actually, she said, she would like to be in the air with him.

"I would totally jump," Snowden said. "We're adrenaline people, so I would love to do it. If I ever get the chance, I will."

Authorities from Dawson, Hall and Forsyth counties helped with the exercise, as well as the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Georgia Air National Guard.

"It's a pretty big operation," said O'Brien, who said the jump was worth all the preparation and coordination.

"It's been a very long process, many weeks in the making," he said. "It was a great landing. The water is awesome."