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Rangers complete water jump training
Ranger jump pic 1
UH-60 Black Hawk Georgia Army National Guard helicopters prepare to take rangers out over Lake Lanier for a water training jump on May 9. - photo by Allie Dean Dawson County News

One by one, 120 geared out Army Rangers jumped from 1,500 feet above Lake Lanier last week, parachuting into the 40 feet of water below.

The seventh annual 5th Ranger Training Battalion Water Jump was held at War Hill Park and took up much of the day on May 9 after being pushed back due to weather.

Paratroopers jumped out of Georgia Army National Guard helicopters to boats waiting below and a crowded beach of families and children who cheered them on.

The helicopters, UH-60 Black Hawks, hovered over the section of the lake cordoned off for the jump, which encompassed parts of Dawson, Forsyth and Hall Counties.

Dawson and Forsyth sheriff's offices and Dawson Emergency Services, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Georgia Army National Guard were camped out in the exercise that is not only training for the rangers, but a chance for all of the organizations to collaborate like they would in an emergency situation.

Nick Baggett, natural resources manager with the Army Corps of Engineers, said that the Army does a great job organizing the event, keeping it safe and keeping citizens at a safe distance.

"It gets a little better each year," Baggett said. "It's a good opportunity for all of the agencies to come together and go through the process of responding to emergencies. A lot of times we're meeting under bad circumstances, for drownings and other accidents, but this isn't like that."

The low lake levels were a concern for Baggett, who said Lanier was down eight feet, the lowest he'd seen in a while.

Baggett pointed out volunteers from the Corps who had set up a booth to hand out food and promote water safety.

"We try to promote water safety whenever we can," Baggett said.

That day the sun beamed down on the heads of rangers preparing for the jump in a nearby clearing. Families with small children camped out on the beach and on the pier, watching soldiers fall from the sky.