It has become a local tradition each May for spectators to line the beach at War Hill Park to watch the 5th Ranger Training Battalion (RTB) soar overhead in helicopters and parachute into the lake below.
One by one on Wednesday, 140 Army Rangers suited up, ready to jump out of UH-60 Black Hawks hovering 1,500 feet above Lake Lanier.
Every year the Army Rangers at Camp Merrill in Dahlonega complete a water jump training drill to practice and strengthen their airborne proficiency. With 70 percent of the world covered in water, the water jump is an important training exercise in airborne infiltration.
This is the eighth year the Rangers have organized the jump at Lake Lanier.
“It’s actually a lot of fun,” said Capt. Steve Sorrells. “It’s a little bit cold with the wind blowing on your face outside of the helicopter, but the water is warm today. Great weather. It’s a fun experience.”
Sorrells, who has been in the military for eight years, was excited to complete his second water jump with the RTB.
“Any time I get an opportunity to jump I’m always excited especially when it’s a water jump,” Sorrells said. “You know you don’t have to worry about your landing too much.”
The coordinated mission is a collaborative effort between the Rangers and local agencies from Dawson, Hall and Forsyth counties.
“It’s a big partnership to be able to support the military and what they’re doing and all the local agencies that you have here working together to make sure everything goes smoothly,” said Sgt. Lee Brown from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources law enforcement division.
Representatives from Dawson, Hall and Forsyth County sheriff’s offices, fire departments and emergency services were on standby, making sure everything went smoothly during the May 9 operation.
Also making sure the drills went according to plan were the Georgia Army National Guard, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Army Corps of Engineers.
“These types of events are great events to bring the community together,” said Battalion Executive Officer Maj. David Chamberlin. “North Georgia is a huge military supporter and using each other’s strengths we can make up for each other’s weaknesses, and it makes us a better team.”
With Lake Lanier lapping at the borders of Dawson, Hall and Forsyth counties, local and state agencies were able to come together as a team to support the Rangers.
“All the agencies are working well together with the U.S. Army, who are very well-organized, being military, but for us to be able to support them in a training mission is kind of a unique situation to have civilians working with the military to do a training mission,” said Brown.
While the water jump is an important part of Ranger training, it has also become a fun community event as families set up tents and chairs on the beach to cheer on the Rangers gracefully parachuting from the sky.
“It’s good for (the Rangers) to come out for the community and the family to come out and see what they’re doing and to see what the military does, because a lot of times the public doesn’t get to see that,” said Brown.
Many of the Rangers’ young children splashed around in the water as they cheered their fathers on, and while the helicopters went to refuel, Rangers took the opportunity to build sandcastles and play with their children on the beach.
“Not only is this event for us and for our airborne proficiency but for the families and community as well,” said Sorrells. “It’s a great experience for families to bring their kids out, have a good time and enjoy seeing what we do on a regular basis.”