Airman graduates Army riggers course with honors

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joel Mccullough
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

With aspirations of commissioning in the Air Force and rigging parachutes in the civilian sector, Staff Sgt. Sarah Maher, a 445th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician, gained her U.S. Army parachute riggers patch, and she did it with flying colors.

Maher passed the Army quartermaster’s parachute rigger course, phase one for cargo, with an overall 99.8% passing score.

She attended the five-week course from September to October 2022 on the aerial delivery training section at Fort Lee, Virginia. While the course is hosted by the Army, Airmen and Marines can attend as well.

According to Maher, the course consisted of learning about G-11, G-11B and G-12E cargo parachutes that were designed for large loads of items like ammunition, water and anything else troops on the ground might need. The parachutes deploy and bring the load to the ground. She said they also learned about extraction chutes.

In addition, they learned nomenclatures of parachutes, how they work, how they function and how they deploy followed by practice with the rigs. Once they were done practicing, they would be graded and evaluated on every component.

Maher said she received 100% ratings on all her rigs except one.

Her class consisted of 24 servicemembers, consisting of a mix of Soldiers and Marines still in training, as well as AFE and aerial port Airmen.

“It was really cool, because operationally, we don’t get to work with other branches,” she said. “It was nice to learn more about other branches and get to work together. I think it promotes a better-rounded military when we are more familiar with each other.”

Maher said her class was small compared to the regular 25-to-50-people-sized classes.

“It was super nice,” she said. “The instructors had more one-on-one time with us, and we really go to know each other well.”

In addition to the joint aspect, another factor Maher gave the most credit to for her stellar performance was her Air Force instructor the way he taught students. She credited his explanation about the rigs and system and the knowledge checks he routinely conducted helped everyone understand quickly.

“Our instructor was just so phenomenal at teaching; it was just profound really,” she added. “He played a really big role in my success because he was such a great teacher.”

Mahr stressed he did an amazing job of ensuring students felt there was no bias and was always there to provide assistance and an ear to listen.

The AFE Airman had nothing but praise about the entire course and staff.

“I can honestly say it was great,” she said. “We had really good instructors, and the Army has a really good program.”

She said most of the Air Force students in the course were from aerial port because they do most of the cargo rigging. This is true at the 445th Airlift Squadron as well.

Maher said even though she didn’t work cargo, she said that the experience she does have helped, including her ejection seat training.

Maher said there are four different phases of rigger schools. Phase one, the one she attended, is all cargo. Phase two and three are both personnel chutes with the third being strictly a Marine course.

She added she already has her eyes set on the other phases.

Maher said she is very proud of her black and yellow riggers patch and there is only one other person in the unit who has one.

Up next for Maher is to get an FAA rigging certification.

“That’s my next goal, because that translates more into the civilian world,” Maher explained. “If it was a perfect world and everything went perfectly fine, if I could commission in the Reserve and then get full-time work with a company that would allow me to rig, that would be awesome.”