NAVAIR

Parachute Riggers’ 75th anniversary looks to the community’s past, future

Petty Officer 1st class Thiwa Thipkhosithkun talks with the oldest member of the parachute riggers community via video teleconference as part of the rate's 75th anniversary celebrations. The celebration concluded with a commemorative photo of active duty, retired and former PRs lining up from youngest to oldest on Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic Detachment Patuxent River’s packing deck.

Petty Officer 1st class Thiwa Thipkhosithkun talks with the oldest member of the parachute riggers community via video teleconference as part of the rate's 75th anniversary celebrations. The celebration concluded with a commemorative photo of active duty, retired and former PRs lining up from youngest to oldest on Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic Detachment Patuxent River’s packing deck.

Oct 10, 2017

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NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – Aircrew survival equipmentmen from Southern Maryland celebrated the 75th anniversary of their rating at Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic Detachment Patuxent River (FRCMA Det Patuxent River) Paraloft Division, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, Sept. 7. The event was one of several held Navy-wide by the community (also called parachute riggers (PR)), scheduled for the month of September.

“For the 75th anniversary, we wanted to have the oldest and the youngest PRs across the country to participate and invited other PRs at other sites throughout the Navy to listen in and make history,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Thiwa “Tip” Thipkhosithkun, an aircrew survival equipmentman assigned to Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers. It’s tradition to recognize the youngest and the oldest PRs who live in the area at the annual celebration whether active duty, retired or former military.

“The PR is very unique and demands skills not required in another rating,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s the best rating in the Navy,” said retired parachute rigger Bob Boles, the oldest Sailor in the PR community who served during World War II. The 94-year-old petty officer first class addressed the group via video teleconferencing from his home in Jacksonville, Florida. He recounted his early days as a PR and 22-year career.

Chief Petty Officer William Schisler III, an aircrew systems program manager in Naval Aviation Training Systems (PMA-205) said the rating came into existence when leadership acknowledged the need for specialized training to perform PR tasks during World War II and established the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training (CNATT) to provide instruction.

Before 1942 Sailors were allowed to “strike”—a term to describe when an undesignated Sailor selects and becomes qualified for a rate through self-study and on-the-job training. Today, Sailors are not permitted to become PRs using this track, but must attend technical schools to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve designation. “The PR community has grown and matured into the professional, reliable community we are today,” Schisler said. “Lives depend on what we do.”

Participants also heard from the community’s youngest rigger, Airman Joshua Goddard, an aircrew survival equipment airman stationed at Point Mugu, California, who just finished “A” school. “I’m really proud of being a part of this rating,” he said. “PRs must get the job right the first time, every time. The stakes are life or death. We need to be right 100 percent of the time.”

The original rating of parachute rigger was changed to aircrew survival equipmentman in December 1965 to more accurately describe the types of duties that parachute riggers conduct; the Navy rating is still PR.

Today’s PRs attend 12 weeks of formal Navy schooling at Naval Air Technical Training Center (NATTC) Pensacola, Florida, where they learn the fundamentals of maintaining emergency escape, personal and cargo parachutes for use in naval aircraft and in the field and the gravity of their responsibilities.

“PRs aren’t only responsible for maintaining parachutes,” Thipkhosithkun said. “They inspect, maintain and repair survival equipment, flight gear and protective clothing; test oxygen regulators, liquid oxygen converters and safety equipment; and equip and package life rafts. PRs can also be found in the ranks of special programs, such as Sea, Air Land (SEAL) or Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams where advanced skills are required.

“In essence, PRs make successful aircraft ejections, egress, aerial operations and deliveries around the world possible,” he said.

Boles and Goddard said they were honored to be a part of Patuxent River’s commemoration.

“I’m looking forward to learning all I can as a PR,” Goddard said.

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