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Photos: Army paratroopers jump into Big Lake

An Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter takes off from Big Lake Airport with six paratroopers as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. Six paratroopers at a time were dropped into the Big Lake drop zone in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
Maj. David Nelson prepares to be dropped out of a helicopter with help from jumpmaster Staff Sgt. Allen Mayo, left, as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. Six paratroopers at a time were dropped over the Big Lake drop zone from an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view. "I was swimming in the lake yesterday and it was 67 degrees," said Nelson. "It wasn't bad!"
Erik Hill
Second Lt. Paul Warner touches down as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. Six paratroopers at a time were dropped over the Big Lake drop zone from an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
Lt. Kris Candelaria reaches for a safety boat following his jump as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. Six paratroopers at a time were dropped over the Big Lake drop zone from an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
Virginia Tech ROTC cadet Zach Stilwell is hauled into a safety boat following his jump as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. Helping him were Spc. Barrett Salter, left, and Sgt. Jonathan Gallogly. Six paratroopers at a time were dropped over the Big Lake drop zone from an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view. Stilwell, who had made five previous training jumps, got to do this water jump as part of his three-week summer rotation with U.S.Army Alaska.
Erik Hill
Jumpmaster Capt. Trent Blackman, right, inspects parachute rigging for Pfc. Julieanna Grasser as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. Six paratroopers at a time were dropped over the Big Lake drop zone from an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
Six paratroopers at a time exit a helicopter for a jump into Big Lake as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. The soldiers were deployed by an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
An Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter takes off from Big Lake Airport with six paratroopers as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. Six paratroopers at a time were dropped into the Big Lake drop zone in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
Six paratroopers at a time exit a helicopter for a jump into Big Lake as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. The soldiers were deployed by an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
First Lt. Stephen Schnorf descends as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. Six paratroopers at a time were dropped over the Big Lake drop zone from an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
Six paratroopers at a time exit a helicopter for a jump into Big Lake as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. The soldiers were deployed by an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
A safety boat tracks a paratrooper as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. Six paratroopers at a time were dropped over the Big Lake drop zone from an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
Six paratroopers at a time exit a helicopter for a jump into Big Lake as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. The soldiers were deployed by an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
Virginia Tech ROTC cadet Zach Stilwell touches down as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. Six paratroopers at a time were dropped over the Big Lake drop zone from an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view. Stilwell, who had made five previous training jumps, got to do this water jump as part of his three-week summer rotation with U.S.Army Alaska.
Erik Hill / ADN
Army families join onlookers as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. Six paratroopers at a time were dropped over the Big Lake drop zone from an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
Six paratroopers at a time exit a helicopter for a jump into Big Lake as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. The soldiers were deployed by an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
Pfc. Tyler Steane touches down as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. Six paratroopers at a time were dropped over the Big Lake drop zone from an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
First Lt. Chris Buckingham, center, Apache Co. executive officer, watches with extended family as about 200 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division conduct water jump training on Wednesday, August 6, 2014, at Big Lake. Six paratroopers at a time were dropped over the Big Lake drop zone from an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in the day-long exercise open to public view.
Erik Hill
Sean Doogan

About 200 Army paratroopers from the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment jumped into Big Lake, about 50 miles north of Anchorage, on Wednesday -- the first water landing training the Army has conducted in Alaska in the last three years. Over the course of the morning, a lone UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the Alaska Army National Guard picked up six paratroopers at a time from the Big Lake airport before lifting off and climbing about 1,500 feet into the overcast sky. Once over the south shore of Big Lake, the soldiers jumped out, slowly descending with help from their new T-11 parachutes, which the Army said reduces descent speed by up to 15 feet per second over the older T-10 chutes used since World War II.

As they waited their turn to board the helicopter and jump, most of the soldiers were more nervous about the expected water temperature of Big Lake than the jump itself. All had asked to be a part of the training.

"When I heard about it, I said, 'I need to get on that jump because we don’t have too many fun jumps around here,'" said Lt. Kris Candelaria. "This one is unique."

When it was over, Candelaria, still dripping wet from his dip in Big Lake, said the water temperature was much warmer than he expected, at about 67 degrees.

"You are kind of nervous at first, and then the chute opens and you get to see Big Lake and the nice houses, and you see people on the side cheering you on," Candelaria said.

The training event drew a crowd of spectators on the south shore of the lake, as well as onlookers from the nearby houses and cabins. The paratroopers' families and friends watched the jump from a nearby state park campground.

"I have always wanted to see him jump, but I have never gotten the chance to before because they are always at a secret location," said Rachel Blanchard as she stood on the shore with her 6-year-old son and newborn daughter, waiting for her husband, Staff Sgt. Joseph Blanchard, to take his turn. "But I think I am more nervous now that I can witness it."

Contact Sean Doogan at sean@alaskadispatch.com.