All-women paratrooper jump at JBER fosters military camaraderie in honor of Women’s History Month

“We do that individually all the time,” said the commander of the tactical exercise. “But to be able to do it together is very unique.”

An all-female assemblage of 70 paratroopers from the Army’s 11th Airborne Division on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson jumped from an aircraft operated by an all-women Air Force flight crew Thursday. The training exercise was designed in honor of Women’s History Month.

Army Lt. Col. Elizabeth Knox, who served as commander of the exercise, said the day was a rare chance to see a training event in which such a large contingent of female soldiers jump and rapidly assemble for a tactical mission. “We do that individually all the time, but to be able to do it together is very unique,” she said.

“Less than 7% of paratroopers in 11th Airborne Division are women. I’m the only female battalion commander in the division …,” Knox said. “It’s cool to see everybody just be very motivated and excited to do this today.”

The paratroopers jumped in three passes over the Malemute Drop Zone from an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III on a partly sunny day. Their parachutes inflated in rapid succession, deployed by a static line just after jumping. After landing in a snowy field, each packed her parachute, hefted a M4 carbine weapon and about 100 pounds of packed equipment and walked to a nearby airstrip, some using snowshoes.

Pvt. 1st Class Alexsandra Hernandez said that the jump was only her sixth and it remains a nerve-wracking experience, but she felt uniquely supported Thursday.

“I felt a little bit more comfortable jumping with all these females,” she said. “It was really nice.”

Pvt. 1st Class Greta Frye said she enjoys working and training with her male teammates and leaders normally, but said Thursday’s environment was more upbeat and special. “I got to meet a whole bunch of new people in my battalion and brigade,” she said.

Knox said she hoped the exercise, which she helped organize, fostered camaraderie. Many of the participating paratroopers serve are the only women in their platoon or company, she said.


“It’s tough, being an airborne paratrooper in an infantry brigade. It’s not for everybody,” Knox said. “It’s amazing, and I just hope events like this give other women the courage to maybe chase after something that might make them nervous.”

This is the second year JBER has held an all-women jump, and the first with an all-women flight crew. The 11th Airborne Division is the Army’s only Arctic airborne brigade.

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Marc Lester

Marc Lester is a multimedia journalist for Anchorage Daily News. Contact him at