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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



21 August 2017

Three Army Reserve soldiers from Belfast-based 40 Signal Squadron spent two weeks in California  with colleagues from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Darlington, taking part in a two week skydiving trip supported by funding from the Northern Ireland Reserve Forces and Cadets Association (RFCA NI).

The soldiers all serve with 32 Signal Regiment and many of them have become keen skydivers since they first went to California with the Army Reserve three years ago.

“This is the third time I’ve made this trip” said team leader Staff Sergeant O’ Donnell. “I had never done any skydiving until the army gave me the chance to learn, and now I skydive every chance I can get. This year has been quite a step up for me as I have taken over the organisation of the trip for the first time so I have been doing everything from booking flights to getting funding from our generous sponsors like the RFCA; it’s a totally different challenge”.

Skydiving is part of what the army calls Adventurous Training. They army uses activities like this to expose people to fear and risk management and build up individual and teamwork skills. It does this by placing you in situations that push you to your limits and beyond.

Staff Sergeant O’Donnell, has been in the Army Reserve since 2000. “I really enjoy it, you make some great friends and get a real variety of training. It’s a complete difference from my every day job.”

“Sky diving is something I always wanted to try and over the last three years this exercise has given me the chance to gain my A license. The fact we got to do it in sunny California is just unbelievable. I am going to compete in the British Army parachute championships in August. I’ve also completed my basic Army snowboarding course with the Regiment – another sport I’ve always wanted to try and which the Army Reserve made possible for me.”

In total twenty two soldiers from 32 Signal Regiment took part in the exercise, with eight complete beginners learning to sky dive and fourteen others developing their existing skills.

Before heading to California the team underwent ground school training at the Army Parachute Association, Netheravon, Salisbury, where the beginners learned how to exit the plane, body position whilst in free-fall, how to pull the parachute, basic canopy control and how to land safely. In addition, they were taught about the maintenance of the equipment and how it works. Meanwhile the experienced skydivers were given refresher training and briefs on what they would be undertaking in Formation Skydiving, Freeflying and Tracking.


32 Signal Regiment is part of 11 Signal Brigade and its role is primarily operations in the UK. In recent years their major operations have included flood relief in Cumbria, the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland, both the Olympic and Commonwealth Games and a peace keeping tour in Cyprus. The Regiment has Army Reserve Centres in Glasgow, Edinburgh, East Kilbride, Dundee, Belfast, York and Darlington. Recruits can join from ages 18 to 49.