Darlington Soldiers Hit New Heights in California
Two Army Reserve soldiers based in Darlington spent two weeks in July in California with colleagues from Scotland and Northern Ireland taking part in a skydiving trip supported by funding from the North of England Reserve Forces and Cadets Association (RFCA).
Signalers Matthew Weatherley (22) and Chloe Stevenson (23) serve with Darlington’s 50 Signal Squadron and neither had ever done anything quite like this before.
“I’ve done one tandem skydive on holiday in Australia but this will be completely different, I can’t believe I’ve been given this opportunity” said Chloe. “I’m a keen roller hockey player and have represented England Ladies 6 times. Earlier this year the army taught me to snowboard in Austria too. I’ve only been in for a year and can’t believe the opportunities I’ve already been given.”
Chloe, who works for HMRC, lives in Middlesbrough and joined the Army Reserve in February last year as part of the Civil Service Challenge. “I really enjoyed the day and was especially interested in the Royal Signals stand. Before that I had no idea the Army had telecoms and IT specialists. It’s great fun and gives me access to some great ICT training.”
Matthew, who has worked as a chef and a waiter, joined the Army Reserve in May 2016. “Originally, I joined the Royal Signals Northern Band as friends of mine played in the band, but I found I really enjoyed the military training so I chose to join as a Signaler instead.” In fact Matthew has enjoyed his training so much he has applied to join the Regular army as an officer and hopes to go to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst later this year.
“Sky diving is something I have always wanted to try and this exercise gave me the chance to learn, the fact we got to train in sunny California is just unbelievable” he said “I completed my Army ski foundation course with the Regiment in January – 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 it works. Meanwhile the experienced skydivers were given refresher training and briefs on what they would be undertaking in Formation Skydiving, Freeflying and Tracking.