Parachute riggers, categorized as military occupational specialty (MOS) 92R, supervise or pack and repair cargo and personnel parachutes. They also rig equipment and supply containers for airdrop and repair textile and canvas items, webbed equipment, and clothing.
Parachute Rigger Duties & Responsibilities
This job generally requires the ability to do the following work:
- Rig supplies
- Perform inspection
- Inventory equipment
- Maintain equipment
- Perform routine jumps
Parachute riggers fabricate and assemble airdrop platforms, cushioning materials, rigging components, rig supplies, equipment, and vehicles for airdrops. They also are responsible for loading and securing supplies in aircraft. Perhaps most importantly, these soldiers test and inspect parachutes, their extraction and release systems, and all the associated parts. These tests are conducted before and after use and at regular intervals to ensure the equipment is always safe for any real-world uses.
When needed, these soldiers repair and replace airdrop equipment, including parachutes, and makes sure the machines and tools used for these repairs are well-maintained and working properly. All parachute riggers are expected to be able to perform a jump at any time with any parachute packed by any rigger.
Once a parachute rigger is experienced, they will inspect airdrop equipment and conduct regular quality assurance inspections. They’ll also train lower grade soldiers on how to pack and repair parachutes and other airdrop equipment, and properly dispose of equipment that’s no longer safe for use or too old for future airdrops.
Parachute Rigger Salary
The paygrade for parachute riggers, as of 2019, ranges from E-1 to E-4, the four lowest classifications for enlisted soldiers. Where soldiers fall on the E-3 and E-4 salary ranges is dependent upon experience. Specialist reach the high end of the pay range after six years of experience. Soldiers at these paygrades also can earn hazard pay that ranges from an additional $150 per month to $165 per month. Additionally, all enlisted soldiers receive an allowance of $368.29 per month for food and drink.
When soldiers are deployed, they are eligible for a housing allowance that varies based on where they live. The average allowances for soldiers in the E-1 to E-4 paygrades ranges from $1,118.29 per month with no dependents to $1,434.83 per month with dependents.
Annually, these allowances can add up to anywhere from about $19,638 to $23,617 in addition to soldiers' salaries if soldiers are deployed.
- E-1 salary (Private): $19,659.60 ($9.45/hour)
- E-2 salary (Private Second Class): $22,035.60 ($10.59/hour)
- E-3 salary range (Private First Class): $23,173.20 to $26,121.60 ($11.14 to $12.56/hour)
- E-4 salary range (Specialist): $25,668 to $31,158 ($12.34 to $14.98/hour)
Source: Military Ranks
Education, Training, & Certification
A high school diploma of a GED is necessary to enlist in the Army, but becoming a parachute rigger requires additional training.
- Training: Parachute riggers need to spend 10 weeks in basic combat training and another 16 weeks in advanced individual training to learn specific skills such as rigging techniques, maintenance, and more. Additionally, parachute riggers need to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test and score at least an 88 in general maintenance (GM) and an 87 in combat (CO).
- Education: A high school diploma or GED is the minimum requirement for enlistment. However, it is not a guarantee that anyone who meets these requirements will be accepted. Those with college degrees or some college credit will have a better chance.
Parachute Rigger Skills & Competencies
To be eligible as a parachute rigger, high attention to detail and knowledge of shop mechanics are among the useful skills needed.
- Attention to detail: Few jobs place such an importance on this particular trait. One mistake can be tragic, so there are multiple checks and re-checks involved. Those who don't pay close attention to even the smallest details won't make it as a parachute rigger.
- Mechanically inclined: The job involves a lot of maintenance and repair, so parachute riggers should be comfortable with those types of processes.
- Team player: Like attention to detail, this is of utmost importance to this career. Parachute riggers pack parachutes other soldiers will be using, so building trust is absolutely necessary.
- Focus on safety: Soldiers who do this kind of work need to genuinely care about the safety of their fellow soldiers. That real concern helps build trust and helps keep parachute riggers focused on the importance of the job.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide data for parachute riggers, but outside of the military there are parachute rigging and supply companies that hire individual with the specific skills held by parachute riggers. Companies that manufacture or sell survival gear also seek employees with such experience.
The work environment largely depends on whether or not a soldier is deployed. However, even if not deployed, parachute riggers can expect to be working at airfields on or around airplanes.
There's no fixed schedule for being a parachute rigger. Job duties typically will take place during the day, but soldiers who are deployed in combat zones need to be prepared at all times.
Comparing Similar Jobs
People interested in being a parachute rigger also might consider one of the following career paths that require a high attention to detail, listed with median annual salaries:
- Construction or building inspector: $59,700
- Occupational health and safety specialist: $69,370
- Surveyor: $62,580