Training Day

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s paratroopers.

The 123rd Air National Guard for the United States Air Force out of Kentucky could be seen falling from the sky over the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown on Thursday, as it practiced precision jumps.

“Their mission is to rescue downed pilots wherever they go down,” said Sam Arcadipane, director of airports and parks for the county. “These folks are highly trained Air Force Special Forces. They’ve trained in everything from hand-to-hand combat to repelling. It’s a very, very unique operation that they do, and it’s a very sensitive thing.”

The 123rd Air National Guard has been in the area all week. Arcadipane said it has been conducting wet jumps over Lake Erie out of the Dunkirk Harbor, using the Dunkirk Airport as a pickup point.

“We’ve had great cooperation from the Sheriff’s Department, Coast Guard – they’ve been setting up perimeter protection – town of Ellicott Police have been working here to secure the area,” Arcadipane said.

“It’s been a very well-planned community-wide effort on the part of public safety,” Arcadipane continued. “The Dunkirk Yacht Club has been very helpful hosting their specialized command boat that directs the operations over Lake Erie.”

The terrain in the area, according to Arcadipane, is one of the major reasons why the Jamestown airport was chosen for the precision jumps. Additionally, its proximity to Lake Erie aided in the decision to jump at the location.

Another reason why the Jamestown airport was chosen was the level of fire protection it has to offer not only to the paratroopers, but to commercial airliners as well.

“They wouldn’t be here without the level of fire protection that this airport offers, because we protect commercial airlines that come out of the Jamestown airport,” Arcadipane said.

Although there have been shows at the airport in the past, this is the first time the airport has participated in a military operation.

In the future, Arcadipane said he hopes the 123rd Air National Guard will return to the Jamestown airport. He also anticipates additional military training to be happening at the airport.