Sometimes you find Coast Guard members in the strangest places! The Guardian of the Week is BM3 Bridgitte Milheim, a 25-year-old from Frenchtown, NJ and this last Wednesday she graduated from Army Airborne Jump School. That’s right, you can find the Coast Guard all over America, the world, and now jumping out of the occasional plane with the Army!
If you look at the Army site for Airborne Jump School it says: At Jump School, you’ll be introduced to your best friend – your parachute. You’ll get to know everything about it. How to wear it, adjust it, use it, the works. You’ll also learn all the techniques needed to accomplish your mission with absolute confidence.
Airborne School is a rare opportunity for a Coast Guardsman no matter what gender you are, and BM3 Milheim is the even more rare female Guardian to go through the school. What an opportunity for a Guardian, and what a great way to show the future generations of Coast Guard women that even the rare opportunities are open to them.
Milheim’s going through the school is so unusual that when I was asking around I could not find anyone who remembered another woman from the Coast Guard ever having gone through the school before. (By this I do not mean that there might not be women within the Coast Guard who have come to us from the Army and went through that school while in another service, but a woman on active duty in the Coast Guard at the time.)
Milheim, assigned to the Joint Maritime Training Center, told me that there was an unexpected opening to go to the class and her command had everyone who wanted to go to the school do a PT test. After passing the test the command asked Milheim if she would like to go and she jumped at the opportunity (no pun intended).
“I just wanted to jump,” Milheim told me. “I was just ready to do it. You just want to jump and see what it is like.”
So some of you might be asking why in the world would we be sending someone from the Coast Guard to Airborne School? Well part of the answer can be found from the airborne site. The execution of this teaching philosophy strengthens unit cohesion, discipline, and supervision while providing quality paratroopers throughout the force. By training together in different environments we can improve the capabilities of everyone, strengthen our relationships as a team, and become stronger in our abilities to adapt to any situation.
The time spent training with each other can help strengthen the working relationship between the members of all the services on a more deck plate level as well. Milheim was the only service member from the Coast Guard in her class, and as it turned out she was the only Guardian that many of her classmates had ever met. So while she was training she was also teaching those around her about the Coast Guard. She told me that being with the Army for training was like learning a new language. You could simply tell by the enthusiastic way she talked about the class that she enjoyed the opportunity.
In the last week of training Milheim had to do 5 jumps from a plane to graduate. Video of her final jump can be seen here.
When we were talking about that last jump I asked her how she felt, if she had been nervous or not, her response was not quite what I expected but I had to chuckle.
“I don’t think I have ever been so happy to get on a plane.” She told me. She went on to say that it was awesome to pack that gear for the last time, to jump and know you had done it.
I think this is a great example of a woman going out there and doing something that not many women in the Coast Guard have done, if any at all. BM3 Milheim is the Guardian of the Week for being a woman for future generations to follow into great new opportunities, as well as for having been a liaison strengthening the relationship of the Coast Guard with our fellow armed services.