The Brazilian Air Force (FAB, in Portuguese) ended 2017 with its best freefall performance in recent years. For the first time ever, its Falcons team earned Brazil the title of Latin American skydiving champion, winning the competition held in Córdoba, Argentina. The FAB service members—four gravity-defying paratroopers and one cameraman—won the 4-Way Freefall Formation category, competing against athletes from Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, and Ecuador.
According to FAB Major Diego Gabriel da Silva, head of the Falcon team, patience made the difference during the competition. “We arrived in Argentina with a recent adjustment on the 4-way jumping team, and we knew we’d face some difficulties with the athletes’ formation at times,” he said. “Remaining calm at that moment and waiting for the right time to make certain movements and enhance our visual communication in the air was essential.”
FAB’s military athletes scored 146 points in 10 rounds, beating the other teams. Training and dedication contributed to the successful outcome. “Before any competition, we always review the basic points of a discipline to prevent failures. We also pay attention to the rules for each competition, whether civilian or military,” Maj. Gabriel said, adding that their win is a milestone for the Falcons and for FAB’s sporting history.
FAB’s participation in military skydiving championships goes back to 1976, but the Falcons team is only 10 years old. The team is made up of 30 service members, including athletes and support staff. “In the Air Force, service members aren’t devoted to just one thing, as is the case for the freefall teams of the Brazilian Army and Navy. The Air Force Sports Commission (CDA, in Portuguese) summons them and they deploy from their units to training sites,” Maj. Gabriel explained.
To join FAB’s freefall team, service members must express interest to their superiors and go through training. “The CDA’s vice president reviews entry approvals. Then, the athlete goes through training and performs jumps under observation for fitness and development. When the need arises to add new members to the team, the Falcons’ technical committee extends a formal invitation to the military applicant to join the team for one year. If the command gives authorization, the service member gets into the team,” Maj. Gabriel said.
According to Maj. Gabriel, athlete training is a two-step process. In military units, athletes receive aerobic and anaerobic training. They strap on a device suspended by a bungee cord to practice repeated steps on an electronic plate, simulating parachute landings in the Accuracy Landing style. “During their mission, athletes perform Accuracy Landing, Freefall Formation, and Style jumps from sunrise to sunset. Every other day, after finishing their jumps, they run at a medium pace for about 25 minutes,” Maj. Gabriel said.
Each member of the team prepares to perform a specific function. “The Front or Point is the one who flies slightly higher than the rest of the team, fitting into the formations, most times outfacing to form vertical rotating block sequences with the Outside Center. This one [the Outside Center] performs more complex movements and defines the center for most formations, with infacing and outfacing movements. The Inside Center keeps the pace, makes grips that are usually infacing, and signals most of the formation members. The infacing member forms a rotating vertical block sequence with the Rear Center. The Rear Center flies slightly lower than the rest and fits into the formations,” Maj Gabriel explained.
The Falcons participate in demonstrations at military and civil events in Brazil, and also represent the country at major national and international championships. The team has participated in military world championships since 2013 and is a member of the High-Performing Athlete Program (PAAR, in Portuguese) under the Brazilian Ministry of Defense.
High-Performing Athlete Program
According to information from the Ministry of Defense, PAAR—a partnership between the Ministries of Defense and Sport—currently includes 652 athletes, 552 from the temporary corps and 75 career service members. Skydiving is one of seven specifically military sports, such as cross country skiing, lifesaving, orienteering, and military, aeronautical, and naval pentathlons. However, PAAR includes 41 sports, of which 34 are Olympic sports, such as track and field, badminton, football, gymnastics, swimming, and synchronized swimming.
Brazilian military athletes currently train for the 7th Military World Games in 2019 and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. As such, the Department of Military Sport (DDM, in Portuguese) at the Ministry of Defense promotes Brazil’s military participation in high-level sporting events. “Since 2008, we’ve been more systematic in our efforts to support Brazilian sports, and much of that was seen at the 2016 Rio Olympics, with Brazil winning 13 of the 19 medals,” Brazilian Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paulo Martino Zuccaro, director of DDM, said in a statement on the Ministry of Defense’s website.