If you’re in an airborne unit and you want to keep drawing the extra pay that goes along with it, you’ve got to jump out of a plane every three months.

Those have been the rules since the 1950s, and extenuating circumstances have often forced many soldiers to pay back their $150 a month in extra pay if they miss one of those four yearly jumps.

But in January, according to a Wednesday release from the XVIII Airborne Corps, the Army updated that regulation to allow commanders to waive one of those jumps per year without affecting a paratrooper’s pay.

“This is a small change that can pay big dividends for our troopers,” XVIII Airborne Corps Command Sgt. Major Charles Albertson said in the release.

The XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg recently restarted the popular Saturday proficiency jump program to allow paratroopers to build additional proficiency and confidence for airborne operations. (Army)
The XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg recently restarted the popular Saturday proficiency jump program to allow paratroopers to build additional proficiency and confidence for airborne operations. (Army)

During fiscal 2016, according to the Army, 780 soldiers missed a required jump and had to pay back more than $500,000 — up to six months’ worth in some cases, despite completing at least four jumps that year. If the jumps weren’t once every three months, it didn’t count.

Now, an O-5 commander or above can waive one jump a year, under certain circumstances.

Those exceptions include:

  • Lack of availability of jump equipment or aircraft.
  • Temporary orders (under 180 days) for military education or training.
  • Dangerous weather conditions.
  • Deployment.

When the soldier returns the unit, he or she has to do refresher training and complete a jump within the following three months to keep the qualification.

“It is an overdue, common sense solution to a simple problem that financially burdens some of our paratroopers,” Albertson said.

The Army is also working on creating a special skill pay for jumpmasters, according to the release. The proposal requires defense secretary approval but could be activated later this year.