California Smokejumper Rookie Training

A Smokejumper exits the Sherpa on a fire jump.Rookie training is designed to teach Rookie Smokejumper candidates what they need to know in order to safely, efficiently, and effectively perform their job as a Smokejumper.

Rookie training lasts a minimum of 6 weeks, dependant on weather and other factors.

Rookies should show up in excellent physical shape, and as a condition of hire, be prepared to pass the physical training (PT) test minimum standards on the first day of rookie training. However, It should be know that the PT test is only the minimum standard and due to the extreme rigor and cumulative physical output expect throughout rookie training it is prudent to your success that you are able to far exceed the minimums standards.

Pull ups: 7
Pushups: 25
Sit ups: 45
Run: 1.5 miles in 11 minutes
110 pound pack out: 3 miles in 90 minutes
45 pound work capacity test: 3 miles in 45 minutes.

Check out this video demonstration!

Smokejumpers pose for a photo during a packout from a fire.

What should be expected

Only a small group of people are selected each year to become smokejumpers. It is a credit to those individuals to have been chosen for this position in terms of their abilities, character and proven performance. It is an opportunity that very few people get.

The rookie training program is designed to train you to be a safe and effective smokejumper. Rookie training is designed to prepare rookie smokejumper candidates with the necessary mental fortitude, logic and reasoning skills, and physical capacity to succeed in highly dynamic and arduous work environments. The Forest Service spends a lot of time, effort, and money to train rookie smokejumpers. Success will require you to put forth your best effort.

California Smokejumper rookie training typically starts the beginning of April, and is 6 weeks long.
You will be evaluated on your team attitude, ability to learn, and perform.  There is no down time during rookie training. Due to the large amount of information and field exercises that need to be completed, candidates should expect long days of both mental and physical outputs. 

Two smokejumpers descending under parachutes over timber.Our primary job as Smokejumpers is to fulfill the Smokejumper mission. Consequently, each candidate must become a qualified professional Smokejumper. If during the training it is determined that you can not safely perform the job, you will be dropped from the program.

A typical day during rookie training will consist of many different components, such as morning physical training (PT) session which includes calisthenics and/or running; classroom time covering topics such as parachute manipulation, tree climbing, CPR/First Aid, pre-field exercise briefings and post exercise debriefings. Typically the day will end with an afternoon PT session of more calisthenics and/or running. Please be aware this is only a short overview of what could happen, not what will happen. Candidates are expected to stay flexible throughout rookie training, as things can quickly change.     

A brushy hillside with fire backing and torching.Due to the nature of Smokejumping, field exercises are an important part of rookie training. Field exercises are designed to provide smokejumper candidates the skills needed to manage the diverse situations encountered during smokejumper operations. Some of the areas that will be covered are tree climbing, cross-cut and chainsaw use, map and compass, mock airplane exits and landings and leadership exercises.
Before rookie candidates are allowed to make their first practice jump, candidates must successfully pass through the smokejumper units training. 

During the units, rookies learn about pre-jump aircraft procedures, how to correctly exit (jump) from the airplane, and how to safely perform a parachute landing fall (PLF). Only after receiving a passing grade for each unit from the rookie trainers, will candidates be allowed to begin making practice jumps. Rookies are required to successfully make 15 practice jumps into a variety of jump spots, which increase in difficulty with each successful jump. It is important to remember that rookie candidates will be constantly evaluated throughout all of rookie training and if it is determined that they can not safely perform the job, they will be dropped from the program.