Bedford native selected for West Point Parachute Team
BEDFORD — James Delahunty decided he wanted to join the Army at the age of 8, and now he is proud to be among the Corps of Cadets at West Point.
Delahunty, 19, the son of Stephen and Deborah Delahunty of Bedford, is one of eight freshmen cadets chosen for the West Point Parachute Team from a pool of about 130. It’s a rigorous program involving physical and mental dedication, and the cadets have to fulfill a four-year commitment as part of the team.
The group is a competition and demonstration team that formed in 1958. The acceptance process entails submitting a long application, maintaining good grades and undergoing a strenuous physical test that eliminates most of the applicants.
“After physical day, there were about 18 people. You go through one more interview. You have to go before the whole parachute team and tell them why you want to be on the team,” Delahunty said. “You can only apply in your freshman year and you have to be on the team through your senior year.”
While he will make his first jump in about two weeks, Delahunty and his teammates have been learning the basics such as packing a parachute, which is not as easy as it sounds.
“There’s a lot of stuff you have to do. You have to pack a parachute 25 times. The first time it took two hours and now some of us are at 18 minutes. When we get to the end, we’ll be able to pack a parachute in seven to 10 minutes,” he said. “It’s like packing the tightest backpack you’ve ever packed.”
Delahunty said it’s like participating in a sport, — you have to give it your best, practice and use teamwork.
“There are a lot of military personnel who work with the team,” he said. “The people are my favorite. Everyone has a story to tell. The success of the team is dependent on people in the organization, and I’m proud to serve with them every day.”
The course also includes learning basic free-fall skills, canopy flight and landing. After successfully completing the course, the cadets are allowed to continue by doing tandem jumps, where they are attached to a coach, and then the coach jumps holding on to the students’ sides as an observer. By the end of the year, the cadets will have completed 50 jumps, which qualifies them for more intense training in their second year.
Eager to serve
Growing up in Bedford, Delahunty set his goals on serving in the Army and received support from his uncle, Richard Sellner of Hooksett, who is a 1981 graduate of West Point and served in Iraq with the Army Reserves, said Deborah Delahunty.
“Jim attended a tennis camp at West Point and he said he wanted to go into the Army. It was his life’s dream since he was in middle school. He fell in love with West Point and ended up there,” she said. “We’re really proud of him.”
Among the cadet’s supporters are his triplet siblings — his sister, Linda, who is a freshman pursing a nursing degree at Simmons College in Boston; and his brother, David, who is studying meteorology at Plymouth State University.
When Delahunty was a freshman at Bedford High School, he founded the Bedford Army Drill Team to help make his dream of attending West Point a reality.
“It was an incredible success,” he said.
Delahunty was also a member of the high school’s varsity tennis team for four years and captain for three years. The team won state championships every year, he said.
He also participated in the Civil Air Patrol headquartered at the armory in Manchester, and served as the commander for the cadet squadron.
During the summer before his senior year in Bedford, Delahunty also interned for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
“I worked with the staff doing whatever needed to be done. It was a great experience to get exposed to what a senator’s life is like,” he said.
The Senate experience made a positive impression, and could influence his future plans. West Point students do not have to declare a major until their junior year, but Delahunty said he is leaning toward a bachelor’s degree in international relations or American politics.
But for now, the cadet is dedicating all his efforts to the parachute team and is looking forward to his first jump into the blue skies.
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