CISM Parachuting history : How LtCol Erich Graetzer (SUI) shaped the development of sport parachuting in CISM in the 1980s and 1990s




BRUSSELS (BEL) - LtCol GRAETZER from Switzerland was PTC President (PCSC) from 1983 to 1994. He is still connected with CISM Parachuting family and both children, son Alain and daughter Claudia are active parachuting competitors on international level.


CISM asked LtCol Graetzer about his experience in CISM:

Switzerland has a militia army, which means that the male Swiss citizens are obliged to make a military service. After basic military training, they are armed, have to perform an annual military service and perform an annual duty of shooting in civilian life, for which the municipalities have a shooting range.


Thousands of Swiss citizens also practice shooting as a sport; this established in 1968 the membership of the Swiss army in CISM and the first successful participation in a CISM World Military Shooting Championship.

The Swiss army does not need airborne troops to defend our country. However, Swiss military men of all military types started skydiving as a sport in the post-war period and took part in international competitions, where they soon also competed against professional military parachutists of western armies.


After the Swiss army decided to introduce a special parachute unit, the construction of a parachute recce unit began in 1967, the first part consisted of 30 soldiers and officers, all civilian parachute jumpers.  The unit was attached to the Swiss Airforce and First Lieutenant Erich Graetzer was tasked with the unit establishment, equipment, parachuting and operational training. Subsequently Captain and Major Graetzer commanded the Parachute-Company 17 during the first 7 years.


He was also responsible for Swiss participation in parachute competitions, for the team building and participation in military parachuting sports to eventually membership in the international CISM organization. For the first time, the Swiss CISM team participated in the 4th CISM World Military Parachuting Championship (WMPC) 1970 in Bruchsal/ Germany and already in 1971 in Sintra/ Portugal, the Swiss delegation achieved a gold medal in the combination classification by Lieutenant Pierre Neuhaus.


In 1983, the Swiss army organized the 15th CISM World Military Parachuting Championship in Frauenfeld, in which 21 nations participated, three nations for the first time with a women's team.


About women's participation in the CISM Parachuting World Championships:


In contrast to civil parachute sports, the CISM parachuting area was initially a male-only domain. However, Cheryl Stearns, the exceptional athlete of the US Golden Knights, was the only woman to be there from 1977. Already in 1979 she won the gold medal in accuracy landing at 11th WMPC in Sweden. Since other countries also had women in the army, the need to admit female soldiers grew as a result.


To start this, four American, four French and two Swiss women took part in a separate women's classification at the 1983 CISM WMPC in Frauenfeld. Already 1985 at the 13th CISM WMPC in Abu Dhabi four full female teams (Morocco, USA, France and Switzerland) competed.


In 1986 at 18th WMPC in Morocco the Thai women's team was added and in the following years Dutch as well as individual Swedish women joined. From 1993, the former WAPA nations were eligible to participate and female teams from Belarus, Romania Russia and Uzbekistan were added as well as two Slovenian women . Currently, 60-70 women from 15 countries are competing annually at WMPCs.

Report by Claudia Graetzer, First Lieutenant (retd), Switzerland


SCRGAPSV01 chklrgaprt11 2937 001"Women’s podium at the 18th CISM Parachute World Championships 1986 in Rabat, Morocco"


After the 1983 CISM WMPC in Frauenfeld the term of office of the President of the Permanent Technical Committee (PTC) Parachuting, Col. Villalain from Spain ended. The Swiss army nominated Erich Graetzer, then Lieutenant Colonel (AF), who was then elected PTC President by the representatives of the nations present.


As PTC President, he led the CISM Parachuting World Championships in 1984 Germany, 1985 Italy, 1986 Morocco, 1988 Brazil, 1990 Germany, 1991 Italy, 1992 Spain, 1993 Turkey.

In 1994,he handed over the PTC to Colonel Wolfgang Pflegerl from Austria.


After the fall of the wall, Lieutenant Colonel Graetzer was confronted with the expected inclusion of the former WAPA military competition sport into the CISM military sports organization. A task in the fields of national languages, armies and military leadership, sports organizations, security policy, diplomacy... He could take advantage of his national and international parachuting and military sports experience and from personal contacts in political and military fields in East and West.


The task of building up and leading CISM parachuting, nationally and internationally, as defined by the Swiss army, could not be accomplished by Lieutenant Colonel Graetzer alone. For his support, Roberto Oppikofer, militia captain of the mountain infantry, parachute sports jumper with 3000 jumps, was assigned to complete his military duties of at least one month per year. For a decade and military services on three continents, "Erich&Roberto" were an unbeatable team as PTC President and Secretary for 10 years.


In the following years, then as a member of the CISM Sports Commission, Lieutenant Colonel Graetzer took over the project to bring the regulations of the CISM sports disciplines into line with the Olympic standards.
The CISM parachuting regulations were drafted and printed in German, Spanish, French, English and for the first time in Arabic.


In 2008, Swiss Lieutenant Colonel Erich Graetzer was awarded the order of  "Grand Officer of the CISM Order of Merit".


More historical data and results of CISM WMPCs back to 1964 can be found on the  CISM Parachuting webpage under the "Previous and coming Parachuting events" tab as well as the record of participating nations of all the CISM Parachuting events.


(Source: Colonel Gernot Rittenschober, PCSC Parachuting)