Join Date: Aug 2004
Airborne all the Way
This is a creative non-fiction story I wrote for school last semester (Spring 2005). I read it to the class and they all seemed to like it so I thought I would share it here and try to revive the Reading room a bit.
It's about my 3 weeks of Airborne training which I took directly after basic training back in 2001. More than portraying the events that took place or what it was like I was trying to portray how I felt during the training as a new recruit with the main focus being on my first jump.
Airborne All The Way
Today is the culmination of my training; today I will take my first airborne jump. I couldn’t imagine anything being harder than basic training, but the first two weeks of airborne school was. We ran everywhere; everyday after waking up sometime before dawn we would run at least four miles, then we would run to the shower, run to breakfast, run back from breakfast, we were always running. The heat of Georgia feels like melted wax, just stepping into the sunlight will ruin your whole day. We trained hard anyway, if you get hurt it’s because your week. I never got hurt, at least that’s what I told my Sergeant Airborne. My knees were swollen like old inner tubes ready to blow, but I hid my limp and endured the pain. There is no way I’m going to fail this class; I want to be airborne.
By far the main feature of our training field in Fort Benning is those three monsters. Two hundred and fifty foot steel towers, painted red and white so the helicopters can see them. The first time I saw a soldier jump from one of those towers he caught a gust of wind, flew past the inviting sand pit, and smacked the nearby street.
“I’m not jumping from those towers,” I thought, as fear began to well up in my body, shivering like I had just survived a car wreck.
Later that week they showed us what parachute malfunctions look like with test dummies on the towers. There’s the partial failure to deploy, “thump;” Full failure to deploy, “thump;” parachute inversion, “thump;” and the dreaded cigarette roll, “thump.” Each time that dummy hit the ground at full speed my heart dropped with it, “thump.” A couple days later it was my turn to jump from the tower. They towed the first man to the top like the Skyjump at Knott’s Berry Farm, but there’s no cable to guide you down. The first man made it to the ground alive; maybe I could make myself do this. But the winch broke before my turn; I didn’t have to confront my first jump that day.
Today is different. I will jump from a real plane today, but first I must get out of bed.
“Wake up Legs! Let’s go, let’s go! You have twenty minutes to be in formation!” Sergeants airborne don’t talk, they yell, like barking bulldogs chasing off a burglar.
I stare at the morning light trying to peek over the horizon of the night sky as I wonder to myself what today will be like. But the moment doesn’t last.
“Platoon attention!” It’s the familiar call of every formation. “Right face! Forward march! Double time! March!” We waste no time as we run a quick two miles to the airstrip.
“Airborne, airborne all the way! Airborne, airborne everyday!” we sing as we run down the now familiar path wearing full Army fatigues and helmet in hand.
When we get to the rigging hangar, we pick up our chutes and start strapping each other into the harnesses. No time for fear now, I’m trying to figure out how this harness works. I feel like a preschooler trying to learn how to tie my shoes. Once I’m strapped up the sergeant airborne comes to check my rigging.
“Kneel! Lift! Turn!” With the precision of a robot arm welding computer chips on a circuit board he checks each strap and buckle.
I get my door assignment, “L 17.” Left door, seventeenth jumper, that means I’m somewhere in the middle right? Then we wait; now I have time to think about everything that could go wrong. The falling dummy races through my head; cigarette roll “thump.” Every fear and anxiety that I’ve been pushing aside for two weeks is now being realized. After two hours of sitting, waiting for the aircraft to be ready, rigged in these tight lashings pulling my shoulders down, adrenaline fear rushing through my veins like a dozen cups of coffee.
“I have to pee.” But there is no relief, once you're in the parachute rig it doesn’t come off until you jump.
Four hours later, the fear has dulled in a haze of confusion and wondering when I will finally jump. The pressure is still building.
“Jumpers! Stand up!” finally, the airplane is ready! It’s time to file onto the plane.
This is my first ride on a C130. One by one we are packed into the cargo bay facing each other like Oreos in their cookie tray. The inside of the plane smells like a stuffy indoor gas station. A sergeant airborne yells something from the back of the plane, but I can’t hear him over the whir of the engines winding up.
“Two passes!” I hear being passed down the line of troops. “L17, First jumper; second pass!”
“What? That’s me!” I will be the first one standing at the door. I feel the acid building in my stomach.
When the plane finally leaves the ground the pilots practice what they call “map of the earth.” It means they stay low and follow the contour of the ground. For me that means swerving up and down adding to the acidity of my saliva. Soon after take off the sergeants airborne start to move around.
“Twenty minutes!” they start barking the list of commands to prepare for the jump.
More commands follow until the jumpers of the first pass file out the doors like baseballs out of a pitching machine. I feel the plane turning around; it will be my turn soon.
“Twenty minutes!” This time the command is for me, my mind starts going through all the last minute excuses I could use to stay in the plane, but I refuse to listen to them.
“Ten minutes!” it felt like thirty seconds; I take off my seatbelt.
“Outboard personnel stand up!” the plane decides to turn just as I stand, but I catch my balance on the outer wall.
“Check equipment!” I pretend to check my equipment while trying to stay on my feet; I’m not even sure what I’m supposed to check.
“Okay!” The trooper behind me slaps me on the back signaling that everyone’s equipment is okay. What do I do now?
“All okay jumpmaster!” I hear myself screaming at the man in charge.
“Hook up!” the jumpmaster yells as I fumble with my static line on the plane’s steel cable running along the ceiling.
“Two minutes!” Oh no! That’s my signal to go to the open door. I stumble towards the door in the back. As I approach I look out the door. Bad idea, bad idea! I look to the ground 1200 feet below and see nothing but tiny pine trees passing by. I get in position facing the door and my knees try telling me to fall to floor. I stiffen up as the plane turns my direction I feel myself starting to fall out the door, but something is stopping me. It’s the Jumpmaster holding my rigging and life in his left hand.
“Stand by!” I have about ten seconds to change my mind. My heart is beating like sledgehammers on rocks, the trees turn into smooth ground.
“Green light, Go!” I feel my legs pushing me into the open sky, but I don’t see what’s happening because my eyes are closed tight. A rush of hot air from the engine beats my body back like rapids push a canoe. The harness yanks me upward as the static line pulls my chute open.
It’s quiet; I finally open my eyes as I gently float towards the earth. This is exactly what I signed up for. Above everything I take in the view, a feeling of energy rushes through my body.
My kingly feeling doesn’t last long. The ground is quickly coming towards me like an oncoming bus on the wrong side of the freeway. “Thump!” I hit the ground just like those dummies last week, but I am alive. I lay there on the ground in disbelief of what I just did. Is this the beginning of my new lifestyle, jumping from planes on a regular basis? Yes it is and I can’t wait to jump again. Now I am Airborne.
Last edited by hillkillr; 06-04-2005 at 00:47..