Jump Week, Part 3: In which I finally leave the airplane
C-130 rolling down the strip.
Airborne Ranger going to take a little trip.
Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door,
Jump right out and count to four.
You really do shuffle to the door. There’s no other way to describe it. We were packed in, and somehow, as always, I ended up between two former linemen. We were squeezed in so tight, I could’ve lifted my feet from the floor and let the momentum carry me forward.
The airplane circles the drop zone, and not everybody gets out on the first pass. Circle and wait for the go ahead. Then the jump master is back at it, shouting, “Go, go, go!” and shoving soldiers from the craft. Those who hesitated ended up with the imprint of a boot on their rear.
For me, there was no time to hesitate. Five in front, then four, then three, two, one. My feet touched the edge, the ground whipped by below me, then with a hefty shove, I was outside the plane. I tucked my chin, started the count, and wondered. Would I notice when my chute deployed?
I clutched the reserve chute strapped to my stomach. This was the parachute we’d use in case the main one didn’t deploy for some reason (and oh, there seemed to be so many reasons). In my left pocket of my BDUs, over my heart, I had an Airborne badge.
That morning, as I locked my door, Tim came storming from his BOQ room. In his hands, he held a uniform top and was snipping something from it with the scissors of a Swiss Army Knife.
He handed me the subdued, cloth Airborne badge that he had pretty much just ripped from his BDU top. “For luck,” he said. “I wore that on my first foreign jump and my scariest jump ever.”
And I noticed when my parachute deployed. It was pretty obvious. You slow down, amazingly enough. First thing: you look up to check the risers, make sure the chute deployed fully, and that the risers (attaching you to the chute) weren’t all twisted.
I had a beautiful chute, and not a single twist. And around me, so did everyone else. The drone of the plane faded, and I could hear laughter. A guy (probably one of my linebacker friends) near me said, “Man, this is better than sex!”
On the ground below were black hats, screaming up at us through megaphones. This, they reminded us, was the f–king Army, not a carnival ride. So SHUT up.
Oh, but it really felt like a carnival ride. And while floating down gently–and I went gently, if I caught an updraft, my chute would just hang there–I was ecstatic to remember that I had four more chances to do this.
To be continued…