Jump Week, Part 4: In which I get my risers in a twist
I did eventually land–and I learned there’s a real reason they call it a parachute landing fall. I didn’t burn in, like all my linebacker buds. But I hit pretty hard. I didn’t smack my head, but I’m not sure I did an actual parachute landing fall.
Once on the ground, you need to release your chute; otherwise, the wind can catch it and drag you across the drop zone. That hurts and the black hats will laugh at you. And even though I did remember to do that, I bumped across the ground for a few feet until my parachute deflated. Then I gathered it all up and trudged to the assembly point for the ride home. Let me tell you, once the adrenaline burns off, parachutes are heavy.
Of the four remaining jumps, we were scheduled for two “Hollywood” style jumps (just the parachute and the reserve), a night (more like dusk) jump, and a combat jump (full rucksack and dummy M16).
And one of the Hollywood jumps would be from a C-141 aircraft, which is faster than a C-130 and trickier from a jumping standpoint. More slipstream from the plane. A better chance of hitting the side, of getting messed up in general on exit. This was the one time we really needed to jump from the plane.
I don’t remember jumping so much as being ripped from the plane. Something slapped me across the face, but I kept my chin tucked. After four long seconds, I felt my chute deploy. I tried to look up.
I couldn’t. I could cock my head enough to see that my risers were intertwined, starting about a foot above my helmet and going all the way up to the deployed chute. That I had a correctly deployed chute should probably go down as a miracle.
But I had to get untwisted, optimally before I hit the ground. And the black hats had taught us a procedure for this. You grab the risers and pull while bicycling your legs–pretty much for all you’re worth.
Below, one of the black hats with a megaphone had spotted me and my predicament, and was shouting these instructions up at me. I pulled and bicycled. The black hat yelled. I pulled and bicycled. He yelled some more.
At last, I pulled and bicycled so hard, I nearly twisted in the opposite direction. I had enough time to catch a single breath before preparing to land. I concentrated on keeping my feet and knees together, on keeping my legs slightly bent. I was going to hit harder than the first time (it’s not the fall, but that sudden stop at the end).
Crunch. I landed, not very gracefully, either. But I released my chute after bumping the ground for a few feet, stood on wobbly legs, and packed everything in.
Whatever slapped me across the face left a bruise on my cheek. Back at the BOQ, Tim and my infantry friends (they weren’t in the field this week) brainstormed what on earth could’ve hit me. A strap from my parachute pack, perhaps? No one knew, but they had a lot of fun trying to guess.
The only thing I knew was I had three more jumps to go, one at night and one with full equipment.
So much for carnival rides.
To be continued…