Part 6: Tower Week

Tower Week: In which brain damage seems imminent, in more ways than one

Ah, the abuse continues. I love the smell of sawdust up my nose in the morning. It smells like . . . sawdust.

The ranks were a bit thinner after the weekend and surprisingly, after the first day or two of Tower Week. We lost more officers; one of them was a senior female first lieutenant. We’d talked some and as a senior lieutenant, she was looking out for me.

She pushed through the crowds of soldiers rushing to escape the black hats at the end of the day Monday to tell me herself that she was dropping out. She wasn’t in good enough shape, she told me. Later, she said. She’d come back and do Airborne School later.

But I wondered, if not now, when? Most likely her only other chance at a slot would be if she were assigned to an Airborne unit some time in the future. It was only four more days, but I couldn’t convince her to stay.

They call it Tower Week for a reason. You do lots of stuff in towers. This first is the 34 foot tower where you practice exiting the aircraft.


Why 34 feet? Well, what they told us was this is the elevation where fear of heights kicks in. So it doesn’t matter if you’re 34 feet above the ground or 1,300 feet above the ground. It all feels the same. (I wasn’t totally convinced, but hey, I went with it.)I loved the 34 foot tower. I had no problem with my exits and no hesitation in the mock door. For those who hesitated or had lousy exits, up they went again until they got it right. Hesitating over the drop zone can cause serious problems. Thou shall not hesitate in the door.

After the carnival ride of the 34 foot tower, we moved on to the Swing Landing Trainer.


Also known as the Slam Dunk Trainer, a medieval torture device, and my personal nemesis. It’s a little hard to see, but note the platform. Note how high it is off the ground. Now, direct your attention to the harness. You get strapped into that harness. You step off the platform. Your black hat holds a rope that keeps you suspended above the ground.When you get to the right point, as determined by your black hat, he lets go of the rope. You plummet to the earth.

In theory you’re supposed to do a parachute landing fall. In theory. I landed like this:

Feet. Ass. Head. Feet. Ass. Head. Over and over again. Feet. Ass. Head.

And yes, I was wearing a helmet. I’d lie on the ground for a second and my black hat would peer down at me, shake his head, and say, “Oh, for crying out loud, Lieutenant. What are we going to do with you?” (For whatever reason, my black hat was one of the few who never swore. The worse he ever called us were “freaks” or “weirdoes.”) He’d have me knock out twenty pushups then get back in line.

So I did the Slam Dunk Trainer (appropriately named) over, and over, and over again, until finally I figured out how to shift my weight on landing and crumpled into an acceptable facsimile of a parachute landing fall.

The last part of Tower Week is the 250 Foot Tower, which unfortunately, we didn’t get to do (it’s not a requirement for jump week).

Conditions have to be just right. They haul you up and then let you drop, and you, in theory, do a parachute landing fall. I think it was too windy the day we were scheduled to use the tower, so we didn’t get to. Looks like fun, doesn’t it?In all of this, Captain Greene continued to judge us unworthy. We still carried the mop instead of the Charlie Company guidon. The officers still retreated to their hole during lunchtime. It was dank, and musty, and heated up almost immediately once we were all packed in there.

Think Georgia heat. Think sweat and sawdust. Think aroma.

We were aromatic, to say the least, which made it difficult to eat the lunch I packed. But I had to keep my strength up. I had to make it through the Friday run. I couldn’t imagine dropping out on the very last run and blowing everything.

To be continued…

Part 7: In between again

One response to “Part 6: Tower Week

  1. Wayne Peters

    This was a fun read.

    I had the honor of attending jump school in November, ’78. This web page sure took me back there. The black hats then certainly would not have called you “Lieutenant” (hehe). We had no rank, though the tape on an officer’s helmet did have a number starting with “A”.

    I was a Pvt E2 then, fresh out of infantry training. Jump school was a blast. Though it was not so difficult for me, I did feel bad for the troops who had not just had Basic and Infantry schools immediately prior to jump school.

    Tower week was a ball. I am sorry you did not get to do the 250 ft tower. It was outstanding.

    AIRBORNE! All the Way! (and then some)

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