Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Part 138 - You Stole My Air

The yellow warning light came on, which was the signal for the troopers to stand up and get ready. We attached our static lines to the overhead steel cable that ran from the front to the rear of the plane, and checked our buddy in front of us to make sure his line was properly attached.  The static line was the nylon strap that pulled the parachute out of the pack as the trooper fell away from the plane so it could deploy properly.  Without the static line, jumpers would have to manually pull their ripcord to open the pack, thus allowing the chute to fall from the pack, catch wind, and open up.  It would be terrible if the fellow in front forgot to clip his line to the cable and exited the aircraft.  His chute wouldn’t deploy, and he’d be on his own to activate his reserve chute, which the trooper has been trained to do.

I attached my line to the overhead cable and yanked on it a couple of times to make sure it was securely attached, then checked the trooper in front of me to see that he had done likewise. If he was good to go, I slapped his helmet to let him know I had checked his line.  We then shuffled to the door and waited for the green light.

Standing in line, waiting for our turn to stand in the door of the aircraft, we were packed tighter than sardines in a fish can.  Was I nervous?  Not really; I had been here before, and even if this were my first time, the training I received at Fort Benning was so intense and so thorough, that the only difference between my two weeks of training and the actual jump was a thousand feet. 

During training, I made several jumps from the steel towers that were 250 feet high, and now flying in an aircraft at 1,250 feet when I exited the plane, it was only going to be a longer descent.
The green light came on and the jumpmaster screamed at the top of his voice,

“Go, go, go!”

One after another, the men in my stick shuffled fast to the open door, wind howling in our ears; at the door, each man paused for just a split second, to place his hands on the sides of the doorframe, then leaped vigorously into the prop blast of the roaring engines.

When it was my turn to leap from the plane, I, too, paused for a brief second to place my hands on the doorframe, and then pushing off I took the plunge.  However, instead of clearing the aircraft and falling to the earth below, I felt myself bumping along the aluminum skin of the aircraft, and then, without warning, I was enveloped from head to toe in white nylon, like a funeral shroud.

Something had gone wrong with my exit from the plane, but I had no time to consider my plight. Moments after being wrapped in nylon as though I were in a cocoon, I heard a loud pop, and then watched as the nylon, which only moments before had enveloped me from head to toe, fell away and I found myself walking across the top of an inflated parachute.  I had no idea what had just happened, and couldn’t concern myself with it, for now I had to concentrate on the earth below that was rapidly approaching and prepare myself for a landing.

Approximately two hundred feet above the ground, I heard a voice yelling at me.

“Get out of my way, you son-of-a-bitch, get out of my way!”

I looked around, looked below me, to the side of me, above me, but couldn’t see anyone.  I hit the ground and make a perfect landing – feet and knees together, twisting and rolling, just like I was taught at jump school.  Moments after I hit the ground, another parachutist landed a few feet away from it.  It was one of the 2nd lieutenants who had been sitting across from me in the plane.  He was screaming and yelling at me,

“Why didn’t you get out of my way, you stupid idiot; you stole my air.”

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