Airborne Adventures IV

Jump week. Ft Benning, GA 2003.

Really, Jump Week should be referred to as “bench week” as we spent most of our time sitting on the most uncomfortable benches ever constructed with a couple of parachutes strapped to us. These were purposely designed to cause such discomfort, everyone joyfully boarded the plane without complaint just thankful to be moving again.

As we filed toward the bird in stick order, our lead airborne instructor, a Sergeant First Class and the jump master, grabbed me by the shoulder saying: “Oh no, you’re my Gunny. You’re going out the door first.” Dick. 

As we took off and headed toward the LZ, one of our other instructors was lounging near the open hatch we were to hurl ourselves out of. He casually remarked: “Gunny, you’re usually not so quite. All of sudden you don’t have much to say.”

“I’ll have something to say when I get on the ground,” I managed.

Everyone is supposed to count up to four one thousand after jumping. I guarantee every first time jumper in this picture is actually shouting: “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!”

So there I was, watching trees zip past beneath the open hatch of the plane. There were a number of things the first guy out had to do. I hadn’t bothered remembering any of them as I was always somewhere in the middle of the stick and always concentrated on being a guy in the middle of the stick repeating commands and doing what I was told.

One at a time each member of the stick would check the gear of the guy in front of him. If everything was good to go he would smack the man in front of him in the behind and shout: “All okay!” This was passed all the way to the front to the first man. The guy at the front of the stick (me) was supposed to knife hand the jump master and shout a predetermined phrase indicating everyone was  squared away and ready to go. For the life of me, I could not remember what in the world that phrase was.

“Everything’s cool man!” The jump master shook his head in the negative.

“All’s well dude!” This was also unacceptable.

“All ready to go!” Each of these were punctuated with my knife handing the jump master who finally produced a resigned look on his face.

“Ok jackass, how about, ‘all ok Jumpmaster.'”

“Yeah, that one!”

It was a long week.

Semper Fidelis!
America’s SgtMaj

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  1. Great honor to be first out – can’t have the guy in the lead freezing in the door. First out gets to take a good door position that leads to a good exit and then to a good posture for ‘chute deployment and opening. The guys in the front of the airplane end up running to the door and just leaping at it, or they ricochet off the back edge of the doorway. they’re the ones with the riser burns on their necks and entanglements. Always pull rank and go first out of an airplane.

  2. Sergeant Major,

    I’m sure you will be amused to know that I got an 50 extra push ups due to some sawed off little marine NCO when I was at Ft Benning for jump school. I was an AFROTC cadet, so I was in the cats&dogs platoon, that had cadets, marines, navy, Army finance officers, and who ever else showed up that was not destined for the 82nd Airborne.

    I say “sawed off” because he was the shortest man in the platoon, so when the Black Hats (instructors wore black hats in those days) dressed the platoon for our morning run, he would end on the front right corner.

    Me, being the second shortest man in the platoon, would always be right next to him.

    One morning after our little jog around Ft Benning, we were marking time and singing cadences, to cool down I guess. Or maybe just to give us something to do.

    One of the cadences was the count-down, you know, the “ONE! can’t hear you, TWO, little louder, THREE!” etc. At the end where it becomes “ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR! ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!”

    Our resident marine decided to alter the lyrics by substituting “ONE TWO THREE FOUR! UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS!”.

    Of course the Black Hat leading the formation was standing about three feet away. He whirled around on us with “WHO SAID THAT SHIT?!?!” He then pointed at both of us and ordered “GET DOWN AND GIVE ME SOME PUSHUPS!”

    What the hell? I’m in the Air Force! Why would I say that shit!? Of course I knew better than to argue, and beside, they hated the Air Force far more than the Marine Corps.

    I thanked the marine for the opportunity to do some more pushups, since we were only doing about 700 a day or so, but I think the sarcasm was lost on him.

    Best wishes!

    Five Jump Chump, 1980
    USAF, Retired, 2005

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