Written by Lynnette Bohman
“10 Minutes!” Those words were echoed in unison by everyone around me. I felt the words fall off my tongue; the sound vibrated in my head but I could not hear the sound of my own voice. What was I thinking when I agreed to this?
“Get ready!” The Jumpmaster shouted as he followed this command with having all the outboard and inboard personnel stand up. Then just like that we were all in a straight line filling the interior of a C-130 as its engines roared like a lion. As loud as that engine was I was certain the pounding of my heart far exceeded the engine decibles.
“Hook up!” This command trickled back one to the next in line. Oh crap I thought. Once I connect my static line I am definitely committed to this process. The only way out is through that open door at the end of this long line of soldiers. What the hell did I sign up for?
“Check Static Lines!” Ok, am I hooked up? Did I do it right? If I didn’t who do I ask? We didn’t exactly get a class in this part. We have literally trained for months. We have gone thru all the motions. This should be second nature but I don’t know. Breathe. Is the metal clasp outward? Check! Is the static line knot free? Check! Breathe in and exhale.
“Check Equipment!” This is the part I have dreaded. There is so much to remember. Don’t they know this is the first time we have ever done this? Is my kevlar even on my head? Is it connected around my chin? Are my parachute clasps still closed? My reserve – I have a reserve – Thank God! Is the reserve handle still in place as well as the rip cord? Please remember to jump with your hand on that! Ok what is next? Right! Look at your buddy’s static line and make sure it is not tangled. Fix it if it is and do it quickly because “10 Minutes” goes by so quickly!
“Sound Off For Equipment Check!” From the front of the aircraft I begin to hear “OK”, “OK”, “OK” and then I feel it! I forgot all about this part. The soldier behind me proceeded to take the palm of his hand and open hand smack me on my rear end while simultaneously saying “OK!” This jolted me forward to do the same to the soldier in front of me before I even knew what I was doing; muscle memory at its finest. This barbaric ritual continued until the last soldier in front of the jumpmaster yelled out “All ok Jumpmaster!”.
Here we go, my brain teased me, you ready? It felt like an eternity until I heard the jumpmaster say “1 min”. My heart leaped in my throat. “30 seconds” he shouted as my knuckles whitened their grip around my static line. “Stand in the door!” WOAH! Hold up! Can we just stop for a second? What was I thinking? When did I ever think it was a good idea to jump from an aircraft at 1500ft in the air? That recruiter was a smooth talker with a well put together video presentation. Dammit!
“GO! GO! GO!” shouted the jumpmaster. The beautiful spacing that we all had created just turned in to the biggest cluster ball from hell. I couldn’t say no if I wanted to as I felt the body of soldiers pushing everyone forward. As I came closer to the door the reality of what was happening completely engulfed me. I handed my static line to the jumpmaster, turned to the right and jumped.
The force by which I was thrown into the air cannot be compared to any other familiar feeling. As a kid I would put my whole arm out the window of the car and feel it whip around uncontrollably. This was different; this was my whole body.
A forceful jerk stopped me and I looked up to see a round, Army green parachute floating me to the ground. “Thank you Lord.” Fear turned to amazement as I realized I was above the tree tops. The quiet beauty was serene and I marveled at God’s handiwork.
The ground was coming quicker than I realized. My mind adjusted promptly from leisure parachute rider to what the heck did they tell us in training? Wait…five point landing ok. If I put my feet together I got this. As my feet hit the ground I tried my best to execute a perfect PLF (parachute landing fall).
I quickly learned a valuable lesson that would carry me through my entire Airborne career. All jumps end with feet, ass, head!