Want to be a paratrooper?
I have to admit, I’ve always wanted to jump. Closest I ever got to it was rappelling out of the bottom of Marine Corps CH-47 Helicopter into a bomb crater on top of a hill in Vietnam. That was nerve-wracking enough, but jumping out of an airplane under a chute at 1500 feet and 130 mph? That is another thing altogether.
It’s not for everyone. It isn’t just a matter of wanting to do it. You have to be in shape. It takes strength and agility.
The training regimen for the basic parachutist badge involves a three-week program that includes learning the first, very important skill, the basic tuck and roll. You don’t move on until you learn this. It’s a matter of reducing the possible injuries that can occur when you hit the ground at the end of the jump.
The second week you jump underneath a canopy from a 250-foot tower. At this point it still seems like an amusement park ride. You are still on terra firma, but the skills learned here are also important for a successful jump. Oh, it might be a bit more thrilling, but it’s still not the real thing.
It’s in the third week that you find out whether you are made of the right stuff for becoming a paratrooper. It’s in this week that you go up in an airplane. You stare down at the earth from over a thousand feet. You get over the jump zone and everything begins to happen quickly. Your turn comes and you take the leap, feel the force of the wind, then check your canopy and keep your eyes on the target. You drift down in silence, concentrating on all the little details from your training and about the landing.
It’s got to be a thrill.
You have to do five successful jumps before you earn your Basic Parachutist Badge, or “Jump Wings.”
As I indicated above, I’ve always wanted to do this, but life happened and I never did it. It is still on my bucket list though and this year may be the year that I finally do it. Our 3rd Recon Battalion, 3rd Mar. Div. reunion is going to be in Tucson, Arizona this year and one of our battalion members owns a jump school near there. It is my hope to finally get the opportunity to parachute while I am there in the fall. It will certainly be a tandem jump, but at 69 years of age, that’s OK by me.
To those veterans and current military who have earned their Jump Wings, and those who have actually jumped under combat conditions, you have this writer’s and the Veterans Site’s deepest respect. Thank you for your courageous service to the nation.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.