Day-9: The 34-Foot Towers Again

Perhaps the harness was too tight on my shoulders.  My left arm was losing strength.  It wasn’t tingling.  It was beginning to become numb.  The PT this morning wasn’t that rigorous.  We ran some.  We did muscle-failure some.  Then we ran some more.  And then did some more muscle-failure, i.e., push-ups, modified supine bicycles, pull-ups, mountain climbers, half-jacks, etc.

Although I did get a great amount of confidence boost yesterday from jumping off the 250-foot tower, the 34-foot tower was still intimidating.  Well, actually, now less daunting.  But then I thought I’m just tired to think about it this time.  I’m just gonna get these jumps done and be out of this miserable harness!  It was tight on me.  You don’t want it loose though because it will pull and shock your groin and the seat of your pants, which is worse than being miserable in a tight harness.  Imagine a 180-pound weight falling from 34 feet and suddenly stopped in mid-air by a harness that barely has any stretching tension like that of a bun jee cord.

I’m just tired to think about it this time.  I’m just gonna get these jumps done and be out of this miserable harness!

The Towers At Fort Benning
The concrete 34-foot tower (left) seems less daunting than the massive red and white 250-foot free tower (center), but the shorter tower remains intimidating still especially when you’re on the verge of leaping off it. [Photo by Mrs. Mike Stevens.]
So we were back at the 34-foot towers to exercise mass exits.  We were divided into groups of four.  (There are only four harnesses per tower door, otherwise, in reality, jumps done off a C-130 are by 10 or 15 jumpers in 1 second intervals.)  My group consisted of 2 officers (1 of whom is female) and 2 NCOs (non-commissioned officers) (1 of whom is female).

We rigged up with a combat bag and a rifle case.  Don’t worry Chaplain it’s only a 2×4 in it, not a real M-16 rifle.  We executed a total malfunction jump.  Well, we had to do three of those where we had to deploy the reserve chute and jettison the combat bag and the rifle case.  I was just beginning to enjoy the ride.  Maybe the Black Hats were right after all.  “It’s a carnival ride,” one said the other day.

Then we executed partial malfunction jumps.  Yes, three of those, too.  This time, though, without the extra baggage.  They call this “Hollywood” jumps, where we had to deploy the reserve chute and yet let up on the main risers.

Well, that was for the the T-10 Delta parachute system.  We got out of the harness, moved over to the right side of the tower and donned yet again another harness, that of the T-11 chute system.  Repeated the routine.  I was really enjoying it this time.  No, really, no sarcasm here.  I really was enjoying it.  I know what to do exactly how to pull my reserve in case of canopy malfunctions.  Good Army training day!

Day-10 Airborne: Caught Speeding

The blue and red lights flickered constantly through the tinted windows.  We sat there, three of us, in the Captain’s jeep.  We had just finished a 5-K run for PT.  We were all drenched in our own sweat.  I quickly clicked my seat belt in the back seat.  The blue and red lights still shone through.  “I don’t have my ID!  Bleep!” said the Captain who was driving.  (He has a nice jeep, by the way.  And thanks to him, I have a ride to school everyday.)

“I pulled you over because you were going 26 on 15-mph zone, and increasing in speed,” said the MP (Military Police).  The Captain violated O.S.D. (Operation Slow Down) which was enforced between the PT hours from 0500 to 0730.  The Specialist just gave him a verbal warning after he cleared the check.  He didn’t even get the Captain for not having his ID with him.  “Chaplain, if you were praying just now, thank you!” said the Captain to me.  Actually I didn’t pray.  It didn’t even occur to me.  He sped, though he didn’t know about the O.S.D.  That’s the law.  But I didn’t say anything back.  It was wiser to just be quiet, you know.

The day dragged on.  We had another block of instruction.  At the harness shed, we performed emergency landing procedures.  We were taught what to do if we landed on trees, wires, and water.  Too easy.  But my left arm was giving up.  Numbness around my elbow.  No tingling, thank God.  Just weak, very weak.  I could barely pull my self up on those risers especially on the diagonal slips that we had to perform.  A diagonal slip consists of pulling only one riser to allow slipping away from another jumper.  This maneuver is faster than pulling two risers.  We completed this easily.

Shortly after we dismissed for lunch, it poured.  A thunderstorm had been predicted all week.  It was finally here.  It reminded me of the typhoons in the Philippines.  The skies were dark.  Gloomy was the day.  But it was only around noon.  Yet it seemed like night.  Half of the class were soaked.  My ACU uniform, on my thighs and chest, was wet.  My PC (Patrol Cap) was soaked.

At any rate, we continued our training.  The flight manifest was distributed.  We were broken up into 12 chalks.  My chalk is 5.  There are 29 of us in chalk 5.  I am the chalk leader.  Our last blocks of instruction for the Day-10 consisted of demonstrations of the malfunctions that can happen and shaking the chutes at the riggers hangar.  On malfunctions, there was the cigarette roll–canopy not opening; and blown sections of canopy–a lot faster descent.  There were more but I can’t recall at this time.  What I got out of it?  Pull the reserve if you’re having any trouble.  “When in doubt, just rip it out!” the Black Hats would say.

We then got our combat bag and rifle case ready for next week’s jumps.  Then we were off for the weekend.