The PLF (Parachute Landing Fall) I performed on my first jump on Day 11 wasn’t perfect.  I didn’t shift my knees well enough.  So it was feet, then shoulder!  Nonetheless I was relieved I landed and that I was fine.  By the way, I now remember, I did let out a loud “Woohoo!” when I saw the beautiful dark green T-10 canopy opened up on my first jump.  My Chaplain Training Director was right!  “Trust your training, trust your equipment; but most of all, trust your God!”

Day 12 for us began a little later.  0830 hrs was our accountability formation.  We ran to the airfield again.  Today, we got to test the T-11s.  I kind of like the T-10s better.  They open a lot faster.  They’ve been tested since 1940.  The T-11 is new.  We’re one of the first classes to use the T-11s.  The advantage that T-11 has is its slower descent, therefore, softer landing.  Because it is bigger than the former, it can also carry more weight.  Nonetheless, the Army knows what they’re doing.

We did our necessary pre-jump reviews and mock door exits.  Then we got back into our chalk formations.  It was only 1030.  MREs were already distributed.  A Black Hat called for a quick meeting with the Alfas (Officers) and Novembers (Non-Commissioned Officers).  “I apologize in advance but we have to eat now before we go into the harness shed,” said the Black Hat.  Once our equipments were JMPI’d, we weren’t allowed to touch any of it except to guard the rip cord grip of the reserve.  So we ate lunch outside.  An early lunch.

I didn’t eat much.  I didn’t want to eat a lot because I didn’t want to feel like going to the bathroom once I donned on my harness.  It would be miserable.  I already mentioned that the T-11s are heavier.  If you didn’t get the right harness adjustment, then it would be even more excruciating.  One of the Black Hats told us that if we wore a 3 on the T-10, then we should get the T-11 adjusted to 2.  We were supposed to obey orders, right?  Right.  So I did.  Another Black Hat inspected my harness and asked, “Why do you a 2?  Try a 3, you look miserable!”  Well, thanks, Black Hat.  Your compatriot told us to don on a lower adjustment, so I did.  OK, I will next time, I thought.  It was going to take a lot of time to take it off, adjust it, and then put it on again.  I didn’t want to bother with that.  So I suffered.

Shortly after noon, we were on the air again.  I felt more calm this day than Day 11.  I knew more of what to expect.  But this time it was a different chute.  I took comfort upon the fact that, I would descend slower, thus I would have had a softer landing.  But then, perhaps I was just too tired to think about being scared.  I still prayed, though.  My reliance and strength comes from the Lord.  And I wanted God to know I acknowledged it.

This time I ended at the beginning of the line.  I didn’t want to jump first.  I would have to stand close to the exit door for a longest minute and have all the privilege and opportunity to look out and below before I would get the “Green light, go!” command.  I didn’t like that feeling.  I don’t.  So I asked the other Alfas to switch.  One did.  So now I was second jumper.  I felt better.

“One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand, five thousand, six thousand!”  And I let another loud “Woohoo!” again as soon as I gazed at the opened canopy.  I didn’t feel any pain but later I found out the left riser scratched my neck.  I didn’t tuck my head into my chest far enough.  On the next jump I would be more conscious of that.  No blood.  No worry.  My landing wasn’t any better.  Got to rotate my body more.  Feet together.  Knees slightly bent.  Shifted knees to left as I drifted front-ward.  Should’ve rotated upper body to right!  Left arm hit the ground.  Gravity victorious.

Jump 2 on Day 12 was even worse.  It would count as my third jump.  This time it was combat style.  Talon-J pack strapped to my legs just ‘neath my reserve around my waist.  Rifle case on my left bow-tied around the equipment ring.  Both combat equipment attached to a six-to-seven-foot lowering line so we’d have the option to either just lower or completely jettison them depending on the type of landing.

Why was this worse?  Heavier still on my shoulders.  Walked like a penguin.  Rifle case getting in the way, hitting my left armpit.  Torture.  Too much stuff to do before landing.  Glad I don’t have to do this at my unit since I’m not allowed to handle weapons by virtue of my MOS (Military Occupation Specialty[?]).

We quickly loaded on the Hercules again.  This time I was to exit through the left door as the last jumper.  Good, I don’t have to worry about getting tangled up in the air with another jumper.  This happened several times for the guys who were middle jumpers.  Earlier, two jumpers could not untangle themselves.  Not exactly sure what the details were but I think one jumper was right on top of the canopy of another.  Then they got tied up and landed together.  Neither one was hurt badly.  The ambulance picked them up though.

I saw the other day a tall soldier with blood all over his face.  He was grinning as I was staring at him.  “You okay, man?” I asked.  He said, “Yes, I’m fine, sir.”  I didn’t pursue any further.  Later on, I heard he was the one who lost his helmet early on his exit.  Chute harness pulled it right off.  Helmet plummeted to the ground twice the speed of the jumper’s descent.  Jumper landed and hit his face on the ground–probably broke his nose.  Bad day.

There were fractures, sprained ankles, accidental activation of reserves, etc.  This meant attrition.  Many of these would be recycled to the next class.  On this third jump, aside from the torturous nature of the combat rigging, there were at least two other noteworthy events.  First, the delay.  I was the last jumper.  The third officer from me, his harness got caught on another harness that was hanging inside on the skin of the aircraft.  He couldn’t move.  The other lieutenant next to him tried to untangle him.  Then I helped, too; but it was too late.  The rest of the chalk (squad) have already exited.  We three remained.  The jump masters asked us what happened.  We told them.  So we landed.  Picked the next chalks.  Went back up in the air.  Exited the aircraft.  Beautiful.  Well except for the second noteworthy event.

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T-11 Chutes [Photo by Brandy Stevens]
The T-11 canopy has more of a square shape.  The T-10, round.  At about 300 feet above ground I lowered my Talon-J pack.  Forgetting something.  Prepared to land.  Drifted backwards, slightly to the right.  So I pulled a right slip.  Forgetting something.  Held a right slip.  Landed!  Feet.  Knees shifted to the right.  Buttocks.  Back.  Back?  Should’ve been right pull-up muscle!  Activated canopy release as I was dragged about 12 feet on dirt still in the same supine position of my landing.

With a bullhorn, the Black Hat on the DZ (Drop Zone), neared towards me.  “Alfa, why didn’t you lower your rifle case?” he looked at me quizzically.  I was still on my back trying to get out of the miserable harness.  “I forgot, Sergeant Airborne.”  He left me alone.  I got up, collected my chute, called for a buddy and hauled our backs to the en-trucking zone.

The en-trucking zone was located on the southend of the DZ, about a mile from where I landed.  I really sucked on those double time marches.  I do admit it.  I breathed hard, sweating like no other.  Two more jumps! was my comforting thought.  But we were done for the day.  Thank the Lord.

Day 13: 4th and 5th Jumps

We did the same routine as in day 11.  The plan today was to perform another Hollywood jump on the T-11.  (Hollywood jump is a regular jump without combat equipment.)  We were also to do a night jump with combat equipment.

We geared up for our fourth jump.  I donned on a 3 harness this time.  Oh, it was so much more comfortable.  The salon pas patches on my shoulders, however, activated.  And boy, it burned.  It burned on my skin for a long time.  Then we hear the news.  “Airborne, we’re not going to be able to do a night jump tonight” said the CO (Commanding Officer).  A Ranger Regiment got a priority to use the airfield for their night operations and they would shut down the entire airfield by 1900.  We were planning to load up at 2030.  So, we scratched night jump.  “But you would have to double time everything if you were to do a fifth qualifying jump in order to graduate this Friday,” added the CO.  “Otherwise, you will be here on Saturday or with Charlie company two weeks from today to do your fifth jump.  So quickly complete your 4th.  Double time on the drop zone.  Throw your main in the truck.  Bring your reserve with you and you go on the bus.  Get back to the Riggers to pick up another chute.  Then rig up in the harness shed and do your final jump today.  Everything needs to happen before 1900, understood?”  A thunderous “Hooah!” was heard throughout the shed.

Many of us were glad for that.  We don’t have to be here ’til midnight!  Yeah!  Of course the disadvantage is we won’t have the experience of jump at night.  Well, actually, for some, all the jumps they did were all ‘night’ because they close their eyes!  Nonetheless I was determined I didn’t care for that because I know back at my unit we do night ops.  I’ll just have to wait for that experience.  I could wait for that.  I can wait for that.

On the fourth jump I was determined to perfect my exit technique tucking in my chin snug to the chest.  I didn’t want my neck burnt by the risers.  Did you see those two officers’ faces.  Both the left sides of their faces were scraped.  Skinned by the risers for sure.  I know how it happened.  They didn’t tuck their heads deep enough to their chest.  Don’t want that to happen to me, uh-uh!

Success!  Nice vigorous exit.  Not so perfect landing though.  Got to improve on that PLF.  On that fourth jump, moreover, one member of my chalk got badly hurt.  Static line incident.  Hurt the Marine’s bicep and tore a muscle in his pectoral region.  No opened wound though, but the static line left her long and impressive mark on him.  He would go to the hospital and would have to do his 5th jump within the next 6 months.

My fifth and final jump was perfect!  No other way to describe it.  Nice vigorous exit.  My PLF was model!  Feet and knees together.  Feet.  Shifted.  Calves.  Rotated.  Buttocks.  Pull-up muscle.  Just perfect.  Thank the Lord!  “Woo!”  “Congratulations!” were uttered all around.  I shook hands with all the jumpers in my chalk.  Very good day.