My first encounter with airplanes came about when, as a young soldier, I decided that the uniform of a paratrooper was the sharpest thing going.Â Glistening jump boots, tailored shirts and jackets adorned with jump wings, and soft hat with the distinctive hat-patch was “IT.”Â The offer of an extra $50.00 per month sealed the deal.
Â Little did I realize that along with this dazzling look came weeks of pushups, five-mile runs, hours of hanging in a harness and constantly being told that I did not “have whatÂ it takes..”Â In addition, I was actually expected to leap from an aircraft in fright.Â After discovering this, there was little to do but to endure this punishment short of “Quitting,” and this was considered a fate worse than death by my fellow would-be “troopers.”
Â All of the rigorous training did nothing to squelch my desire to be able to sport this snazzy uniform; and I suffered, along with my peers, the humiliation that was inflicted upon us by the jump school cadre.
Â Finally the day came when we were marshaled onto the tarmac beside a waiting C-46 and ordered to strap on “Parachutes.”Â When we had succeeded in getting the harness attached to our quaking bodies to their satisfaction, we were told to load up.Â Climbing up the steep ladder into the plane was a chore, what with the extra weight of the very uncomfortable parachute along with our nervousness.
Â Small canvas seats were installed on each side of the plane, one of which we each were assigned.Â We were told that the men on each side of the plane were called a “stick.”Â Stick number one would jump first, followed immediately by stick number two.Â The jumpmaster then rehearsed the jump commands for us, the pilot started the engines, and we began to roll to the airstrip.
Â The plane took off and climbed to an altitude of one thousand feet that was the prescribed height for training jumps, and headed for the drop zone.Â The jumpmaster stood with his head out of the door and searched for the panels on the ground that marked the drop zone.
Â When he was certain that everything was as it should be, he turned and gave the command to “STAND UP”.Â Mixed emotions ran through the minds of all of us upon hearing this command; something between being deeply concerned and terrified. I suppose that the feeling of being “scared sh-t less” was the most likely definition.
Â The next commands of HOOK UP, CHECK EQUIPMENT and SOUND-OFF FOR EQUIPMENT CHECK were followed as though we were a bunch of robots.Â Then the next command of STAND IN THE DOOR was shouted over the roar of the engines.Â As one, the entire stick began a shuffle to the rear of the plane and to the door.Â When the first trooper had reached and exercised his pivot into the door, the jumpmaster slapped him on the rump and shouted GO.Â Everyone followed this first man into empty space with only the static line as a link to the real world.
Â Miraculously the parachute opened and we floated to the ground with a feeling that we had just been spared a terrible death.Â After four more jumps we were paraded in front of the big brass, our wings were pinned above the left pocket of our blouse, and to a man, we felt that we had not only conquered, but — WE OWNED THE WORLD!
What happens if you get scared to death, ~~ TWICE?