I remember my first nighttime parachute jump when I trained for Special Forces in the U.S. Army.
The night was windy and overcast. No stars for orientation, no moon for light.
The Jumpmaster screamed for us to stand and turn toward the open door of the low-flying C-130 that transported us to our drop zone. We hooked our static lines to the jump cable, buddy-checked each others’ parachutes and the moment arrived. No time for fear. No use for it. Only thing useful was clear thinking.
“Go!” came the command and I shuffled forward and leapt into the night.
Prop wash and wind spun me out of control. The C-130 deployed us in a small drop zone from a paltry 800 feet — little time to think, less time to react.
I grabbed the straps to my parachute and yanked them apart with all my strength. My body cork-screwed. I tried to acquire the ground but saw nothing but darkness. I released my rucksack and started to assume the parachute landing position when the ground slammed me silly.
I lay on my back stunned — no time for fear. I took quick inventory of my body — no grueling pain, just a horrible ringing in my ears from the awful impact. I released my parachute, gathered it, elbowed into my rucksack and ran for cover. It took me over 15 minutes to find the first member of my Green Beret Team.
“My gawd, what a nightmare!” I said and told him my story.
“I know. I never saw the ground either.”
We set off to find our rally point.
When we arrived we learned from our team leader that we had been lucky.
“Jacobs broke his leg,” our captain said. “Had to be medevaced. Harding and Blaylock crashed into the trees and tore themselves up pretty bad. You okay?”
“Never knew what hit me?” my team member said.
I groaned before answering. “Never even got into position.”
“Loose as a goose when you hit?” the captain asked.
“Yes, sir,” we both said.
“Lucky. No time to panic. Probably saved you both serious injuries.”
I couldn’t blame the Special Forces Officer Course. I volunteered for the training.
Keep the faucet of fear turned off.