Monday, June 06, 2005

Jumping with the Brits, interlude

Let's see, a few questions in the comments here . . .

Oh yeah, they had a climbing frame at one of the bases where we stayed, but it wasn't tied to the airborne stuff - our hosts just thought we would enjoy it. And, back in the day, one of the coolest things the radio guy could do on an extended field problem was pull out the AN/PRC-74 and tune in commercial shortwave stations - BBC World Service was always a favorite.

In theory, if somebody jump-refuses in the door, the jumpmaster is supposed to give them three chances to jump (by yelling Green Light, GO!, three times) and then pull them out of the door. I've never seen it happen. In practice, unless you were the last man in the stick, I don't think that you could stop in the door - once the adrenaline gets going and the stick starts moving, you're sort of swept away by events - besides, the guy behind you would probably run right over you. If you did freeze in the door, by the time they could get you out of the way, the drop zone would most likely be long gone, so yes, the aircraft would have to racetrack and make another pass.

Although I've personally considered being a jump refusal about eighty times, I've only actually seen two jump refusals in my entire career - one was on the aircraft in Airborne School on our first jump: one of the trainees decided that the life of a paratrooper was not the life for him, but that happened pretty much as soon as we took off. The other one happened on the ground, when two experienced 82nd Airborne NCOs psyched a kid fresh out of jump school into not jumping. We were about to jump into phase one of the Q course, and our lift was delayed because the first lift had someone hurt on their jump. The two experienced jumpers fell to describing and embellishing all the grisly airborne accidents they had seen, heard of or could make up on the spot, and the poor kid let it get to him, which ended his SF career before it began - but both of the jump refusals happened before they could interfere with the jump.

And yes, you can wear one pair of foreign wings - pilot or parachutist - on your dress uniforms. Foreign wings go above the right pocket. If you've earned more than one set of foreign wings, you get to pick which ones you wear. British wings on the US uniform are kind of a pain, because the British normally wear cloth parachutist wings sewn onto their uniforms. Wings on the US uniform have to be the metallic pin-on type, so you have to search around to find pin-on British jump wings. Supposedly, the British wear metal pin-on wings on their dress-mess uniforms, so you can find them in a metallic version for sale, but for all I know, the only people who buy them are Americans who wear them as foreign wings.

I'm an old jumper, but not that old: SOF troops still start issuing jump commands at six minutes, but then, we're jumping a dozen or so people at a time instead of 64. On my one (and please, my only) jump with the 82nd Airborne, they started at the ten minute mark. (I had just graduated the Q course, and was riding around Bragg with a friend of mine who was in my class. He had come from the 82nd, and his Sergeant Major had given him a lot of help and encouragement in moving to SF, so he wanted to go by and say "Thanks." I went in with him, and in the course of the conversation, it came out that I had gone straight from jump school to the Q course. The Sergeant Major told me that, if I was going to be airborne, I should understand what a real airborne operation looked like. They had one going on the next night, and my friend and I were invited to strap-hang. Let's just say that I never understood the "mass" in mass tactical until that jump.) And, until I jumped with the Brits, I'd never seen the dial of death - although the more experienced jumpers with me recognized it right away.

If the current Brit harness and chute is based on the version they were in the process of modifying, it's a great chute - and the harness is much more comfortable than ours.

And, finally, I don't jump out of "perfectly good airplanes." I jump out of military airplanes. Back when I started jumping, flight crew pay used to be $150 a month, and jump pay was $110. Flight crewmen used to claim that was because their job required greater intelligence than jumping, but our take was that the extra $40 a month compensated them for the additional danger of landing - we got to get out before then. Actually, jumping is one of those things that's scarier than it is risky - Something to do with our monkey brains screaming "Don't fall out of the tree!" at us. Once you get through that, it's a hell of a ride.


Anonymous Kristy said...

As always, a detailed and interesting answer. Thanks so much.

I don't know if your training is classified and can't be shared, but if you're able to, it would be great to know more about what Q course was like.

12:43 AM  
Anonymous Kristy said...

Oh, and I forgot: Could I ask one more question from someone conversant with militaryspeak? Do "roger" and "copy" mean the same thing?

1:18 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

When I went through jump school and got to the 82nd in 1986, we were using the 6 minute time schedule. You could even smoke on the planes, back then, as unbelievable as that sounds. By the time I got back from Korea and Desert Storm in 91, they had switched over to standing us up at 10 minutes. Good post.

3:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first foreign jumpwings were Vietnamese. I don't speak Vietnamese. Some French, which was how I got by. There were still a good number of senior people right out of Jean Larteguy. No brief to jump at the Saigon Jump School, just some occasional pointing. Every young VN Ranger's eyes looked like silver dollars. That's how you can't tell when people are scared and souped up. White showing all around the pupil. It was simple. Red light don't jump, green light jump. Follow the guy ahead of you and think of the geedunk.

On the DZ, they had "parachute boys" like caddies to chain knot your chute and risers and carry your bag back to the bus.

My second set of wings I got with ROK SF. We jumped into a construction site in Chinhae using a brand new jumpmaster. It was gusting mucho knots. We tossed out two SF guys in rough terrain gear as wind dummies. No problem. No way to back out. The winds accelerated and we ended up putting guys all over through a plate glass window, one dribbled down a factory smoke stack...

No one sustained a scratch, but the CO got himself into a sort of perpetual motion machine when his chute draped over a wall would fill up, drag him up, then spill and repeat.

So two sets of wings, and the Navy suddenly decides no foreign breast devices in the late '70's.

A decade or so later I get Master ROK SF wings. I keep'em in a drawer.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous T-10 said...

I've had two tours on jump status and never saw a jump refusal. I was the Air Liaison Officer at Grafenwohr, Germany and managed to convince my boss that I needed to get my German parachutist wings. I got a slot in an Auslander (foreigner) course at Altenstadt in Bavaria along with a Pakistani, a Mali, and eight Italian commandos. Our first jump was on a 10-second (that's short!) drop zone. I was number three or four in the stick so I knew there wasn't much time to waste if I didn't want to end up straddling a fence or tree so when the green light came on I started moving. Things were going pretty good until the Italian ahead of me rotated into the door and stopped! I just kept moving and "assisted" his exit. He swore at me all the way to the ground (we were playing "dodgem canopies") and for a few minutes afterward! Turns out he expected an individual tap out by the jumpmaster like they do back home. I told him that the Americans keep moving as long as the light is green. Talk about a cultural "clash!" We still drank beer.

3:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too fondly remember hanging below the hydrogen ballon in a wheelless deuce-and-a-half trailer with some RAF bloke unclipping the door and saying "Alright, off you go."
One of our guys that day earned his jumpmaster wings with that jump and let me tell you that the Brits I was with had never, ever seen Blood Wings being awarded...
As far as how you get your wings on, I took my cloth British wings and took the pins from one of my ribbons (a two-pin model) and hot-glued it to the back. Worked like a charm and looks great! Probably not much help to you now I'd guess.

3:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the stories in the comments as much as the alphageek stories.

Thanks guys! Wish I could have been there...(for the beer). hehehe

TX girl

5:38 PM  
Blogger Snake Eater said...

Ah, the AN/PRC-74. That was my radio. We used that along with the GRA-71 coderburst. When the AN/PRC-70 and the DMDG came along, things were just never the same.

I guess everything's probably SATCOM now, which is about as easy as dropping a dime in a payphone. Back then there was still a bit of mystery to the other guys on the team as you cut your antenna to length and strung it up in the trees.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Cop the Truth said...

I always thought that the extra money the flight crew made was hazardous duty pay...for when the troops you dumped in the trees came looking for you.

3:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Need help. I am in the army and I have my US jump wing. early this year i went to poland and made four jumps with polish parachute army and got my polish jump wing. i got a polish airborne diploma as well as polish orders signed by the polish colonel stating that i am authorized to wear the polish wings. however, i do not have U.S. Army orders on polish wings and therefore it is not on my DD214. Does it still considered that i earned the badge? and can i wear it on my class As?? My commander says i could but im not sure. do foreign jump wings get on DD214??? please help. thank you.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a very similar Balloon story. In 2000 my company took a trip over the big blue from pope AFB to Belgium. It was a kind of field trip/training exercise. We went to visit all the places the 82nd had jumped in WWII. Pretty cool experience. We stayed in a little town called Deist with 1 PARA of the Belgian Para commandos the equivalent of our SF units. The Citadel where we stayed was built into the side of a mountain and had a moat and caves around it only one exit. I know this because myself and a few of the scout boys tried to exfil out of the area late one evening and ended up meandering threw some caves with a BIC lighter and eventually came out back inside the Citadel. Foiled again!. Besides all the crazy nights and women which we couldn’t understand, we had we actually come to train.

We commenced our training with a terrifying rock climbing and repelling experience which until then we had no idea that we were doing. The Belgians have a massive course set up that I don’t think I could even describe. Lets just say it was horrifying. I have never seen guys who are used to jumping from high speed aircraft cringe in fear like they did during that training!. The training was followed up by a zip line of sorts which started at the top of the mountain that we all almost fell off of going up and ran all the way down at least 1000 ft and connected to the castle below. (there was no high tension cable! It was just a big Fat hemp rope) and so ended the mountain portion now on to bigger and better things like jumping out of a balloon!.

We commenced our training at Shaffen DZ in Belgium we had no idea what was in store for us. As we marched along we caught first glimpse of our Balloon and subsequently found out that we would be falling from this contraption. It was a nice day out the weather was sunny and there was hardly any wind a good day to jump. The balloon could only hold 4 jumpers and a jump master. We received our parachutes which I have to say were much nicer than the ol' T10C we had back at Bragg. We got the old hurry up and wait..........and we sat on the DZ watching our companions load up on the rig and slowly float up. the balloon went to about 1000 ft. so we defiantly didn’t have the same problem as you described. At least they didn’t tell us that we could snap the cable and go sailing off. finally after some hours of waiting and starving as the Belgians don’t eat breakfast!!!! It was my turn. I think back and I cant even tell you who went with me. As we were going up I realized just how peaceful it was and that actually freaked me out. When you jump out of a C-130 you have a whole stick of guys behind you pushing you out...even if you didn’t want to jump I think you would have no choice you get cough up in the violence of action!!!! Here in this balloon its just you and 4 others and there is no rush....besides the fact that you must wait until the balloon rotates in such a manor that when you jump you don’t go crashing into the cable anchoring you to the ground(Fatal accident). The Belgians do it the old fashioned way. Stand in the door...left foot slightly hanging out of the door. Both hands on the skin of the metal you can push yourself out to avoid the cable. Chin on the chest looking down....then the wait....its quiet......The jump master shouts something in belgique and slaps you on the back side...I guess that was GO! so I jump. I will take you back for a second while I hang in mid air. Just before we loaded the Balloon we were told that the 4 second opening we were used to and that was drilled into our very souls 1 thousand..... two thousand....... three thousand 4 thousand.....No canopy....Reserve!!!! well this was to be discarded for a 6 second opening!!!! at or around the 4 second mark it took everything in my power not to pull that damn reserve..5 thousand and 6 thousand were the LONGEST 2 seconds of my life. My canopy opened just fine and I was shocked when I looked up and didn’t see that cammo net that I was used to seeing. There actually was a lot of silk up there which made for a smooth decent. as I looked down I saw my First Sergeant standing below looking up at me. I Then did something amazing...I did a standing landing.......It was the first time I had ever landed so softly. I looked over at my First sergeant as my canopy collapsed around me. He looked right back at me....With the most pissed off look I have ever seen and yelled THERE ARE NO STANDING LANDINGS IN THE 82nd AIRBORNE DIVISION!!!!!!!!!I had been standing long enough for my parachute to colapse..what did I do a PLF just to make the man happy. It was probably the funniest moment I had in the army. I got my foreign wings and all was good.

6:19 PM  

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