Sunday, May 16, 2010

Coffee Shop Thoughts

Fr. Manpurse blog

I think I'm paranoid


I think I'm paranoid

Too complicated

--I Think I'm Paranoid
, Garbage

Did you know that water's

not to blame if you drown?

Can't blame the stone
for being cold

The Wired, Machinae Supremacy

Got to concentrate

don't be distractive

Turn me on tonight

Cause I'm radioactive

, The Firm

Continuing my trip down memory lane (and you're invited to join in) . . .

While sitting in a coffee shop recently, an Army memory was awakened watching two young male customers of military age. One was schlumpy, slouchy and gamboling about and the other was standing strongly and calmly on both legs while waiting behind the first for service.

mise en scene returned Ranger to memories of jump school and general thoughts on having been a paratrooper. While most writing here is about the fallacies of the military and the folly of war, positive life lessons were gained from my military experience.

The start of this process was Jump School in August of '68, and the first lesson was to stand firmly on both legs, and not to cock one's hips like a girly man. As we were expected to carry heavy loads, only that stance would gain the objective. As men we should stand on two legs; what could be simpler and more profound?

From stance emerged memories of the jump commands grilled into every jumper's brain. This is doubly true for those that trained for jumpmaster duties. The jump commands elicit
immediate, ingrained reaction-response from any former trooper. We never forget the jump commands because they kept us alive; they were valuable tools for life.

The verbal jump commands are issued in tandem with visual hand cues from the jumpmaster. It's extremely noisy in a troop carrier when the doors are opened approximately twenty minutes prior to hitting the release point, so the double message insures the command will not be missed.

The aircraft is usually blacked out for security purposes so we learn to use our eyes and ears in a coordinated manner. This synchronization is not always employed in daily life. However, the more input we have, the better decision we can make. Look --> Listen --> Act, that is the formula.

From commands, thoughts went to equipment. Being a soldier implies having a near-religious belief in your fellow troopers, and by extension, one's equipment. Our lives hung from pieces of nylon sewn together and rigged by other men. Jumping out of an aircraft at 180 knots at 700 ft. altitude in pitch black is not an act of blind faith but rather a result of training and trust. If we did not trust we would never exit an aircraft in fl(r)ight.

The jump commands themselves are simple:

  • Get Ready
  • Stand Up
  • Hook Up
  • Check Equipment
  • Sound Off for Equipment Check
  • Stand in the Door
  • GO
Each carries its own lesson. We will break them down now:

Get Ready:

This may seem a superfluous command, but it is accurate and significant.

Hours, days, weeks and years compress into this one command. We are sitting there tighter than a dick's hatband, and do we need to be told to "get ready"? You bet. This command locks-and-cocks us, telling us that everything is going as planned and now it is our turn to enter the fray. Whether it be actual or training in nature, the response is the same.

Get ready means you kick the switch. This initiates last-minute adjustments in preparation for and anticipation of the next command.

Next post:
Stand Up.


  1. While in jumpmaster school in Panama (a famously slack JM course run by 7th SFGA) I once watched a flash-qualified O-3 make a full 360 while doing his door check and issuing jump commands.

    The blackhat gently unwound his static line from around his neck and we drove on.

    "The sky, even more than the sea, is unforgiving of the slightest mistake"

  2. Chief,
    I just made the same comment about the sky and sea over at RAW.
    I saw some bad things happen with misrouted static lines. Things like towed jumpers to muscle ripped off of an arm.
    My static line was always my biggest concern.
    Strangelyi don't remember ever checking staic lines on helo jumps.

  3. Actually, I used to hate jumpmastering 'Hooks because of the way the damn static lines would wallop around all over the back of the thing. I never had a malfunction or injury, but the freakish way they'd flail around just made me a little crazy.

    But, yeah, static line control was always a problem.