Now I do not really pay much if any attention to what happens in the Army, I was in the Army, did my time and was medically retired. So I can not say if this is still the practice or not.
I am not sure who told us this, probably one of the jump masters but he used to say that "Parachuting or Jumping from airplanes wasn't a very big deal, and that we should count ourselves lucky because civilians consider it a sport and pay to do it. Of course he pointed out that Uncle Sam stupidly paid us to to it. He also told us that military jumping is different from civilian sport jumping.
While civilian parachuting was fairly safe and was supposedly to be done for fun. Military parachuting was by inherently dangerous. Because for the military it was nothing more than a means to deliver soldiers and equipment to battlefields in far off places. Once there we had to fight, kill and take a chance on being killed.
Anyway back in the mid 1970's while I was doing time at Clark AB, we received an offer from the Philippine Army to do a few jumps with them. Enough to qualify everyone who jumped with Philippine Army Jump wings. So we liked to collect jump wings from just about any country that would allow us to jump the minimum to qual with, it used to be five jumps from an altitude of 1,200 feet. There might have been something about type of aircraft and of course there was a bunch of the "the silver wings are coveted by many, but worn my a select few" propaganda going around.
I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As I was saying we used try to jump from any friendly country we could or countries that were at least not shooting at us.
Germany, Panama, South Korea, Republic of China and the PI among the many out there. Usually we had a wing exchange, we gave them a set of ours and they gave us a set of theirs and of course you could add that to your 201 file, if you made enough qualifying jumps from a qualifying altitude.
So here we are in the PI and word comes down that the Philippine Army is going to do some qualifying jumps and we were invited along. Of course they did not mention that if was out of a C-47 Douglas Skytrain.
We loaded up and worked out way through the four day light jumps and then came the last jump which was a night jump. imho things were going great, no fights, no one showed up drunk, no was was fighting or trying to kill someone else. But hey it was still early in the evening and stuff happens.
We had this one PFC who was a pretty decent guy, but he was not what the Army called a hard charger, he was more like a lets all just get along and take it one day at a time kind of guy.
As it came to pass he was the first guy in his stick, right behind me (I was the last guy in my stick) for our jumps.
Well I can honestly say that I am not a huge fan of flying, and especially in a third world country's planes. Like the C-47 Skytrain which had been in service or use since 1938.
Of course Republic of China and Canada were still using the Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar way past 1988 and I managed to jump safely out of it in both countries.
So like I said, here we go gearing up for the night jump, after we had a nice fall your rear end asleep slide show or what is now known as a death by power point presentation. But I think that there are a boat load of rivers, swamps and other nasty terrain features in the jump area can only be said some many times, no matter how you slice and dice it.
And PFC Ward was still stuck right on my rear end as the first man in his stick, so as we were sitting in our seats waiting for the plane to eventually reach the drop zone, Philippine pilots are just like American military pilots. They have to get so many flight hours in to stay current/qualified. What it meant to us (the jumpers) was that the planes just did not go up reach the drop zone, push us out the door and fly home. What they did is fly to the designated drop zone and then they circled around it for a set period of time and then they push us out.
All well and good for them, but we were geared up and in uncomfortable positions and had to sit that way till we were given the go ahead to stand up.....so you either prayed, wrote a note home, fell asleep, talked story to the guys around you or just stared at the guy in front of you.
So the C-47 that we were on was a creaky old girl and you could hear loud creaking sounds as well as other noises like pings and screeches, the cracking and popping noises were the worst, imho.
I don't know who started it, but someone started talking about air worthiness of the C-47. I eventually chimed in that everyone should know that Uncle Sam sent just about everyone to war with the bare minimum of training. That in WWII some pilots were sent to England with less than one hour in their assigned aircraft. On average that 6,600 men died per month, that breaks down to about 220 per day, mostly ground pounders like us and that I think that somewhere around 95,000 planes were lost/destroyed with about 53,000 written up as operational loses the total was for both theaters.
I did not notice that Ward was looking a bit pale, and continued on with some C-47 crashes, one in 1957. That one happened in the PI and took the life of the 7th President of the Philippines (Ramon Magsaysay) and 24 other passengers. Of course 28 men died in the Naper Nebraska crash back in August of 44, 19 more men were lost when Pushy Cat crashed in the Australia in 1943 and on I went for quit some time, just before the signal came to get ready, I mentioned after a particularly loud snapping sound/groan and a subsequent bit of turbulence that if we hit the ground we would probably leave a nice sized debris field approximately 200ft wide and around a mile and a half long. PFC Green and PV2 Horn weighed in with some gory details of picking up bodies after a crash and a few other guys tossed in some gory details.
Then came the command to get ready, quickly followed with stand up.....then the following six commands came......
There are eight or were eight commands when getting ready to exit a perfectly good aircraft.
1. Get Ready
2. Stand Up
3. Hook Up
4. Check Static Line
5. Check Equipment
6. Sound Off For Equipment Check
7. Stand In The Door
And out the door you go. Of course in a best case scenario you do not have to pull the D handle on your chute, the static line does (If you are jumping static line) the static line automatically pulls it for you once you exit the door and have reach a certain distance (there is 15 foot of static line assembly). Just in case a static line is a fixed cord (permanently)attached to your chute pack or a large stable object. What it does it automatically open a parachute.
Then all of a sudden I felt Ward (the guy in the stick behind me) fall into me. So I shoved him back and then I guess the guy behind him pushed him back towards me and then we were shuffling/moving forward towards the door and Ward was riding my rear end like he was planning on asking me for a date or something. While flattered, I just do not go that way, so a pushed him back again and then he came back and was riding my rear again, but then I figured he was good to go and was just messing with me since he would not answer me when I pushed him off of me, no time to worry I was next and out the door I went.
Now there are at least two goals or "Five Points of Performance" when parachuting (not sure about the civilian world) but they are 1. Land safely and 2. Land where you want or were supposed to. The Five Points of Performance are: Maintain a good body position and count (until the main parachute opens around the count of 4 or emergency steps have to be taken), Check canopy and immediately gain control, Keep a sharp lookout during descent (avoid collisions), Prepare to land, Land, and of course executing a PLF.
As soon as I figured out that my parachute was functioning properly, I went to the next step which was check the canopy and to check my immediate surroundings on all sides as well as above and below, after that you really need to start thinking about the landing zone/area. While the briefings covered the drop zone/landing zone it at least in my book is very important to check the area for level areas that did not have any obstacles (I never cared about landing in the established zone/area that the Army wanted you to land in, because the people that plan things do not typically go out and make sure the area is obstacle free)
One of the things I liked to do once my chute popped, was to check/count the chutes below me to try to make sure the number of chutes totaled the number of guys in front of me. Thankfully the totals matched and I went back to paying attention to picking out my landing zone.
Like the Five Points points requires (Keep a Sharp lookout while descending) I would periodically check the area around me and when I did the second time I noticed someone in a chute a little above me and to my immediate left that looked like he was dead. His hands were hanging by his sides and not engaging his risers, his head was tilted forward and resting just above his reserve chute.
So I pulled a flare maneuver to try and get a better look at the guy, although I had an idea of it had to be, since he was immediately above me. Sure enough it was PFC Ward.
I managed to stay a tad bit ahead of Ward as we both managed to land inside the designated drop zone. I did the required and preferred method of landing, the PLF landing while Ward just hit the ground and while I was trying to disengage from the harness and chute Ward was heading towards the jungle/wall of trees surrounding the drop zone.
Not under his own power of course but the chute was caught by the wind and filled with air, dragging him off to point unknown.
I got out at the same time as both Green, Horn and Santos so we all ran towards Ward and managed to catch him when Green and Horn threw themselves on his chute.
Santos was our designated Medic and he went to work. Finally Santos just snapped some smelling salt under his nose and he snapped awake. Now he was a bit banged up but other than some bumps, bruises, contusions and some sore ribs he was good to go. I may have cracked a few ribs as well as his sternum when I jumped up and landed on his chest with my knees.
Seems he was terrified of flying and he freaking fainted. Since there was no room and no way for him to fall to the ground, we were sandwiched in their like sardines in a can and all we could do was shuffle towards the light (which was next to the door where there was plenty of room and clean air). He was dragged along by the guys behind him pushing forward towards the door and freedom and smashed up against my back/chute.
Trust me when I say those old small planes are horrible. Shove in a couple dozen men,chewing tobacco, eating, farting, burping, drooling, throwing up, sneezing and the smell is trapped in the fuselage along with you.
The Battalion command eventually found out eventually and Ward was transferred to a straight leg Infantry Unit stateside somewhere.
“Complacency kills. Paranoia is the reason I’m still alive.” If we do happen to make contact, I expect nothing less than gratuitous violence from the lot of ya.