Itís cold, bitterly cold. Itís hard to believe that the air can be so damn cold, but I know itís even worse outside. All I have to do is touch the metal skin behind me to feel it. What's even worse, is knowing that in less than ten minutes, Iíll be out there in it. I donít really have a choice either, Iím already well past the point of no return.
Not only is it cold, itís a rough ride. The guy sitting in the web seat next to me retches as the aircraft lurches yet again. The soldier across from him takes one look at him gagging and suddenly puts his head forward and spews dinner all over his knees and boots. Pretty soon thereís a people going out in sympathy all over the place. The stench is horrendous. Just as I think everything has calmed down, the rank stench of fresh shit wafts past me. This is just too damn much, and I can feel the hot sting of bile rushing up my throat and filling my mouth. Being the man in charge of this bunch of degenerates, it just wouldnít do to let them see me vomit. So I close my eyes and swallow. God! What an awful taste.
Another two minutes and the loadie yells out the five-minute warning. Amongst a lot of curses and moaning, the first stick climbs to their feet and we shuffle to the door. Being the OC, Iím first. Not my favourite spot when jumping, but rank has itís privileges, or so the major told me when I got the briefing, meaning I have to take the good with the bad.
The loadie gives a signal and we all hook onto the static line. He checks the front of my kit and then moves back to check the Ďchute of the last guy. While this is happening, each man is checking the one in front to make sure everything is as it should be. While my Ďchute is being checked, I reach down to adjust my aggots. It wouldnít do to get them caught in the harness when the Ďchute opens.
ďTwo minutes!Ē the loadie yells in my ear as he points to the red light above the door. Then he moves over to the bulkhead and pushes the button to open the door. The noise is horrendous, not only the sound of the roaring engines, but the wind screaming past. My legs are starting to wobble now. Itís a good thing that Iím still holding onto the static line.
Suddenly, the jump light goes green and the loadieís right there beside me yelling, ďGo! Go! Go!Ē as he half slaps, half pushes me out the door. I step out intoÖnothing, and yet itís a maelstrom out here. Tumbling, turning, falling. I just finish counting four thousand and one in my head and start to panic, thinking that my main Ďchute hasnít deployed. Iím getting worried and reach for the reserve Ďchute ripcord, when Whumpa!! Everything stops. I look up and I canít see the stars, which is good, because then that means my Ďchute has deployed. Thereís no noise now, because Iím moving with the wind, nor is it as cold as I originally feared. The wind is blowing me about a bit, but thatís a minor hassle. The worst has passed, and all I have to do is survive the landing. Piece of piss, this is only a training jump. Next month is the real deal. Weíve got another two weeks of jump training and then weíll be doing a HAHO into the Jay. The local warlords have been getting a tad feisty lately, and the Kumerians have asked out Government for help. The 9th Heavy Infantry Battalion (Airborne) has been tasked with securing an airhead, and my platoon has to prepare the initial drop zone. Weíre the pathfinders, so to speak.
Snatching a glance at my altimeter I see that Iím down to less than 300 feet. Time to get ready and hope I donít hit anything that sticks out of the ground.
The blackness beneath me gets even blacker as the ground rushes up to greet me. I just manage to brace myself when I hit Terra Firma and roll, collapsing the Ďchute as I go. I lay there for about fifteen seconds, moving my hands and feet, then my arms and legs. Sitting up, I canít feel any pain, so it was another perfect landing for me.
Discarding my parachute harness, I climb to my feet, unlimbering my rifle as I go. The whole platoon has to make it to the drop zone to pass tonightís exercise, so I reach down to my webbing and take out my GPS. The Army has come a long way in the last five years, as far as nav goes. Now, just about every soldier has a GPS amongst his kit, rather than a map, compass, protractor and pencil that he carried in the old days. I still carry all that, though because Iíve been caught out before. Studying the coordinates of where I am, I can see that Iíve been blown about 300 metres from the DZ, so I collect my kit and start humping it.
It only takes me about fifteen minutes to get to the DZ and when I arrive there, I see that half of the platoon is already there, waiting. Within ten minutes everyone has arrived safely, so we settle down, brew up and wait for the trucks to arrive.