From the Soldier side: I'm trying to sort out what sort of Christmas story I should write this year. But, some of my readers (I think I have 2 or 3) wanted me to finish the story about "D" and his love problems. I really hate writing about things like that. How about I tell the story of the first time I got to repel! Now that was a good time.
There I was, in some foreign country in my younger days as a Grunt. We had been out in the "field" for a few weeks doing weapons and tactics training during the day and getting drunk at night. That was the "Old Army" and my liver and other body parts were still in pretty good shape.
Our infantry battalion was about done with our training in this little village and the battalion commander thought it would be nice for us to put on a little Army parade and show for the nice citizens. Word went out that they were looking for volunteers to put on a helicopter demonstration. I stuck up my hand.
(Note: The US Army has what they call “Air Assault” units. The have an “Air Assault” school that soldiers attend to learn how to properly do an air assault. What you learn is pretty much how to get into and out of a helicopter without hurting yourself. Although in those days and later in my National Guard career, I had gone on many helicopter rides, I had never attended any proper schools on such things. I learned on the go.)
I was looking forward to my first “Air Assault” from an H1 Huey helicopter…this is Viet Nam vintage---which the USMC still uses. When I got to where the 2 helicopters were sitting, I was introduced to a few other soldiers. The big difference between them and me?--- They had Air Borne wings on their uniforms. I didn’t because I was never schooled and never thought of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.
As we began to get briefed, a crusty old Sergeant First Class (E-7) was explaining how the Huey’s were going to fly over the crowd of locals and our job was to repel out the side and land on the ground. Where cold beer would be waiting.
I looked at another sergeant standing next to me and I asked him how you did something like that. He told me: “I’ll show you how to hook up the harness, then you just stand on the skid and jump off feet first. Brake the fall by bringing the rope into like this (he demonstrated) and make sure you are not going too fast or it hurts when you hit the ground.”
They fixed me up in the harness thing and, being that I was only 20 years old, I was eager to try anything. I hit the ground hard. Ouch! That was dumb. I should have taken the full class first. These days, I don't think the Army would let an untrained soldier do something like that...but maybe they would.