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NEWS | April 27, 2016

Adventure of a lifetime

By By Lt. Col. John Robinson, deputy commander 315 OG

Everyone has their own idea of what an "adventure of a lifetime" is for them.  I realized one of my "adventures" recently when I attended the Army's Basic Airborne Course at Ft Benning, GA.  The Battalion Commander of the 507 Parachute Infantry Regiment invited me to participate in the course while staying at his house (precluding any TDY costs).  All I could say at this point was, "You've taken away all my excuses, now I just have to pick a date."  I chose January 2016.

As a 52 year old driving to Ft Benning, I was a little nervous.  I would be "in the Army" for three weeks. What was in store for me?  I knew I had to pass the same Physical Fitness test as Army soldiers age 17-21. I have a pretty good exercise routine and had been practicing for Army push-ups and sit-ups, which are somewhat different then Air Force.  The Army actually expects 90 degree bends in the elbows and a full sit-ups verses crunches.  I felt prepared but I wasn't ready for the test being conducted at 0400 in the morning with 28 degree temperatures. While I passed the test without trouble and was ready to continue training, I was relieved because I didn't want to fail and be an embarrassment to the commander who had invited me in the first place.

Training involved 12 hour days beginning at 0545 and ending around 1800.  Days began with PT, followed by breakfast then we'd roll into training.  Parachute landing falls (PLFs), jumping out of the 34 foot tower, donning the equipment, swing landing trainers, hanging harness, every detail needed to safely "exit an aircraft in flight" was covered.  The Army adresses everything with strict attention to detail and precision.  They teach 400-500 soldiers per class; an impressive display of professionalism.  It's been done the same way for the past 75 years.  As Sgt. Airborne says, "Its Airborne Training, it aint gona change cause you complain."

The culmination of this training is, of course, exiting an aircraft while in flight.  Fortunately, we had C-130s and C-17s for our jump week.  I've been flying the airborne course as a pilot for 15 years and have dropped over 20,000 first timers over Fryar Drop Zone.  I was thrilled to finally get the opportunity to jump out of a C-17.  For me, the worst part of the whole course was sitting with 60 pounds of parachute equipment strapped to my body for more than three hours at a time waiting for the jumps.  I completed the five required jumps and graduated January 25, 2016 as a member of Class 07-16. 

I don't have room in this article to describe the entire experience but I met so many young Americans eager to serve their country.  The question I was asked most was, "How long have you been in the service, sir?" 25 years. "Wow, sir, I haven't even been alive that long." "Why are you here?"  My response, "For an adventure of a lifetime!  I just did it a little later in life."