A Heavy DropJanuary 12, 2006
My son and I were being passed by car after car…and I was going about 10 mph over the speed limit. “Aren’t they worried about getting a ticket” I asked him. “The MPs don’t come all this way out on the base to the jump zones. I’ve seen some of the guys go over 100 on this stretch”. So soldier after soldier in their hot cars streamed by me. I was driving a rental and had no inclination to keep up with them, so the parade went by.
My favorite soldier had invited me to go out and observe a night jump, where over 100 of the Army’s finest paratroopers would test their mettle against the wind and darkness to land in one of Fort Bragg’s four jump sites. He told me we would have to walk a mile or so into the “Village”; the official observation area of the jump. As we walked the well-beaten path, I asked how well we would be able to see them coming down. He looked at the moon and said, “Unbelievably well Dad. We’ll see it all.” At that, I had that same anticipation I used to get before big football games as a kid. I was loving the action.
We came up one flank of a small knoll and saw two soldiers coming down to meet us. The big night jump was supposed to happen at 6:30: we had arrived a little early. He asked what we were doing and we told him we were just coming to watch. At that, he told us we would have to back up 100 yards. He informed us there was a “heavy drop” before the paratrooper jump. As we walked back, my son told me the details. They were going to drop heavy equipment out of the back of a C-130 plane and I would witness tanks and jeeps cascading down with multiple parachutes.
I wondered aloud why we couldn’t watch it from the knoll like the other soliders.
“Dad, they all have the required equipment for close observation of a heavy drop.”
“And what equipment would that be?”
“Helmets” he said. I couldn’t see his face in the dark, but I could tell from his tone he was smiling. That must be some helmet. It can stop a tank when it lands on your head. They will find your body, smashed like a bug on a sidewalk and your head remains perfectly round. Makes sense to me.
We did watch the heavy drop from another 100 yards away and it truly took my breath away. The object looked small as it descended from 700 feet. But it grew much larger as it came down, streaming four parachutes above it. My admiration for these men grew as the equipment got closer. They really do know what they’re doing.
I put my hand on his shoulder as we watched together. A gentle squeeze was all I needed to say.