Jul 28, 2012, 4:13 PM
Post #1 of 10
Blue Rondo A La Turk
I was seventeen years old, a snot-nosed Private having just finished basic training and jump school only a few months prior, when I walked into the XVIII Airborne Corps Sport Parachute Club, located in a wing of the old Fort Bragg hospital. I remember taking a stool at the dimly lit bar. Looking at the bar length mirror, I recall a neon Old Milwaukee sign behind the bartender.
Over in the corner seated in front of a brightly lit Rock-Ola juke box were Gene Paul Thacker, ‘Spider’ Wrenn, ‘Sqeak’ Charette and, I think, Dave Rodriguez. I didn’t know it at the moment, but these were all the first Golden Knights also known as Sky Gods.
On the juke box was playing Dave Brubeck and ‘Blue Rondo A La Turk.’ Shortly it played Brubeck’s ‘Take Five.’ Little did I know how profoundly that music and those men would affect the outcome of my life.
I learned how to sky dive there. Forty hours of classroom drills, PLFs (parachute landing falls) and hours of packing round canopies were the norm then -- mostly at night because we all had duty during the day. Then I was assigned Specialist Five Russell as my jumpmaster. He could be found spit shining his Corcoran jump boots every Saturday morning sitting on the club’s steps waiting on the key holder to open up. He was what you would call a ‘lifer,’ in the military for 20 plus years.
Now Russell was bit of an asshole. Come the day of my first skydive, Russell packed my rig himself and in the process included five pounds of flour, 30 or so beer cans and an untold amount of gravel. When son-of-a-bitch opened, I was sure I was dead. It was this smoky explosion followed by a hard rain of rocks and Pabst Blue Ribbon cans -- scared the fuck out of me. But sky diving had me in its tentacles and wouldn’t release its grip for many years to come. The men sitting in front of the juke box would become role models and heroes to me.
The first civilian aircraft I jumped was the club’s Cessna 195 which had a small fold-away step that was basically underneath the fuselage and was little help during exits. Of course I was a bit nervous about the thing anyway having never been above combat jump altitudes. This jump would take place at 2’500 agl (above ground level) and was as close to the stratosphere as I’d ever been.
Went off okay. I tumbled out the aircraft and somehow my rig opened cleanly. The jumper on the next pass went whistling by me at the speed of sound and finally got his reserve out at probably less than three hundred feet. I thought his ass was toast. I landed, dutifully did what passed for a plf then ran into the woods and took the world’s longest piss.
The drop zone was Sicily at Bragg and I should have my ashes spread there when I die. God knows I’ve left enough skin there on various occasions.
Ahead would be thousands of jumps, hundreds and hundreds of students trained, and more good times than I can actually remember. When I do croak, the only thing I want anyone to remember is that I was jumper first, a pilot second and everything else third and so-on.
I don’t know if I would have written this except that I just bought a new Brubeck CD and Blue Rondo A La Turk was the lead track and listening to it, the sight of Golden Knights seated in front of that Rock-Ola in my memories always brings my jump career back in tight, loving focus.
(This post was edited by nndefense on Jul 28, 2012, 5:36 PM)
Hi Mike, Different place, same album. Funny you should mention Brubeck's take 5 and Blue Rondo......Gene Paul and skydivin'.........'Was out at the old Hammond Airport yesterday.....'Hangin' out in front of the "old Terminal Building," our old hangout back in the late 60's. Nice hot Blue sky Louisiana day....just right for skydivin'....Was rememberin' when right above the Saturday sky would be filled with Parachutes. One jumper saw a spectator by the fence line with a camera,"Hey, take my picture when I'm commin' down!" "Sure, what color is your 'chute??" The jumper said,"Orange and White!!"
Great story, Mike. A couple of slight changes and it's my story. Jumped that Cessna 195 on my first jump. Jump number 2 (the following weekend) was from an H-21 helicopter! Seems the 'Corps Club' never knew what aircraft support we would have from week to week but it was always good!
Thank you for sharing those wonderful memories. My first jumps were at the 82nd Airborne Sport Parachute Club in 1981. I was at the post for a six week training course and attended the skydive training at night after my other classes. Unfortunately I made only three jumps, lost my logbook, and haven't been back. Now I'm ready to go again. Do any of the military bases still have clubs? All of my jumps were freefall - no tandem or static line - and I want to keep it that way. I'd like another week of training and the chance to freefall again. Thanks again for the wonderful story. Brian Saint Augustine, FL
(This post was edited by Luuv2sail on Nov 13, 2012, 4:16 PM)
Hi, unfortunately military clubs have.gone the way of the dinosaur Use the dropzone locator and find a dz near you. AFf is the way to go. There has been a huge change in gear and training. You will have to approach this as a new student. Good luck
Thanks for the great story, Mike. I spent about six months at Bragg. My biggest regret is that I wasn't a sport jumper then. I made several army jumps at DZ Sicily in 1970. They had some big ass drop zones there. We'd usually jump C-130's but occaisionally a 119. I have fond memories of all that. It's amazing how you forget all the awful stuff.
I was only in the Green Beret Parachute Club bar one time. That was one interesting place. I wish I could have met more of the old salts that frequented that place. Many were S.F. vets from Vietnam.
It's been a long time since I've put a spit shine on a pair of Corcorans.....