It happens every cycle at Airborne School, right after a first jump. Rugged American fighting men and women lose their senses. They slap their backs and shake hands and give high-fives and low-fives and behind-the-back-fives. They trade forearm bashes and helmet smashes. They yell, but not the typical "hooh-ahs!" barked by most level-headed, right-thinking soldiers. They are more like the noises kids make after the best roller coaster rides of their lives; the shouts of 12-year-olds watching from the side of the pool as some kid lands the afternoon's biggest cannonball. They are like a bunch of hyperactive kids on a sugar high. Not even rock-steady "Sergeant Airborne," standing in their faces, screaming at them to shut up and get their stuff together, can spoil that first-jump high. .
It was a beautiful day at Fort Benning, Ga.; we were the soldiers of Company B, 1st Battalion, 507th Infantry Training Regiment, we made our first jump: bright blue sky, light-to-no wind, temperatures in the mid-60s. By day's end, many of us were still not airborne-qualified - it takes five school jumps to earn the Army's silver wings but you'd never know it from listening to us. We were all old pros after that first one, and each of us had an airborne war story to tell. .
"My risers were twisted when I exited the aircraft, so I had to bicycle to get them squared away," said Sgt. Michael Rutter of Fort Drum, N.Y my roommate. "I hit hard when I landed, but I was so nervous and my adrenaline was pumping so fast I didn't even feel it." .
I was the first man out the door on the first plane over the drop zone. "It was nothing like I have ever experienced, this was scary," I said. "I'm still a little nervous; my heart's beating eight miles a minute." .
For me and the others, Ground Week and Tower Week were long gone. This was Monday, the first day of Jump Week, the last week of Airborne School. There were many of us students, about 210 in all; we were to make two more jumps on Tuesday.