MY WORST JUMP
WHO MOVED THE CHECK POINT ?
Charles J. Magro
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I would like to share one of
my worst days ( March 1, 1957 ) as a young soldier stationed in Germany,
with the 11th Airborne Division . This was a day I will always remember
and it was a very long , long day for me.
I had been selected to be trained
as a Jumpmaster at the Division School. A tremendous honor for a young
(18 years old) specialist third class.
My company's sergeant was also
assigned to be in the same Jumpmaster class. His name was Sergeant Boykins.
I don't remember his first name; he was senior to me in grade, and I can't
remember calling him anything but Sergeant or Sergeant Boykins; never by
his first name.
The following story is about
my first jump in Jumpmaster School,
and the value of a good leader and friend.
On the right is a picture of Sgt.
Boykins and I .
If I could send him a copy of this story, I
would say :
"I'm the good looking one Standing behind
the BIG ugly guy" just to PO him. But since I can't I will say :
"That's me standing behind one of the nicest
tough guys you will ever meet. He was one Hell'va man. "
He had a terrific sense of humor, was a lineman
on the Division Football Team and , and he was damned strong.
When I say he was a strong man, I mean he
was strong, very strong.
I was not a weak person, matter of fact quite
strong for my size but Boykins could literally hold me with one arm and
I could not break free. One of the strongest
men I ever met.
He was a man you did not want to mess with,
and yet he had a gentle side that I admired.
|We gravitated toward one another and formed
a good working relationship. We liked to joke with one another and
in a short time we became good friends.
During the mid 1950s, there
was racial strife going on in various parts of the country, including my
home town of Birmingham, Alabama. Sometimes
, when we were in a group , Sergeant Boykins would refer to me as the
"KKK guy from Alabama" just to create a reaction
and cause tension but then he would burst out laughing.
It was a relief to everyone when he started
laughing ; then we
would all start laughing
but always after he did.
We were friends until my discharge. I assume he
made a career out of the service.
Enough on background, now to the story.
|On the first jump, you were the
stick leader . Your assignment was to position yourself at the open door,
prepare an imaginary stick of paratroopers to get ready to jump , find
the check points, call them off and lead your imaginary stick out
of the plane as you entered the DZ (Drop Zone) area.
Since the plane had doors on both sides, two
students would go through their assignment at the same time. The other
students waiting their turn would be seated watching the ones at the doors.
An instructor would be on the plane grading
you, while another instructor would be on the DZ grading you.
It came my turn to do my bit, and Sergeant
Boykins is watching me real close.
I was so caught up in the moment and trying
to recall what I'm supposed to do, that
I forget to hook up my static line.
You would think that once you standup a Paratrooper would know that you
"Hook Up" to
the cable running the length of the plane to the exit door.
Not Magro; I walk to the door with the freaking
static line and hookup buckle in my hand.
Well I'm at the door, and I notice Sgt. Boykins
going "APE ",
giving me all kinds of signs, and pointing in a way that the instructor
can't see him. Now, this really confuses my dumb ass.
I'm looking at Boykins trying to figure out
what's wrong, now I'm starting to forget the
commands I was supposed to yell.
Meanwhile, the instructor was just siting there
without saying a word, continuing to write on his grading sheet.
You had to jump in full combat
gear with a General Purpose
(GP) Bag weighing over 100 lbs.
Project Dudddd in the Door!!
Well, I finally start yelling commands
to my imaginary stick: "GET READY!", "STAND
UP!", "HOOK UP!" AND THEN
I then look into my hand and there's my static line
Had the plane hit an air pocket or had I lost
my balance with all that combat equipment I could have fallen out of the
plane unhooked and would have had to pull my reserve awful fast,...
A Paratrooper free falling from 1200
feet is only 8 seconds from DEATH.
I could feel my neck beginning to flush
red as I looked at Boykins and saw him smiling
and nodding me a: "That's what I was
trying to tell you, stupid."
Now , in a somewhat cracking voice I yell:
"CHE CHE CHECK YOUR EQUIPMENT!"
as ........ I nonchalantly hook up!!!!
wondering what the instructor had seen, I leaned out the door and started
trying to locate the designated landmarks leading to the DZ.
The first landmark was a highway, and
so I leaned in and yelled it out; I found the second check point
(can't remember what it was), leaned in yelled out the second landmark;
and now I looked for the last one , a coal pile, that would tell me we
were only seconds from the DZ .
Well, the wind had been blowing hard
toward my side of the plane, and the pilot had moved the plane over to
correct for this. In doing so, the coal pile was now on the other
side of the plane making it impossible to see from my side of the plane.
I was leaning out clean to my frigging waist
hunting for that DAMN coal pile... but it
was nowhere in sight! About this time, I saw a
Parachute opening to the rear of the plane.
The other student jumpmaster on the opposite side had exited the plane!
I looked up to the boom of the C-119, and the light was GREEN: meaning
jump. So, I leaned back in and began hollering all in one continuous
flow of words:
out of the aircraft with a 100 plus lb GP bag.
I didn't feel it, but Boykins swore that
all he and the others could hear was me
ricocheting along the fuselage of the plane,
a kind of: BAM! WHAM! BAM!
BAM!, and then silence.
To this day, I still ain't believing I hit
that plane !!
Was that a Coal pile , Rock Pile or Junk
O'shit the Green
|Now this would be the end of the story for
most people, BUT not for our HERO, CJ.
While John Paul Jones said: "We have just begun
to fight", our HERO, CJ, said "I have just
begun to screw up".
Here I was with all this hernia creating equipment,
and an additional 100 plus pound GP Bag and all I could think of
"Boy, did I screw up. "
Needless to say, on the way down I was very
depressed in the knowledge that I had screwed up big time. But, I figured
that if my preparation and exit from the plane was pitiful, at least I
could try and make a good descent and PLF (Parachute Landing Fall).
I'm sure most of you have jumped a GP (General
Purpose) bag. If you haven't, it has a 20 ft strap that you are supposed
to drop from your body at about 200 feet from the ground. Then you ride
it on in.
You normally unsnap it and hold it between
your legs at about 400 feet and ride it down to 200, while making sure
no one is under you so it can be safely dropped or lowered by the strap
to hang 20 feet below you.
|Well, in my sorry state of mind, I was riding this baby down saying
to myself that's not low enough better hold it a little longer. I then
started thinking about my screw up back in the plane.
I then looked down .....HELL, I was damned
near on the ground!
I quickly dropped the bag, and it hits the
ground before the slack is run out of the 20 ft strap. I must have only
been 15 feet off the ground and falling at 20 feet a second .
Trust me, there was no time to prepare for
I hit on my heels, then on my butt,
I then bounced at least 10 feet into the air coming down on my head, and
I actually busted my helmet liner.
That evening as we prepared for our night jump,
I was really down on myself, I felt I had let my outfit down.
I felt lower than whale shit . I just knew I was going to flunk Jumpmaster
School , was going to let my outfit down,
was an embarrassment to mankind, etc. etc. etc.
|We had a good wind that day, and as I laid
there spread eagle, gasping for air, trying to get my breath back, anchored
by my GP bag at one end and my chute at the other
and then.....to add insult to injury and pride, this Bird Colonel walked
over, looked down at me and asked:
"Son, you OK?", to which I feebly
answered "Yes" ; never did put a "Sir" to it... He
just shook his head and said ,
"I been in the Paratroopers for 10 years and
have never seen anyone hit the ground that hard!!"
And as the old poem goes,
"THE MIGHTY CASEY aka CJ
HAD STRUCK OUT"
Sergeant Boykins, that, strong hulk of a man
listened to me, and then placed his big arms over my shoulders and assured
me that was only one jump , just the beginning, that there was a
jump tonight and another jump tomorrow and I had just had a bad day
His words were words of consolation.
They were words of assurance and comfort from a man who believed in me
when I didn't believe in myself.
Then in a very FIRM
voice, he told me I had better shake it off
, suck it up and get my shit together for
this up coming night jump .
But the thing that impressed me the most and really got my attention
was when he said:
IF YOU DON'T PASS THESE NEXT
TWO JUMPS, I'M GOING TO KICK YOUR ASS!!!
On a much happier note, I did great on
my remaining jumps and graduated a full fledged JUMPMASTER.
I now know it was because of Sgt.
Boykins' kindness , understanding and
his threat to kick my ass, that I can
now show off an :
(click to see) Jumpmaster Certificate that has CHARLES J. MAGRO on it.
Sgt. Boykins was one HELL'VA man!
A month after I got out of Jumpmaster
School April 10, 1957 to be exact
, my Company gave me the HONOR of being the stick leader
for our plane .
As I gave the commands , my
buddies booed , while giving me an obscene gesture,
( the finger ) and then laughed. It was a great day. We were jumping Gablingen DZ in
EVERY MAN HIT THE DZ!!!!!.
THIS IS A TRUE STORY THE NAMES WEREN'T EVEN
CHANGED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT OR GUILTY.
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