Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cherry Jump

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of completing my "cherry jump" with the 82nd Airborne. I'm not finding much online explaining the tradition of the cherry jump, so here goes:

Here in the 82nd Airborne Division (and elsewhere), a new soldier to the unit is known as a "cherry" (I'm assuming you can follow the connotation), and his first jump in Division is known as his "cherry jump" or "cherry blast". While this part of the tradition has now been gutted in an ill-targeted crackdown on "hazing", the cherry soldier used to be given a cherry-red helmet cover to single him out (which would also, to my mind, rather helpfully alert the jumpmasters to his inexperience). The cherry is also given a cherry pie to carry in his pocket during the jump, which he then eats on the drop zone after his landing. Complicating this process, however, are his fellow paratroopers who, through much good-natured punching, ensure he lands with nothing but a charleyhorse and a pocketful of cherry goo.

So that's the tradition, but I missed out on most of it. One of my buddies had indeed bought a full cherry pie (instead of the usual Hostess single-serve pie) for the three cherries in our platoon, but I ended up in a different "chalk" (a single planeload of paratroopers) and so managed to jump without my pocketful of pie. Oh well. I've got that out of my way, and got my first precious scrap of Airborne credibility.

Which is not to say the jump went off without a hitch. After a shockingly early wakeup call and zero-dark-thirty manifest formation, we arrived at the drop zone to find that, in all-too-classic fashion, our unit had failed to procure both parachutes and working aircraft for the day's jump. One could be forgiven for incredulously exclaiming that these are, in point of fact, the two sole necessary elements of an airborne operation. But, you see, you would be applying sense, and the fact of the matter is that, particularly in garrison training operations, the Army rarely makes any. Eventually, though, 'chutes were scrounged and a bird was summoned, and we jumped. And I'll never understand what makes a sky full of paratroopers such a beautiful sight, but maybe I've drunk just a bit of that Airborne Kool-Aid, because this is awe-inspiring:

Next time I jump I'll try to post a good short video of the jumpers coming out of the bird. It's awesome.

All aside, it was a good jump and a safe landing, even if it was a bit harder than textbook. It's well and good to angle your body to adjust for your direction of drift, but they never really tell you what to do when you're falling straight down. Land like a sack o' potatoes, apparently. Oh, and the green patch that looks thick and soft from 200 feet up? Yeah, that's blackberry briar and it's nowhere near as soft as it looks.


Elephantschild said...

"'Skin me, Brer Fox,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'snatch out my eyeballs, t'ar out my yeras by de roots, en cut off my legs,' sezee, 'but do please, Brer Fox, don't fling me in dat brier-patch,' sezee.

"'Bred en bawn in a brier-patch, Brer Fox--bred en bawn in a brier-patch!' en wid dat he skip out des ez lively as a cricket in de embers."

Lutheran Lucciola said...

I can't believe the pie is labeled as hazing now. It's pie, people.