Saturday, August 14, 2010

Silver Wings

At Ease
Airborne School is over. Lou officially graduated Friday the 13th, yesterday. It was an overcast morning, which we were all very glad for, after all, metal bleachers get warm in the sun. Pinning the wings on my husband is such an honor for me, the pin always seems like such a small thing for the labor he does to complete these courses. And yet, it means the world to him. And I'm glad to have a small part in all this.
Pinning the Wings
These are hard to get straight!
An Airborne Ranger at last!

The Airborne School letterhead
Lou really graduated Wednesday night, in my book though. That was the night of his 10pm jump. Utter darkness, 400 men and women parachuting at 1200 feet out of a half dozen planes over a Georgia clay field. They finished the jump and were released at 2am Thursday morning, and when Lou came home to a sleeping Kim-he was full of stories and excitement! All kinds of hair raising tales about parachutes that didn't open correctly, soldiers that got psyched out and literally jumped mili-seconds after the parachutist ahead of them, causing senseless acts of line entanglement and years-off-your-life interactions, and the norm: random broken bones. Hearing,"This one guy broke his back!!" at 2 in the morning with contacts out and sleep/awake still fighting for the upper hand- I have to say that I was very thankful to see him in one piece!
Truly breathtaking
 Although I wasn't able to get any photos of his night jumps, Cassie and I did go to the first of his and Bill's 5 jumps and we took myriads of photos....most of tiny white parachutes flying out of C-130s at break-your-neck speed.
The plane coming in
The jump was scheduled for 11am, so we drove to out in the middle of nowhere Georgia/Alabama territory Fryar Field (where the time was officially an hour earlier) and hung out waiting....the jump began at 1230.....and by that time the sun was high in the sky.....and we were officially...sun kissed and perspiring......A LOT.
Those little dots being jerked sideways are people....
 Such an amazing thing to watch! I can't imagine how the first aviator must have felt when his plane left terra firma. I do know that watching the guys jump "hollywood style" (that's minus their weapon/rucksack) was an awe-inspiring moment for me. Well worth the wait.
Coming down off their high (altitude)
The half mile walk back from the field
Lou arriving! The sun glare was so bad I couldn't tell that it was him....just some guy waving like crazy!
He was definitely coming down with post-jump enthusia!
And now that he has officially graduated and has the paper to prove it, we are off for a much needed vacation! We were trying to figure out the last time we took a "vacation" (we only count week-long trips for pleasure officially as vacations) and we came to the conclusion that it was last summer. Somehow that seems a lifetime ago! It is 4 schools and a move maybe that's why. The bad thing about "quitting the education circuit" is losing the friends who also must now leave the "Army training nest" and go to their respective duty stations, all across the country and world. We will miss them! But, at least in the Army you know that you'll probably run into each other 5 years later- and 25 lbs heavier (for the guys, that is)! Next on the agenda- Panama City Beach Florida! Ahhhhhh................
Bill and Lou- they have gone through BOLC 2, I-BOLC, Ranger School, Airborne School together.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Airborne Sweats, Ford Trucks and Wedding Belle

I am an Airborne Trooper! A Paratrooper!

For those of you familiar with the Airborne Creed, these are some of the first lines. I have to admit that I rolled my eyes a bit as I read the creed. People who find the Ranger Creed "over the top" might lose their dinner over the Airborne lines. I like the Ranger Creed, but I find "elite trooper--a sky trooper--a shock trooper--a spearhead trooper" part of Airborne almost funny. Never mind the rhyming, school is no joke. The guys have been spending 10+ hour days outside in the Georgia heat and humidity, and when Lou gets home at 6:30, his ACUs are drenched in sweat. I don't think they ever dry out...until I wash them in a mixture of detergent and vinegar to try and alleviate the smell! It works-for those interested in stinky-uniform-washing-techniques.
The famous airborne towers that the soldiers drop from during practice
Lou has been in Airborne School for two weeks now. Next Friday he graduates after making 5 jumps successfully. Successful was defined by one of the instructors as "the ability to walk away from the jump site after landing". LOL.
Lou's days are something like this: up at 0430 and to formation for PT. Home at 0710 for breakfast, back to training at 0815. Possibly home from 1220-1245 for lunch, and then finally home for the evening at 1830ish. The men also pull "guard duty" for 2 hour blocks of time as assigned and go in for formation at 3pm on Sundays. This formation has been used in the past to "FF", (in medical terms that meant "force fluids", but it was changed due to the sensitivity of political correctness to the abbreviation "EF" which is "encourage fluids" but in reality still means "Force Fluids". :) ) the leadership wants to insure that the soldiers are drinking enough water so they stand and swallow the contents of a canteen in formation. But tomorrow I'm told that they are going to be going over much more serious matters-like jump specifics. Jumping is a scary business! There are so many ways to die/be maimed, it seems. Lou explained most of these to me in great detail one evening. Good thing I had exercised way too much that day and was able to sleep purely from sheer exhaustion-otherwise I might have stayed awake thinking about it!
See how tall they are in relation to the buildings nearby?
I was able to get a few pictures of the guys hard at work.....although most of the students say that they literally stand in the sun waiting 9 of the 10 hours they are at school. The remaining 1 hour is the hour of their turn to try out the death-defying airborne school tactics. I think there are 400 or so guys in this school and many of the requirements are time-consuming.

and more practice

And then yesterday on my way back home from the gym, I drove by the field to see this:
Hanging party
"This" is a class being held on the proper way to extricate oneself from a parachute harness in any situation...kinda like the "ultimate survivor's guide-only to be read and explained in 100 degree weather in full gear". Lou said there were tips for water landings...btw, for anyone curious about it, always get OUT of your harness BEFORE you hit the water, otherwise your chute will become your shroud.
OK- so that's Airborne School. Lou is very tired, but has escaped major injuries and fainting (some of the guys have passed out from the heat) so we are grateful for that!
"Gonna buy me a Ford truck and cruise it up and down the road".(Alan Jackson a long time ago)
 We bought a truck last Saturday! Its a thing of beauty and a joy forever to Lou's soul. :) Now I tease him when I can't find him by the computer or me, I look for him out by the truck. :) He has already bought bumper stickers and seat covers, now he's debating on a back window shield sticker design.
The tea party bumper stickers fight for prominence with the...
Ranger logo on the back bumper. Not sure which side is winning at this point.
This truck is going to be "all accessorized" as he told his cousin. LOL, it makes me laugh! Its a beautiful vehicle, Ford F-150 pewter grey. Not a lot of fancy doo-dads, he didn't want anything too crazy but it does have power locks and windows, which the Dakota did not have. Lou was cracking me up with his excitement,"Look, the power locks click click....just when I press the button....." So funny! 
 Other news of July? I flew to Nebraska on July 20th to be in my good friend Kristina's wedding. It was such a fun trip! Kristina and Aimee and I met when we were in highschool, living in Curtis, Nebraska. Curtis is a town of about 800 people near the Platte River in western NE. We were homeschooled and Kristina attended the highschool across the street from our house, so we first met on the "Big Hill" on the way home from the grocery store one day. 
The Big Hill-our house is behind the group of trees
Since then we've had the best of times together! There are so many funny stories to be told that I'm going to have to write a book someday. But, back to the wedding....I drove from Omaha to North Platte, NE after flying in on Tuesday evening. Then I spent Wednesday and Thursday with Kristina and Melissa, the matron of honor, who was staying at Kristina's apt as well. She has a little girl, Abigail, who is a doll. :) We all did many things that week, like:
Chased babies with decorating tulle
Took catnaps from the pure exhaustion of all those decisions that had to be made!
Set up chairs and tables for 250+ guests (We finished this at midnight and went straight to Perkins for breakfast!)
Tied coordinating ribbon around 120 votive holders
Will was sweet and entertained Abigail during the ribbon typing process!
Watched as Dad gave the bride away during the rehearsal
So many decisions-less than 24 hours to go!
Goofed off with the bride's informal bouquet's flowers
Had late night group pictures!
Cried with happiness at Kristina and Will's happiness
Got one last picture with my wonderful friend and sister in Christ, Kristina!
Kristina and Will had a beautiful wedding full of joy, promises made before God, and rejoicing of friends to see these two so perfectly one with each other. It was a wonderfully happy experience! I left the wedding site around 1030pm and drove straight to Omaha, NE to catch my am flight to Atlanta, GA. Sadly, the flight from Chicago O-Hare was delayed and I ended up spending a day in Omaha waiting for another flight. But, that worked out all right as I was able to catch up on sleep and then flew in to Atlanta the next day. Lou had to be at formation (for supervised hydration, lol) so he wasn't able to come, but my Army friends Cheryl and Liz picked me up and it was a wonderful thing to be home again! Having friends in the Army life is such a blessing here when you don't know many people in the area. You can rely on them to help you out of a tough spot, even when its on such short notice. You know that not too long down the road they will be calling you for help as well. With the Army changing its plans for you sometimes on a week's notice, they don't resent you changing plans as well. Its like being in a family.
And with this, I'll end the longest synopsis ever published....on our July here in Georgia!