Experiencing an adventure of a lifetime

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. John Robinson
  • 445th Operations Group Commander

Everybody has their idea of what an “adventure of a lifetime” is for them. I got to realize one of those adventures in January 2016 when I was invited to attend the Army’s Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Ga. 


Many events led to an invitation by the battalion commander of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He even invited me to stay at his house so there were no TDY costs.  All I could say at this point was, “You’ve taken away all my excuses, now I just have to pick a date.” I chose January so I could get it done as soon as possible.


As I drove to Fort Benning, I was a little nervous. I was “in the Army” for three weeks and what was in store for me?  I had to pass the physical training test for an Army soldier between ages of 17-21.


I have a pretty good exercise routine and had been practicing for Army push-ups and sit-ups, which are somewhat different then Air Force. They actually expect 90 degree bends in the elbows and a full sit-up verses crunches. I was ready. What I wasn’t ready for was the test being at 4 o’clock in the morning with 28 degree temps. 


I passed it without trouble and was ready to continue training. I was relieved too. Although I was confident in my ability to pass, I didn’t want to fail the test and be an embarrassment to the commander who had allowed me to be there in the first place.


Training consisted of 12-hour days beginning at 5:45 a.m. and ending around 6 p.m., depending on training requirements. Days began with PT, followed by breakfast then we’d roll into training. 


Parachute landing falls (PLFs), jumping out of the 34-foot tower, donning the equipment, swing landing trainers, hanging harness-- every detail needed to safely “exit an aircraft in flight” was covered. 


The Army covers it with strict attention to detail and precision. They teach 400-500 soldiers per class, and it is an impressive thing to witness. It’s been done the same way for 75 years now. 


As Sergeant Airborne says, “It’s Airborne training, it ain’t gonna change cause you complain.”


The culmination of this training is, of course, exiting an aircraft while in flight. Fortunately we had C-130s and C-17s for our jump week. 


I’ve been flying the airborne course for 15 years and have dropped more than 20,000 first timers over Fryar Drop Zone [Fort Mitchell, Alabama] I was thrilled to finally get the opportunity to jump out of a C-17. 


The worst part of the whole course, I think, was sitting with 60 pounds of parachute equipment for more than three hours at a time waiting for the jumps. I completed the five required jumps, and graduated on Jan. 25 as part of Class 07-16, alpha roster number A402. 


I don’t have room in this article to describe the entire experience. But I’d like to reflect on some conversations I had as I met so many young Americans eager to serve their country. The most asked question I got from them was, “How long have you been the service sir?” I would answer, 25 years.


“Wow, sir, I haven’t even been alive that long. Why are you here?” My response—“For an adventure of a lifetime!”  I just did it later in life.


In the end, it was a routine of fitness that made it possible for me to accomplish this adventure. I always say, “Stay active and fit so you'll be able to enjoy your retirement years.”