September 9, 2012
My darkest hour was also the moment I became a man. When all my years of training, all the blood, sweat, and tears of running, aiming, skills training, and hand to hand combat had finally been put to the test. My first kill. It wasn’t a proud moment but it was one on necessity and choice that I’ve played over and over again and I still get the same result. It would have gone exactly the same.
September 21st 1999, 1327 Zulu time. We were flying over Almaty, Kazakhstan. The rattling of the POS tin can they call an airplane was really making me queasy. ‘Man less than an hour before we land. It’s not coming soon enough.’ I thought. Then came the dreaded command that started the chain of events that changed my life forever.
“AAG! 9 o’clock. I repeat AAG! 9 o’clock!” Yelled our Staff Sgt, “You know the drill, men. Time to grow wings!”
Now to you non-military personnel, an AAG is an anti-aircraft gun. Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize, hey we’re in an aircraft. You see where this is going. Time to grow wings means, we’re jumping off this plane. This might be fine and dandy for a para-trooping unit. We were not a para-trooping unit. Now most of our unit has had parachuting training, well all except one, me. Now in my defense I had been busy with officer training so really hadn’t had much time. I now wish I had made time.
So as we’re being shoveled out of the plane, there’s AAG blasts going off all around us. Then came my turn where I never thought you could get a jumping lesson in 30 seconds. Well it was enough for me. Out I went. Exciting, exhilarating, and scary as hell, were the first three things that came to mind. Now I’m no meteorologist but there are these invisible paths the air flows called vectors and if you don’t know what you’re doing you can be rerouted from you initial path. This is how I ended up drifting away from my unit.
I pulled my chute once I realized...