Soldiers hit terminal velocity in tandem dives over Fort Knox
October 30, 2009
- The Fort Knox Skydiving Club and Skydive Kentucky provided free tandem jumps to returning combat veterans.
- Tandem skydiving is a high-adrenaline experience in a controlled environment to reduce risk.
- The parachute club is recruiting members, and offering appreciation to combat vets at the same time.
- "We are working on partnering with the Fort Knox Warrior Adventure Quest Program to get more jumps like this one."
FORT KNOX, Ky. - Staff Sgt. Christopher Fullington looked a bit pale and excited, all at the same time. Securely fastened to his instructor, he edged toward the open loading ramp of the C-130 Hercules. Traveling at around 140 miles per hour at an altitude of near 14,000 feet over the Fort Knox Godman Airfield, Fullington was about to get the rush of his life. Indicating he was ready with a quick nod of his head, he found himself propelled out of the plane and speeding toward the earth at a terminal velocity of around 120 mph.
Fullington is a veteran accustomed to sustained levels of battlefield adrenalin. Like many Soldiers returning from combat and finding life back home a bit slow, Fullington and about two dozen other Fort Knox Soldiers came to the airfield in search of an extreme thrill. As his feet gently hit the ground ending his first free fall jump, the smile on his face said he'd found what he came for.
"There is nothing that compares to that!" said Fullington. "I'll be doing that again."
In fact he did, just three hours later. By the end of the day, almost 30 combat vets had jumped. For 11 of them it was their first time.
"That freaking rocked!" said Staff Sgt. David Scott just seconds after landing his first tandem jump. "The prolonged sense of speed is incredible."
Fullington and Scott both recently returned from combat deployments and are now assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 46th Adjutant General Battalion.
The free jumps were made possible by the collaborative efforts of Skydive Kentucky, which donated the tandem jump instruction and equipment, the Kentucky Air National Guard which used the flights as training, and the newly activated Fort Knox Skydiving Club which recruited combat veterans from across the post.
The Fort Knox Skydiving Club, started by Capt. Justin McCorkle, an avid skydiver assigned to the 46th AG, is new to the post and is seeking more members.
"We now have about 30 members in the club, most of which have just returned from combat," said McCorkle. "For me, skydiving is the best rush I've ever had and I want to share that with other Soldiers who may be looking for a way to feel that 'battlefield rush' we get in combat."
McCorkle is a regular skydiver at Skydive Kentucky. He and Jim Moore, owner and operator of the company worked together to coordinate the free tandem jumps as a way to give returning vets a way to have an high-adrenaline experience in a controlled environment that mitigates risk.
Moore has trained many Soldiers over the years. He said for him and the instructors giving a day of free jumps was the least they could do in return for all the sacrifice our Soldiers make.
"These Soldiers are out sacrificing every day to ensure that we never lose the freedom to do what we love," said Moore. "Through sponsoring the club and helping in events like this, we get the chance to shake their hand and personally thank each of them. It's really an honor for me."
Skydivers come from all walks of life - from students and homemakers to doctors and Soldiers.
"I love the rush of skydiving, but it's a lot more than just the thrill of the jump, there is a sense of camaraderie too," said Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin A. Engel, senior noncommissioned officer in charge of the 533rd Engineering Detachment, Forward Engineer Support Team - Main. "The instructors who have volunteered their time here today are really a great group of people. No matter what your skill level is, they make you feel at ease while ensuring you have the safest and most fun experience possible. "
Even though Moore has over 5,000 tandem jumps to his credit, these Soldiers got to experience something he had been wanting for a long time - to jump out of a C-130.
"The C-130 travels at a faster speed than the planes we generally get to jump from," said Moore. "We normally exit a plane at an average of about 50 miles per hour and then accelerate to a free fall speed of around 120 mph. With the C-130's speed, we exited at a higher velocity than our rate of decent so we actually slowed down after we left the plane. It was awesome!"
The club and Skydive Kentucky continue to seek opportunities to provide Soldiers the high-adventure activities they crave.
"We are working on partnering with the Fort Knox Warrior Adventure Quest Program to get more jumps like this one scheduled," said Moore. "We received great feedback the Soldiers today and several of them are looking forward to joining our student training program so they can get their license and jump solo."
Skydiving is a perfect fit for the Warrior Adventure Quest Program which is designed to combine high adventure, high adrenaline activities with Battlemind training to assist Soldiers in reaching a 'new normal' after redeployment. The program officially kicks off at Fort Knox early next year.
"This is just the beginning," said Moore. "We are looking forward to getting more jump opportunities out of a variety of aircraft for our heroes."
For more information about the Fort Knox Skydiving Club contact McCorkle at (502) 624-4043. Information on jumps and classes can be found at www.skydiveky.com or www.skydivefortknox.com.