Free fall provides rush for combat vets
November 10, 2009
- Soldiers tandem jumped for adrenaline rush
- Trip made possible by cooperative effort of Kentucky National Guard, Skydive Kentucky and the Knox Skydiving Club
533rd Engineering Detachment
FEST-M Public Affairs Officer
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 Army 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 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 indicated that 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!" exclaimed Staff Sgt. David Scott, just seconds after landing his first tandem jump. "The prolonged sense of speed is incredible."
Fullington and Scott each recently returned from combat deployments and are now assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 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 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, the 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 that for him and the instructors giving a day of free jumps was the least they could do in return for all the sacrifice 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 to homemakers to doctors to 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 Engel, the 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 more than 5,000 tandem jumps to his credit, the 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 from 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.skydive fortknox.com.