Last Saturday, my mom and I had the opportunity to get a VIP tour of Leapfest 2010, hosted by our very own Army Dude. For those of you who don't know, Leapfest is an international parachute competition hosted by the Rhode Island National Guard. People come from all over the world to jump out of perfectly good aircraft and plummet to the earth in Kingston, RI.
Mom and I showed up at the appointed hour in our matching khaki capris, tops, and ballcaps (coincidental but amusing). We were then whisked away and given access to the PZ (Pickup Zone), where we learned how the parachutes are donned using the buddy system, then checked by a Jumpmaster who is specially trained to make sure every strap and cord is just so. Then the jumpers wait in a "chalk," which is Army-speak for a group of soldiers waiting to deploy from a single aircraft. The Jumpmaster is also the person in the aircraft who makes sure the soldiers do another equipment check, and decides on the appropriate moment for them to leap out.
Then we headed to the DZ (Drop Zone). It was totally cool to be right out on the DZ, with people dropping out of the sky overhead. We had been warned by the Army Dude to be "situationally aware" lest a stray helmet or buckle or something fall out of the sky and knock us out cold. We did our best to pay attention, but fortunately nothing flew at us except the occasional dragonfly.
I didn't get any good pictures at the DZ because I have a camera designed for idiots. Let's put it this way: the photographers who were also part of the VIP tour had cameras the size of small cars. My camera almost fits into an Altoids tin. I just didn't have the zoom technology.
When we were leaving, I told the Army Dude that I'm completely ready to be a Jumpmaster now. I know it all. He expressed skepticism, which frankly, I thought was kind of rude.