The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

One More Jump …

Posted on | May 16, 2013 | 43 Comments

Well, I had hoped the nerve-wracking worry would be over last night. My Army son’s training battalion did their first jump Monday, then two more jumps Tuesday — the second in combat gear — and were scheduled for two jumps Thursday, the last one a night jump. But that one got cancelled, so the fifth jump is today. Or, actually, tonight.

Private McCain called Tuesday night and, after talking to Mom a while, talked to me and told me stuff he didn’t want to tell Mom, who worries enough for the whole family. Attrition due to injuries is not uncommon in Jump Week. By the time they finished the third jump, Private McCain said, they’d subtracted about 20 troops, mostly because of sprained ankles, but also two or three broken legs and at least one concussion. Additionally, there were a couple “refused jumps,” which boggled my son’s mind: “You make it this far and then, you won’t jump?”

Fearless, he is. Or maybe just crazy — hereditary.

Anyway, on Tuesday’s second jump, there was one scary moment. My son was originally Number 15 in his “chalk” of 30, which meant he would be first man out the door, but attrition changed the jump order, so on this jump, he was last man in line. The plane ride was unusually rough and my son says as he was moving toward the door in combat gear (which weighs about 60 pounds), he nearly fell over.

Fortunately, he maintained his balance, made it to the door and jumped, but then there was some more drama on the way down, as another trooper drifted down on top of my son’s chute, which can be potentially disastrous. Yet this is evidently a common enough problem that they study it in training and know what to do, so the other trooper basically ran across my son’s chute, and they both then veered in different directions. Anyway, between that and other hassles (untangling his lines, another common problem), my son’s descent was such that he couldn’t quite undo the latch to drop his (dummy) rifle in time before landing.

So he landed with the rifle, which can sometimes result in injury but this time did not. Thank God.

Five times they’ve got to succeed at this during Jump Week.

Each jump, somebody gets injured — for the most part, as I say, just sprained ankles, but that’s not a successful jump, and more serious injuries are more common than a dad wants to think about.

And he’s 18X, so failing Airborne School is not an option.

One more jump tonight, and then Graduation Day, we pray.






43 Responses to “One More Jump …”

  1. Shawny Lee
    May 16th, 2013 @ 9:07 am

    You two must be so damned proud of him. Even the mishaps on the jump tested his critical quick response and recovery skills and built confidence in his abilities that may save his life in a future combat situation. A perfect jump won’t teach you what to do if something goes wrong. He’ll do fine. You and mom will survive. All good thoughts and prayers.

  2. robin
    May 16th, 2013 @ 9:28 am

    I am now feeling the effects of 10 years jumping out of planes with the 82d ABN. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Injuries come with the job and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Be proud, I’m waiting to pin my original jump wings (May ’75) on my son if he gets the chance.

  3. Bob Belvedere
    May 16th, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    Godspeed, future General McCain.

  4. Mike G.
    May 16th, 2013 @ 9:37 am


  5. JeffS
    May 16th, 2013 @ 9:39 am

    Yes, it’s terrifying to observers (including me — I never went Airborne), but General Patton had it right: “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.”

    This training, and your son’s mindset, well help him immensely, in combat and in life. He’s a good troop.

  6. Shawny Lee
    May 16th, 2013 @ 9:45 am

    That’s a long tour putting your life on the line for this country. Thank you for your service and watching out for the rest of us. My husband who served as a Marine in VietNam salutes you….lol….but still says you’d have to be crazy to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Having done a little skydiving myself I know just how fun it can be.

  7. Bonnie_
    May 16th, 2013 @ 9:49 am

    My son drifted down into a field of flowers on his first jump. Not too bad! On his second, his parachute caught the breeze and he was dragged through a bog, face first. I was so proud of him for completing Airborne and then Ranger training. They turn boys into men, good ones. You won’t stop worrying, but you won’t ever stop being proud, either. God bless.

  8. Greg Toombs
    May 16th, 2013 @ 10:07 am

    Congratulations on your son’s success, may it continue always. Combat jumps during WW2 resulted in a 50% casualty rate. Vets Jake McNeice and Jack Agnew made 4 or 5 jumps, the first during the night before DDay. Their statistical casualty (survivor?) rate was under 6%. Jake lived to 93, Jack 88.

  9. richard mcenroe
    May 16th, 2013 @ 10:12 am

    Is he jumping out of 130’s or has he jumped the C-141 yet?

  10. 20thCenturyVole
    May 16th, 2013 @ 10:33 am

    Yeah, it takes a special kind of person to jump out of a perfectly good aircraft.

  11. Wombat_socho
    May 16th, 2013 @ 10:59 am

    That’s why they pay them that extra $150 a month.

  12. M. Thompson
    May 16th, 2013 @ 11:14 am

    He’d much rather be a Sergeant Major.

  13. M. Thompson
    May 16th, 2013 @ 11:15 am

    141’s are long gone. Might be a C-17 though.

  14. Bob Belvedere
    May 16th, 2013 @ 11:34 am

    Yeah…but we need his kind serving as General Officers instead of the Perfumed Princes.

  15. JeffS
    May 16th, 2013 @ 11:41 am

    Not that I want to denigrate Airborne troopers, but I finally decided not to volunteer for jump school based on my father’s advice. Dad bailed out of a burning P-38 over Sicily, and this is what he said when I mentioned this thought:

    “Jeff, three things fall out of the sky: bombs, bird sh!t, and fools.”

  16. Shawny Lee
    May 16th, 2013 @ 11:52 am

    lol….he’s probably right. But speaking as one of those fools, I’m just gonna add happy little snowflakes to that list.

  17. richard mcenroe
    May 16th, 2013 @ 11:54 am

    OK, color me dated. Just means he doesn’t have to worry about jumping out past the slipstream guard forward of the door, though.

    I’ve seen C-17’s doing low-altitude flyovers. Impressive, but that bird just looks like it doesn’t want to fly.

    To be fair, you shove an Abrams tank up my ass and I probably wouldn’t look very sprightly either.

  18. Stogie Chomper
    May 16th, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

    I am relieved to hear Pvt. McCain got through those jumps okay. He really seems to have his act together. You have good reason to be proud of him. Keep us informed on his progress.

  19. robin
    May 16th, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

    Thank you. I only retired because it wasn’t fun anymore (hurt too much as I got older). However, there is no such thing as a perfectly good airplane. I actually got to watch a C-130 catch fire and melt into the asphalt while we were waiting to load. I haven’t flown in years because I hate the term “homeland security”.

  20. robin
    May 16th, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

    I have a star on top of my wings and I once told a bunch of SF guys that you could teach a monkey to jump out of an airplane, if you could find one dumb enough to do it. They were speechless. But, paratroopers are all romantics at heart and we need those people. Alone, outnumbered, and surrounded – the Alamo Syndrome. Got to love them.

  21. Dana
    May 16th, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

    Our esteemed host wrote:

    Additionally, there were a couple “refused jumps,” which boggled my son’s mind: “You make it this far and then, you won’t jump?”

    I guess you never know, until you are actually facing that jump, whether you can or not.

    Is PVT McCain an E-1 or E-2; an E-3 would be referred to as PFC McCain.

  22. GAHCindy
    May 16th, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

    Sending up prayers for the boy. He’ll do fine. 🙂

  23. K-Bob
    May 16th, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

    Every Master Sergeant and Sergeant Major I’ve ever met have been the kind of guys people know they can rely on.

  24. K-Bob
    May 16th, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

    I’m with you there. I love being up in the air, even packed in like sardines in a loud-as-hell puddle-jumper crossing Lake Michigan. But I’d rather drive from Nashville to LA than fly anymore, just because of the restrictions and the TSA.

  25. K-Bob
    May 16th, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

    Too soon for the Ron White joke about jumping out of a plane?

  26. 20thCenturyVole
    May 16th, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

    E1’s are typically called “boot”. Or “meat”…

  27. Irishman
    May 16th, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

    Congratulations to you and your son! The pride you must feel!! (I’m a Class 2-98 graduate) He’s beginning a great adventure of self discovery; one he will never forget. You will NEVER forget pinning the coveted wings on your son. However, it’s the first of many great moments you will witness on his journey.

    PS: Have no worries! The Black Hats are great instructors. The current commander of airborne school was my airborne infantry company commander. You will not find a finer man or officer in the US Army!

  28. Eric smith
    May 16th, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

    Uhruh airborne! It’s something your son will be proud of all of his life. Once you’ve accomplished something like this all future endeavors become easier by comparison.

  29. Ginny Ray
    May 16th, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

    So proud of him and for both of you!

  30. RSM’s vgood narrative about being the father of a soldier going through jump school | God's Own Crunk
    May 16th, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

    […] via One More Jump … : The Other McCain. […]

  31. Dana
    May 16th, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

    Or “fuzzy privates,” because they have no rank insignia to attach to the velcro.

  32. JeffS
    May 16th, 2013 @ 8:12 pm

    True dat! 🙂

  33. Quartermaster
    May 16th, 2013 @ 8:12 pm

    Harvard grads are a dime a dozen, and worth about as much. Men with Jump wings are just a bit more rare. And, men with a Budweiser, Ranger Tab, or Green Beany even more so.

    There are a lot things “Harvard Grad” would define, but “elite” is not one of them. The rep of the Ivy league is quite overblown.

  34. JeffS
    May 16th, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

    Or even, “Hey, you!”

  35. Quartermaster
    May 16th, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

    When a Ranger friend, who was a college classmate, told me about his jump and pro-pay, I retorted, “you sure were a cheap whore.” He laughed with the rest of the bunch around the table because we all knew it wasn’t enough, nor was it why we did such crazy things.

  36. Quartermaster
    May 16th, 2013 @ 8:17 pm

    The first time I saw a C-5 in flight was right at the end of the Yom Kippur war in ’73 and it was coming into NAS Norfolk. It didn’t seem to fly and I was convinced the air held it up so it could fly away and leave the area in peace again.

  37. Quartermaster
    May 16th, 2013 @ 8:19 pm

    You live in Nashburg? I used to live about 30 miles from there near Whitehouse.

  38. Quartermaster
    May 16th, 2013 @ 8:20 pm

    Yeppers! Soon he’ll have Master Blaster wings and it will be old hat.

  39. Wombat_socho
    May 16th, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

    “Slicksleeves” was the term when I was in.

  40. From Around the Blogroll « THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL.
    May 16th, 2013 @ 9:39 pm

    […] One More Jump … […]

  41. WJJ Hoge
    May 16th, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

    They commissioned me when I couldn’t make E2 after four years.

  42. Mike Rogers
    May 17th, 2013 @ 8:01 am

    Most excellent. We expect the next bulletin will be another “huzzah!”
    As for the character traits, “Fearless, he is. Or maybe just crazy — hereditary”….. No, No. The wife and I agree: Fearless AND Crazy is hereditary!

  43. He Gets His Wings Tonight! : The Other McCain
    May 17th, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

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