***image1***The clouds threatened rain. I prayed, please not today, of all days just not today. I had made the short and scenic journey to the beautiful little town of Bitburg on a typical cold, summer German morning. I was here to spread my wings, feel a release from the normal, and do my best to pretty much not die.
Twenty-one of us, Soldiers and Airmen, attended the Better Opportunities for Single Servicemembers’ big skydiving plunge. We met early that morning at the Kaiserslautern Outdoor Recreation building on Pulaski Barracks. After a quick stop for gas, we were off to Bitburg, Germany. Hopping on the A62 toward Trier, the drive is only about a one-and-a-half to two hours, depending on how literal you take the Autobahn speed limits. And even though on this particular day the morning had an overcast sky, the view was still very scenic. Hopefully the clouds would open and bring in beautiful sunshine so we could make our plummet.
Our destination was the Bitburg Flugplatz, which is an airfield with a storied past dating back to the early 1950s. Under contract with the United States, the French Army began construction in 1951 of what would become Bitburg Air Base in Western Germany’s Eifel Mountains in the Rheinland-Pfalz. Bitburg Air Base was officially established as a U.S. Air Forces Europe installation Sept. 1, 1952, after the arrival of the 53rd Fighter-Bomber Squadron. At its height, more than 12,500 U.S. servicemembers and their families were stationed there.
In the early 1990s the base was part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act; and in September 1994 it closed and returned ownership to Germany. The airfield is now home to several annual air shows, as well as an annex to the nearby Spangdahlem Air Base. Our host for the day, Air-Scout Fallschirm-Centrum, also calls Bitburg Flugplatz its home, letting brave people nose-dive thousands of feet just for fun.
Unfortunately, the less than adequate amount of English our teacher spoke made our short instruction class a blur filled with obligatory head nods. “Arch your back and breathe through your nose” was pretty much all I got.
I liked the fact that I was just along for the ride – it was a tandem jump, leaving all the important stuff to my jump master, Dirk. He had already jumped from an airplane, and more importantly, landed about 3,500 times.
So it began, one by one we took our turn leaping out of the plane. As each subsequent jumper came down safely, my apprehension subsided and my excitement began to build.
Finally it was my turn to go.
The outfit was pretty snug, and the harness was a bit too “familiar.” I wasn’t thinking too much about that on the ride up though. Sir Isaac Newton’s law and 14,000 feet were on my mind.
It was just like every time I had looked out the window of an airplane, only this time the wind was a bit stronger and my feet dangled over the edge. Then we dove.
Tumbling at first, we eventually came into a stable position. The feeling was amazing. Not so much floating, but just free. Like the Earth would just have to let me have some fun up there for awhile before she could have me back. Then in a quick moment the chute opened and we began our gentle glide back to the ground.
Landing safely felt like a million dollars. What a ride. I could see why people could get addicted to performing this insane act over and over again. It truly felt like a release from all that might hold one to their own little world.
Hopefully I’ll get the chance to do it again, but for now at least I have the pictures to prove I did it once.
For more information about BOSS events and opportunities, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 489-7239. For information about upcoming Kaiserslautern Outdoor Recreation trips, call 489-7751.