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JUMP TRAINING IN THE NETHERLANDS

From 26 Jun – 5 July the Honorary Colonel of the Lorne Scots, Honorary Colonel Gary Reamey sponsored ten officers, Sr NCOs and soldiers of the Lorne Scots to complete the Dutch Military Parachute Course at the National Parachute Training Centre in Teuge, Holland. We were also privileged to be accompanied by Mr. Robb Boyd, a close friend of Hon Col Reamey’s.  While each member of the Regiment was responsible to cover the $750.00 Cdn tuition for the course, the full costs for travel, rations and quarters were covered by the Honorary Colonel with the several meals generously provided Mr. Boyd.

After a flight to Holland, we had a chance to freshen up in our hotel before participating in a guided walking tour of Amsterdam. Some of the younger and more adventurous elements of the group ventured forth in the dark recesses of Amsterdam to explore what it had to offer.  Luckily many of those dark recesses where lit by some red lighting so they didn’t get lost. The following day we travelled to the town of Apeldoorn.  Apeldoorn which was liberated by The Royal Canadian Regiment during the period of 12-17 April 1945 is a historical town and we were fortunate to have our hotel next door to the “Paleis Het Loo” which is the country palace of the “House of Orange”, The Royal Family of the Netherlands.  Once again the Sr NCOs and soldiers of the Regiment took the opportunity that evening to explore what Holland has to offer. Everyone returned home without incident however, at one point during the night it appeared that a gang of organ thieves may have tried to whisk Sgt Phil Rieder off in an attempt to steal his kidneys.

On our second full day in Holland we met the team of instructors from the Pathfinder’s UK Group, all retired members of the British Parachute Regiment. Sergeant (Ret’d) Roy Mobsby was the Jump Op Coordinator and DZ Controller and Corporal (Ret’d) Ian Marshall was the Chief Instructor and Senior Jumpmaster.  They could have had bestselling books written about them, Roy had a story for any occasion and Ian is a highly accomplished parachutist in both the military and civilian circles. We were also fortunate to work with Stewart, a Lt with the Irish Army and Lance Owens, another retired member of the Parachute Regiment. We were introduced to our fellow course mates.  These include several father/son teams from the UK along with jumpers from Poland who were hoping to participate in the 70th Anniversary of Arnhem jump to commemorate the Polish involvement in the battle.

Despite a slow start and long days we began learning the vital skills of becoming a parachutist.  First we learned how to pack our chutes.  As you can imagine there is no room for error here, Sgt Pavlovic, Sgt Rieder and Sgt Taylor stepped in to ensure high standards were being maintained and that morale was high, it was Sgt Taylor’s previous training as a rappel master and Sgt Pavlovic’s experience as a jumper and his general “RCR-ness” that allowed us to pack our chutes quickly and effectively.  Sgt Taylor and HCol Reamey became a highly effective team, packing more chutes together than anyone else.

The ground training was a challenge in itself.  It covered familiarisation with and fitting of equipment, in flight drills to include aircraft emergencies, aircraft exit procedures, canopy control and flight drills, malfunctions and reserve procedures, Parachute Landing Fall (PLF), abnormal landings and after landing procedures.  The PLF drills progressed from practicing the PLF from the standing position, to stepping off a one meter high set of stairs and finally to practicing on a trapeze.  It was during the ground phase of training we lost our first candidate, Major Ruggle’s head hit the ground while stepping of the stairs, hard enough for all those participating to cringe at the sound.  He suffered severe headaches over the next several days and was never able to recover enough to jump. While this was unfortunate for him, the rest of us benefited as he became the course photographer and ambulance driver.

Upon completion of ground training we commenced the jump phase, once assisting each other donning our MC1C parachutes Ian, Stewart, Roy and Lance would conduct the equipment check.  It is around this time that your blood pressure truly starts to rise and you start thinking to yourself; “Damn, I’m really going to do this”. Our jumps were conducted at 2000 feet above ground level in chalks of ten.  The first chalk had an older, retired British soldier who had completed the course last year and had returned to complete more jumps. When you land you are required to have your chute turned into the wind in order to reduce your forward speed.  Unfortunately, he was still travelling with the wind when he landed, he hit the ground at high speed, resulting in three broken vertebrae. Incidents like this do very little to settle any nervous feelings you may have prior to going for your first jump. After the plane landed from the first chalk the engines are kept running for a rapid turn around and you enter the plane in the reverse order of how you are going to jump.  We jumped from a Cessna 208 Super Caravan, as you enter the plane, you hand your static line to the Jumpmaster who hooks onto the line, then while protecting your reserve and ensuring that your static line remains untangled you shuffle backward on your ass, the next man sitting between your legs. Lined up in two rows, with the person in front, laying on the person behind him the plane takes off.  This is where you really start to question the logic of throwing yourself out of a plane.  The time it takes the plane to reach the 2000 feet over the drop zone is less than five minutes but it is the longest five minutes of your life.  There is nervous laughter and joking but no one is really comfortable, except for Ian, the Jumpmaster, who has thousands of jumps under his belt.  As the senior serving officer jumping, I was always first out the door.  This left me closet to the flimsy plastic door they slide down for takeoff.  When you hear “protect your reserves” and the door opens you know that there is no turning back even though you can think of no better place you’d rather be than being on the ground.  Upon hearing, “Number One, in the door”, one hand protecting my reserve, the other guiding my static line I’d shuffle to the door on my ass, like a dog try to clean its bum on the carpet, it is neither dignified nor smooth.  Once in the door, you are sitting, with your legs hanging outside the plane at two thousand feet waiting for the command “Go”.

Upon hearing “Go” you push off, both hands move to protect your reserve, feet and knees together and you start counting, “One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand, Check Canopy”.  At this point you look up and see if your canopy is properly deployed and if can let out a sigh of relief.  If you are unlucky, as several of our soldiers were, your lines are tangled and you chute looks like sheets that just came out of the dryer still wet.  Now you got to work.  Hanging from a nylon sheet, suspended by some cordage, rapidly descending to the earth you have to “scissor” your legs to try and spin in the opposite direction of the twists until you are untangled.  Once that is complete you need to locate the drop zone.  Once located you need to figure out in what direction you are drifting, this is important as we had one jumper who failed to do this.  Not only did he fail to land in the drop zone, he landed on the roof of a barn with his chute tangled on a grain silo.  Luckily, he was unhurt and the owner of the barn, having experienced this before, calmly got his ladder and let the young man down, providing him dinner and tea until the school could come collect him.  For the rest of us, who were paying attention in ground school, we judged our drift and constantly made adjustments to ensure that we landed either on the DZ or as close to it as possible.  Even when paying attention we had soldiers landing in ditches, having their parachutes caught on fences, landing on active runways or just getting yelled at by the DZ controller.

Lorne Scots at Dutch Jump Training

Despite some injuries along the way, eleven of the twelve man Lorne Scots contingent completed their five jumps and were awarded their “Dutch B Wings”.  Following the completion of the course, presentations were made to Honorary Colonel Reamey for his leadership and generosity, Robb Boyd for his friendship and generosity and to Captain MacMaster for the hard work and planning he put in to get us there.  The following day we toured the Parachute Regiment’s museum in Arnhem and the war cemetery that had been created after the battle of Arnhem.  This was a worthwhile visit as it put the number of airborne soldiers involved in Operation Market Garden and the sacrifices they made into perspective.  The day ended with a return trip to Amsterdam where we all had two more days to enjoy the hospitality of the Dutch people.

Capt R.P.  Ryan

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