Perhaps you've seen those guys who parachute into stadiums sometimes and think, "Oh, cool."
Did you know that guy is probably in the Special Forces?
There is only one Special Forces public demonstration team that exists in America. These guys are known as U.S. Special Operations para-commandos. Their mission is to raise awareness about the Special Operations Command by doing cool stunts around the country.
1. If you want to jump out of a plane with para-commandos, you will have to trek 40 miles outside of Tampa Bay to the middle of freaking nowhere.
The para-commandos are made up of Special Forces operators and are based in Florida.
2. Here is their (very rustic) base in the middle of nowhere.
The entire compound really just consists of two trailers and a shed.
3. The first things that greets you is a box of explosives.
So how do you get from down there on the ground to up here?
4. First you have to hand pack your parachute...
...physically laying on it to get the right configuration.
5. Your helmet is equipped with an altimeter that makes a shrill beeping noise when it is time to pull the cord.
You also have a manual altimeter on your wrist if anything goes wrong.
6. In case that chute fails, there is a specialized device located at the top of their bag that, if needed, EXPLODES AND SHOOTS OUT RAZOR BLADES.
This is so that the backup chute can open and the old chute can be cut off.
So if your chute fails, your best bet is an explosion of razorblades on your back.
7. You also carry a specialized knife so you can cut all the strings away from your parachute if you wanted to do that just for fun.
8. Each jump is drawn out and choreographed on the ground, almost like a ballet.
And if you are jumping with the para-commandos, T = YOU.
HI. MY NAME IS BENNY.
I have never jumped out of a plane before. But I will in a few minutes.
I am a reporter, which means no one trusts me in life-or-death situations.
So they explain that you will be strapped, like a baby, to a Special Forces guy the entire jump. This is called a tandem jump.
9. To jump out of a plane with the para-commandos you must first sit through a 15-minute safety training course in their trailer.
A Green Beret named Keith explains to you how dangerous everything is and how helpless you are. Keith is the team leader of the para-commandos.
Then they make you watch this safety movie narrated by an insane man who apparently invented skydiving.
This may have been the most terrifying part of the experience.
Then they make you sign away your life to the Special Forces.
"Now it's time to wear your onesie," Keith says.
10. They put you in a harness and a para-commando yanks all the straps on it REALLY, REALLY tight.
11. Then they make you put on a leather helmet.
I think to humiliate you.
12. Then you walk out to the plane like Top Gun apparently.
(Even though you are scared shitless.)
13. The plane lands virtually right in front of you. Step, march.
14. The plane begins to climb at an extremely fast pace.
It is also deafeningly loud.
You remember the only thing between you and the outside world is this thin plastic, see-through door.
15. The plane you are in looks like this:
You are packed like sardines around guys who kill terrorists, sometimes. About halfway up, your tandem partner begins placing giant clamps on you.
16. Right about when the plane reaches an altitude that reminds you of a commercial airline flight, the plastic door swings open.
This is about 13,000 feet up. The gust of air here physically knocks the wind out of you.
"NO. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. THERE SHOULD BE SOMETHING BETWEEN ME AND THE REST OF THE WORLD UP HERE."
And then, as casually as you would exit a parked car, para-commandos start stepping out of the plane.
18. Then, the guy you are strapped to physically waddles you up to the open door...
... and dangles you over the ledge.
19. The guy behind you screams, "ANY LAST WORDS?"
THEN A GIANT MAN PHYSICALLY HURLS YOU OUT OF A PLANE A FEW MILES HIGH.
BYE, PLANE, TTYL.
HELLO, EARTH. BRB
Here is what you are thinking right at this instant:
Nothing you can do now.
20. They tell you, "Remember to breathe because you will be falling at 135 miles per hour and breathing is difficult."
*remember to breathe* *remember to breathe* *remember to breathe* *remember to breathe* *remember to breathe* *remember to breathe* *remember to breathe*
21. Interacting with humans mid-free fall is not natural.
"Oh, hello, Superman, flying through the air and grabbing hold of me."
22. Remember those explosives we first saw when we entered the camp? The para-commandos strap them to their legs.
They pull the pin and it makes a colored smoke trail.
COOL EFFECT, BRO.
23. Then everyone flies away like super heroes.
24. This is one of the best feelings you will have in your adult life:
It goes from insanity to peace in .0561 seconds.
This is simply serene.
25. When you land they tell you "Lift your legs up!"
And then you just sort of land on your butt.
"We did not have to use the razor blade explosion!"
26. And to celebrate your time back on Earth, the para-commandos have a giant fridge full o' beer.
27. Oh, did I mention being a para-commando is a volunteer duty?
There is no extra pay involved. All of these guys still have full-time jobs elsewhere in the military. They go out and do this in support of the Special Operation soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen deployed to over 100 countries around the world.