Katie Batchelder Earns Her Jump Wings in France
Oct. 22, 2009
The mistral winds have arrived in France, and their bone-chilling gusts from the north are a rude awakening to the beginning of winter. Regardless of the weather, the show must go on. Since I last wrote, I jumped out of an airplane, shot 9mm pistols, went on another night march and got completely lost, hiked and had a picnic with members from the Rotary Foundation and ate snails. Today, I had lunch with the General of the base, the President of a Japanese military school, a German exchange student and an Italian exchange student...yours truly represented the American cadets. What a wild ride I'm on!
Let's begin with parachuting...
I shook like a leaf before my first jump, and waited anxiously and nervously to board the plane. The instructors told me to smile as I sat in fear in my bucket seat...I wasn't going to pretend like I was happy about jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. The first jump was great. I jumped, did all of the necessary drills in mid-air in order to land safely, and landed after about two minutes. On the second jump, we were told to pull our reserve parachute to see what it was like, just in case we actually needed to use it at some point. My bad luck arrived...the rain came, followed by wind, and when I pulled my reserve parachute, it got twisted and the wind caught my reserve, whipped me around and then twisted my main parachute. Luckily I was able to untwist the main parachute, but I had a very hard landing due to the twisted reserve pulling me towards the ground at a faster pace than my ankles and knees could handle. The girl next to me landed on the concrete runway parallel to our landing zone...I guess I wasn't SO unlucky. The third jump was just as bad, if not worse. We jumped out of the plane from both sides of the airplane this time, and the girl that was on the opposite side of me somehow drifted over to my area and the strings from her parachute got caught around my legs. I was able to pull the strings off and throw them in the other direction... I'm sure we both would have plummeted to the ground. I landed safely and was very hesitant to jump the fourth time. I had to complete four jumps to obtain my jump wings, so I went ahead and did it, without trouble this time, except for the landing in a mud puddle. That was messy. I have always enjoyed looking at clouds, but after that experience, I appreciate dirt a lot more. There was a special ceremony with the French officers and jump masters, and I received my French jump wings.
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The following week, I learned how to use a 9mm pistol. We spent two days at the firing range. The first day I scored 18/20 and got four head shots, and the second day we shot from farther away and I only scored 12/20 because my four shots just below the dummy's "belt buckle" didn't count as "completely killing" the enemy. I'd say that if anyone got shot below the belt buckle, they are surely done for. Nonetheless, I can use a handgun now. I never thought anyone would trust a Batchelder girl with a loaded weapon! ;)
My group (myself and three French cadets) survived yet another night march, but only after we got lost for 45 minutes and couldn't find the 11th flag-marker to get to the final point of the march. We had taken over the three hour limit for the march/literal night run, so we were forced to stop and were picked up by the truck of shame. The next day for p.e. class I did more repetitions on the obstacle course. I've never done this much military training ever!
I started playing volleyball yesterday, but to my surprise, the team is even more inexperienced than I thought. The coach pulled out a "volleyball 101" book (in French, of course). That's right...he doesn't know how to play. Looks like I'll be helping coach and play at the same time.
The French Toussaint holiday is coming up, and I am going to spend a week with my mom and aunt in the south of France. We are going to travel to all of the nearby villages and see all of the different castles, wineries, churches, museums, etc. that French countryside has to offer.
Great people, great experiences, life-long memories. More to come!