After the tortuous process of Basic,and Advanced Individual training at Fort Benning, Georgia which is designated for hardcore Infantry . The large majority of soldiers will graduate after 14 weeks , and head home before reporting to their first duty station. These soldiers were formidable, but they were what we call “Legs” which are soldiers who will never be Airborne .
For those few who elected to take the hard road, and attempt to become a member of the Airborne ELITE the journey had just begun. So There I was standing alone with just three other soldiers out of hundreds of men who had just left after graduation. There was special feeling in the air like we three had just fought a battle, and were the sole survivors. We were getting ready to head directly over to Airborne school. The excitement I had was fear based from all the stories handed down from the drill sergeants of how difficult it would be for the few of us crazy enough to try out for the Airborne, but this fear was a powerful tool. I remember my Drill sergeant looking at me and saying” proud of you Kirby, when you get those wings, if you earn them, you will have surpassed me, and you’ll be in the top one percent of this Army’s soldiers. It was serious fuel the mission ahead.
Its hard to describe the feeling when you’re heading to an ELITE combat military institution that’s main purpose is to weed out weakness. Where 100% will start on day one, but less than 40% will be standing for graduation. Only the strong will survive, and only those willing to endure the punishment can avoid being a No-Go. Yes you volunteered for this training, no one forced you into it. At the beginning somewhere inside yourself you felt the calling to become a paratrooper. But six or seven out of every ten cant handle the pressure and the relentless harassment to give in and give up. They give you a way out, you can drop out by just walking up to a Black Hat during morning formation, and face the truth and the shame in front of the onlooking warriors and say” I am to weak to be an Airborne soldier.. Sir” ” nobody there forces you stay. Its not for everybody. Its only for those seeking the Glory.
One of the first visuals when approaching Airborne School
In fact; The the Airborne cadre called “Black Hats” have one job. To antagonize you day and night to leave. They hound you constantly, and they sort out the quitters early on. They can smell weakness, and once you show your vulnerable its a bad day for you. You gotta want it from deep down, you gotta suck it up, shut up, do what you’re told no matter how much it sucks. After the end of week one you start to see the men separate from the boys, and then the real work begins.
Five day training weeks are mandatory, and always start with running a mile to eat chow then running a mile back to formation. Then the intense personal inspection where they look for the most minuscule details to penalize you with infractions( demerits), remember each demerit is 30 extra minutes in the worm pit, and this is on top of the individual intense days training. The Worm pit is where you don’t want to end up. There you’ll endure hours of calisthenics while being hosed down and covered in sawdust you must enter and leave as a worm does on your belly face down, and under the hose.
We hit the mandatory three mile run at a seven minute per mile pace if you fall six paces offf the last man you can be disqaulified and released from the Airborne its no joke you have to be on your A game at all times.( remember we have already ran two from Chow and back) this is directly followed by rigorous physical training which includes names like ” the dying cockroach, and Inverted tree push ups”. Remember were talking about a Thousand or more push ups, and up to four thousand flutter kicks , hundreds of Star Jumpers, Mountain climbers, Jumping Jacks, Leg lifts, etc etc while under extreme pressure from the Black Hats who will break your body and your will down. Now breaking down physically is a given, and its expected to adequately test each soldiers internal fortitude. The vital thing is that they must never see your Mind give in, your will to continue must always remain true.They know the body will follow the mind, so if you prove you wont break mentally in any way then they know you wont fail in your future missions when you become a Paratrooper.
Being part of an Elite team always requires sacrifice and extraordinary commitment. That’s how it was being an Airborne Paratrooper, and that’s how is being Chop Certified, we hold ourselves to the absolute highest standards.