Airborne student to instructor: “Sergeant, if our main parachute doesn’t open, how much time do I have to deploy my reserve parachute?”

Instructor: “The rest of your life, private… the rest of your life.”

Low-altitude parachute operations in the regular army airborne units are hours of pain and terror followed by approximately 30-second of a refreshing float to Earth and a sack-of-potatoes crash to the ground.

Photo courtesy of the author: low-altitude jumper from a C-130 Hercules transport AC near the Nevada Test Site in 2014.

High-altitude parachute operations with Delta are minutes of equal parts discomfort and terror, a minute of free-fall, another minute of floating to Earth, then a kiss of a standup landing.