“The sky, even more than the sea, is terribly unforgiving for even the slightest mistake.” (Author Unknown)

Let’s get one thing straight: I hate jumping. Don’t get me wrong, the whole concept and execution is sexy enough, but I was simply cursed with a wicked bout of acrophobia. Two or three days prior to an airborne operation I would start feeling anxious and preoccupied. That anxiety, however, kept me focused and safe; it kept my circle of awareness clear and well-defined. I should also add that I never missed an airborne operation during my entire 18 years on airborne status in the Army.

I attended the Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) high altitude parachute course with the Delta Force in 1990. Typically, we jumped three to four times a day accomplishing relatively simple tasks like falling flat and performing a proper ripcord pull sequence.

As the course progressed, the tasks became more and more complicated. Our typical altitude for a free fall jump was 12,500 feet. One of our requirements for the AFF course was to complete a jump from 24,000 feet. At that altitude, the atmosphere is too rarified of oxygen to sustain life, so we each had to wear a self-contained oxygen (O2) system.