Editor’s Note: We at SOFREP have the distinct pleasure of being able to introduce to you the life story of a great American, LTG (Retired) Jim Johnson, Jr. Over the next few Saturdays, we will be sharing excerpts from his Autobiography, Static Line: An Airborne Infantryman’s Career. The story follows him from West Point in 1956 through his 33-year military career in times of war and peace. From Platoon Leader to Division Commander, Johnson did it all, inspiring trust and confidence in his men every step of the way. — GDM
In mass tactical airborne operations, a paratrooper’s main parachute is deployed using a device called a static line. A static line is a length of webbing attached to the aircraft anchor line cable at one end and the parachute deployment bag in which the main parachute is kept at the other. As the paratrooper exits the jump door and falls away from the aircraft, the static line pulls the main parachute out and ensures the deployment of the main canopy. A static line is a simple but essential component of the parachute. Proper use of the static line is required for a successful jump. It is inspected by the jumpmaster and fellow paratroopers numerous times in the jump procedure. The more that a static line becomes frayed or weakened, the greater the risk of failure. In all my parachute jumps, and in my military career too, despite fraying and frequent use, I was blessed with a solid, reliable static line.
Many of you who served with me are wondering, why I am now publishing a book? The reason lies in the purpose of this book – to allow future military members to understand how the arch of history is often circular and success is derived from learning from the past. I do not wish to imply that my career was special or that it had any greater effect than the careers of my peers. However, I do believe that we must learn the good and the bad from history. Not knowing what happened before is to wander around without any linkage to the potential solutions that may be out there.
Wisdom and judgement are sometimes tied to the understanding of why things happened in the past and how they can be used to influence the future. My career began as the U.S. Army was preparing for a global nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union, before being distracted by a major counterinsurgency war in Southeast Asia. The ensuing periods of conflict culminated with me leading a combat division in two separate combat deployments in Central America and in the Persian Gulf, about the same time the Cold War was finally coming to an end. After two decades of additional counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq, today’s military is now again preparing for global peer competition. The parallels between my journey and that of future military professionals are many and significant. This book exists so that future U.S. Army leaders can build on my experiences and look back on their career and realize the institution known as the U.S. Army also gave them a solid, reliable static line.
LTG(Retired) Jim Johnson
Former ‘All-American 6’