I feel quite certain that nothing in my mind will top the story of the errant para drop I made into the burning pine forest on Fort Bragg, NC — though there are still those stories that warrant an honorable mention. As good fortune bestows, none of the parachute mishaps I have ever been involved in resulted in fatalities, thereby lending way to the potentially humorous aspects of the events.

Conducting a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jump into the Delta compound was a thing in the day. The landing zone we used was just an open field we had named Falcon Landing Zone that was otherwise used for landing helicopter armadas. I don’t know that it was even a legally surveyed and certified Parachute Drop Zone by the USAF, but then who cared?

On my first, and thankfully only drop, into the Unit compound I was short of thrilled about the prospect by about a statute mile. The day before the drop I cruised around the massive compound assessing it for my top ten least desirable spots to land by parachute. A huge RF antenna was my top pick. Spires on the main cantonment building were high on the list and a pile of automobile wrecks by the engineer’s shed was a staunch contender.

My own pouting about jumping used to get under my skin — aha — and I would get mad at myself for letting para drops mess with my spirit so much. There was a quintessential need to Ranger-up and grow a pair. I was reminded of how my penchant for poor steering had righted itself on the burning forest drop: I would just have to get jiggy and steer my canopy as if my life depended on it… because it DID!