Ronin Adventure Training
In April 2019, 10 Ronin Rescue staff decided to fly across the pond to Teuge, Netherlands to take their basic Parachute Course. The admin for this course was a bit of a head scratcher at first – especially when you are booking it from North America. The course is run by the Pathfinder Parachute Club. The club teaches portions of the course and provides the parachutes (and we are jumping round steerable chutes, MC1-1C). The instructors for the club are primarily former British Para’s. (with some current Military scattered in for good measure) You join an Irish Parachute Association. Irish you ask? This is because we are jumping rounds and the Irish Para Association will allow round chutes. You also have ground school taught by and the Jump Master from the Dutch Army. This allows the awarding of your Dutch B Wings after you complete 5 jumps. These are the regular Dutch Military B wings. When you are sitting in Canada trying to sort this all out, it is a bit of a mind warp, however it works well once you are on the ground.
You arrive the Sunday night and in true Military fashion there is some hurry up and wait. Our course consisted of the 10 Ronin staff and 10 Polish Military members. On the Sunday night you hand in your medicals, insurance and generally ensure the paperwork is in order. You are introduced to the staff and shown the shacks (if you are staying at the school). There are bunks at the school that you can use (for a fee) as well as a kitchen to purchase food at downstairs. The Ronin staff rented two chalets at a local campground and did “firehall” meals. This was also a relatively inexpensive option. The campground was about 2km from the airport, however we rented cars as well for night time options on food and drink.
Monday morning starts with a bit more hurry up and wait. The club instructors are not being paid per say, except for by jumps. So a rotation occurs on the first few days to get the club instructors jumps while rotating through teaching the stations. For the students Monday and Tuesday are taken up going from one skill station to the next. Skill stations included racks, Immediate actions (IA’s), Quick Release Buckle (QRB) release, Parachute landing falls (PLF’s), Line overs, bed sheets, more racks, holes in chutes, ground school, terminology, PLF’s oh and did I mention PLF’s. You also learn to pack your chutes. Being a former soldier many of us had no issues with the IA’s or racks or other drills. The military has a drill for everything and this gave us a feeling of comfort. The packing of one’s own chute – even under the expert eyes of staff is a bit different however. I know the first time I jumped my own packed chute I was just praying that it would open. When it did however, it is certainly a wave of confidence.
With huge anticipation we dressed on Tuesday afternoon to start jumping and we waited. And we waited Wednesday as well. The school, and kudos to them, will not allow students to jump if winds are too high. Wednesday instead we went to Ginkel Heath, Oosterbeek, the Airborne Museum, the War Cemetery and the Schoonoord. It was honour to see these locations and set foot upon this ground. Ronin has a high percentage of former military and current Reservists and as such it was great to be able to visit these locations.
Thursday came and we got the word. We were jumping. Everyone’s pucker factor went up a wee bit. Standing on the flight line being inspected by the JM’s you realize – Hey we are really going to do this. We started jumping at 10 AM and completed all 5 jumps that day. Each jump is a different experience and I now understand why you jump 5 times. The first time up. Well it is a bit of controlled fear. We, at Ronin, do play on ropes at height, however this is something different. There is something about having to sort out any issues on your own, or die. Brings your focus back in. I think everyone needs to do this occasionally to get grounded and focused again. The first jump went well. We all landed. We all lived. Confidence boosted! Some of us overshot the DZ a bit while getting the whole steering thing sorted out, but outside of that, all good. For me jump two was the only one that caused a pause. When I went to check canopy the risers were twisted down to my neck. Most likely caused by a poor exit on my part. After a brief oh crap, I followed the drills and kicked out. The drills worked as advertised and the remaining 2 minutes were no drama. Almost everyone had one jump that they had to kick out twists or “take the landing” as they hit water or came in downwind. Nothing like learning by feeling (pain). By the 5th jump most of us were looking around, laughing, enjoying the views and landing within the DZ.
We jumped from 2000’ out of a Cessna 208. This meant a bum exit. After the first exit however, you got used to this. The DZ is border by trees (that our Polish friends seem to enjoy), a pond, that DM decided to try and walk across, a runway that we all tried to avoid (no one likes to be eye to eye with a prop plane when your under a parachute) and a ditch. Well should we say CM’s ditch. Since he decided to land in it and had to release his Capewell in order to stop ditch surfing. Kudos to the staff and students to get 5 jumps in one day while repacking chutes for jumps 3, 4 and 5. It was a long day.
With the last jump being at 1930 we only had limited time to land, pack chutes and get to the course party. The party was in a private bar in a private hangar. The bar was done up to mimic a WW2 bar. There were memorabilia in the bar that could have fit into a museum. Props from planes with rounds through them. Uniforms. Just a great atmosphere to have a drink and think about the day. Thanks for the organizers and owners.
Friday we arrived early (no really we did) so we could pack more chutes and get the Poles their last jumps. Once the jumping was completed it was a quick parade for wings presentations and we bomb shelled out to our respective next events (primarily drinking in Europe).