According to the mind training information I've read, in order to resolve this problem, I first need to figure out why I do this. Is it that I am just a wimp and afraid to experience that kind of pain? Am I simply not fit enough to hold the pace? I thought about this on my easy run last night and channeled a younger, fearless me to help shed light on these questions.
In July 1988, I was a 20-year-old Air Force (AF) ROTC cadet on my way to Army Airborne Training in Fort Benning, Georgia. Most of my peers were headed to a random AF Base in the States to shadow a real AF officer in their chosen career field for a week or two. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to jump out of big airplanes and earn my jump wings and proudly wear them on my military uniform for my entire career.
I did not know what to expect but was quickly introduced to the Army way of training soldiers for combat. I have not endured greater mental or physical strain in my life than I did at Army Airborne training that hot summer in Georgia. I watched a friend collapse from heat stroke, go into cardiac arrest and get rushed to the hospital while a Sergeant Airborne told me he hoped that she died because she didn't drink enough water. The next day, I almost burst my over-hydrated bladder while standing in formation for hours without being allowed to go pee after witnessing the near-death incident. We were doing hundreds of push ups, sit ups and flutter kicks every day. We double timed everywhere in combat boots and practiced crashing into the earth from various heights over and over again until we got it right. We spent 12-16 hours of each and every day doing these things. I got it, and I loved it. They were trying to make us mentally and physically strong enough to survive our 5 jumps from large C-141 and C-130 aircraft without killing ourselves or the soldier next to us in the process. It was all one big well-designed training program.
I had three things that made me stand out and worked against me in this training. First, I was Air Force in an Army Training program. Second, I was an officer candidate in a sea of enlisted. Third, I was a female. From day one, I got attention, and it wasn't the good kind. I wasn't able to blend in because I was branded with a piece of masking tape on my kevlar helmet that read "C50". The C stood for Cadet and the 50 was just my number. Charlie is the phonetic identifier for the letter C in the military. The Army shortens it the monosyllabic Chuck. So, my name was Chuck five zero.
|Loading up a C-141 for my first jump.|
|Dumping the chumps out of a C-130.|
Even receiving my Airborne wings in a glorious ceremony wasn't enough for Chuck 50. I wanted "blood wings". You get your blood wings behind closed doors where they punch the metal Airborne badge into the flesh of your chest with the pointy barbed fasteners exposed. I got my blood wings and proudly wore the scabby holes in my chest left by this act for a couple of weeks following training.
|Graduation Day for Charlie Company and Chuck 50.|