By G22

This operation was long term planned and took place in early November 2008. Typically most European countries show significant signs of winter at this time of the year. An operation in mild climate Italy right on the Adriatic coast along with round canopy static line military jumps and a good portion of airborne comradeship sounded promising. Although I was very skeptic about jumping with a unit I have not met before, I was very curious about it.

Ancona airport welcomes you with a modern architecture building. An Italian gentleman holding a sign International Airborne Ops coming at arrivals was easy to point out. My welcome committee and driver to turned out to be a fellow jumper with a PhD and with an extensive knowledge about Roman history and solid Italian Folgore airborne unit background. He gave me a half day cultural sightseeing through Acona including the harbor and downtown area. In the afternoon my driver dropped me off at a meeting point where I ran into British and off course Italian para troopers. The wild mix of characters and background already looked like fun. If you get to see an Italian car with a lit up skull on the dash board don’t be surprised. The likelihood, that you ran into a Folgore sergeant is very high.

After a 2 hour drive from Ancona to a small town in private joint taxis, we got to see the DZ. A small airport embedded in a wide valley between green fields and historic cities. The mediteran landscape reminded me the scene of the movie In the Name of the Rose. We got a warm welcome from fellow Italian airborne and their Italian guest from countries such as Germany, Portugal, Canada and Ireland. The host Guilio introduced himself and gave us a short briefing. The bunk container was very basic and I hand picked guys I was sure not to be exposed to loud snoring.

Within a half hour we started to practice a LFP along with airplane boarding procedures. The PC-6 airplane looked quite sporty for the few jumpers in this single prop plane. After an extensive refresher training our coach, and our jump master and we felt to ready to get airborne. The Italian fellows provided us our MC-1 Charlie equipment, which looked to be in mint condition. The harness were adjusted a first “before” comrade ship picture was taken. Never in my life I have seen so many different uniforms and nationalities getting ready. Jokes were made not to touch the prop while exiting the plane. A check by our JM and a comrade equipment check and we were set.

Finally we all lined up in our tight harnesses and the hoster guided us to the Pilatus PC-6 waiting for us at the end of the grassy runway. I took my place - left foot on the step, left hand on the small outside reeling and lift into the already full cabin. Here I was - last one on board, first one out. With a friendly grin our Italian host gave me a last fair well push, so we all fit in the now totally crowed airplane. The sliding door was shut and immediately the plane started its short way to the other side of the rollway. The deep sound of this huge black 5 blade prop, the light smell of airplane gas and big eyes of my comrades brought us to 500m altitude. The door opened and instantly being first in this stick I can feel the strong wind in my face. Our jump master stretches and delegates the pilot to the ideal line for our first jump. He yells something like “Sinestra” through the cabin, meaning left in Italian. Once again the airplane danced one more time. Then the JM gives me signal and helps me to get my legs from this cabin Twister onto the door step. I tried to sit still but the strong wind slightly turn me sideways. I adjusted my seating position holding me right arm to secure my reserve handle. I want to make sure, that nobody hangs on to my reserve while I will exit. One thought comes in my mind: Why am I doing this – is this normal?

A load and clear “GO” from my JM and I leave the airplane holding my reserve with both hands. 1.000, 2.000, 3.000, 4.000, check canopy… In long seconds I can feel the canopy pulling my weight until I hear the cute opening. All suddenly, I am surrounded by this peaceful warm breeze of Italian Adriatic air. Clear Sky! I look around and see my fellow airborne friends lined up in the open sky. I turned my chute facing wind. Following the green field below me I can see the oversize red T right in front of the tower. The drop zone is wide and you cannot miss it.

Doing a perfect PLF I roll up my gear and walk to the meeting point. Half way I meet friends from my stick. Pictures are taken and airborne wisdom is exchanged. Soon the Pilatus landed and the second stick got airborne.

Following the first jump I performed 5 more in the next few days. Fine Italian food and vino, many stories and typical airborne friendship rituals concluded every evening. Saturday evening the award ceremony took place. Speeches were held. This evening I earned the Italian, Croatian and European wings. Yes, I treasure those wings as an official sign of distinction, airborne friendship and fun time in Italy.

I would like to thank the organizers of Adriatic Friendship 2008 for this jump fest. I will come again my friends.

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