It is generally a good rule of thumb, that immediately before you embark on any type of an exhausting journey that will take you far from home and expose you to danger or adversity for an undetermined length of time that you should do something completely stupid and illogical (but of course in as safe a manner as possible). While this is obviously a good way to relieve stress and anxiety, it also helps to level you out a bit by reminding you of the utter ridiculousness of your existence on this planet. And it gives you a decent story to bullshit about to your friends during moments of extreme suck, homesickness, burnout, etc.
In order to fulfill this pre-deployment requirement, I decided to pay a visit to my friend Nick who used to work with the West Point Parachute Team and is now an active BASE jumper stationed in Germany like myself on my last night of freedom. Nick lives roughly three hours away from Grafenwohr and with my new fast rental car—which I took after junking my now worthless Cavalier which had served me well since the cadet days—it really wasn’t a problem. Conveniently, Nick was in the process of recovering from a broken femur he had suffered in the Swiss Valley and while he still had to walk around on crutches, he was keen to make his first BASE jump since the incident which occurred in April. Of course, since he still had a partially unbroken femur, the jump would have to be during the daylight hours so he could adequately see the ground and know when to flare his canopy. While BASE jumping is highly illegal in Germany and jumping during the day increases the chances of getting caught by a high factor, neither of us really cared as long as we found a windmill far from the autobahn and Nick had the perfect one in mind. Also, we wanted to drive Stuttgart which was 2 hours away from Nick’s place later that night to see my former teammate and current cadet, Pamela, who had just arrived in Germany and deserved a warm welcome and since it stays light in Germany until roughly 2230, a dayblaze it would be. No worries though, we were just one cripple and one guy with less than 48 hours left in the country who could not speak very good German driving around in the middle of nowhere to take “pictures” of windmills and chill out and enjoy an amazing evening together…not as gay as it sounds…
After finding our windmill we immediately gained access to it through a secret technique, and then proceeded to chill out, slowly get our ready and put our boots on with my car parked at the base of a windmill in the middle of nowhere on top of a hill. Sometimes I guess the sport is all about audacity. We then rode the elevator to the top since Nick really couldn’t climb a ladder and I am generally lazy by nature, geared up and got out onto the roof. At this point, we were pretty sure that nobody really cared we were there since if they did they would have shown up already, so we calmly took the time to take a few pictures and enjoy the amazing western German countryside. After a few minutes, we went off with Nick handling himself very well for someone couldn’t even walk like a normal human being and I enjoying my usual, relaxing windmill experience for my last jump in a very long time.
Not seeing 10 Polizei cars waiting for us on landing, we calmly stashed our gear, recovered the camera we had left on the ground to record our experience and headed back to Nick’s place so he could secure his computer which would allow us to watch video of his femur-breaking injury before heading out to Stuttgart to link up with Pamela and enjoy a few beers. Stuttgart is a very nice city and our brief visit was quite enjoyable as I always like linking up with former teammates in random parts of the world. The evening of course was rather tame since none of us had really slept much recently and we didn’t get out until after midnight thanks to getting lost for an hour or so but that was probably for the best since I had to leave early in the morning and finish packing my gear for the deployment. Still, for a little over a 24 hour adventure hitting two different German cities, linking up with two old friends, and jumping from an awesome virgin German object in the middle of the day like we owned the world seemed like a good enough way of sending myself off to the wonderful Afghanistan. Judge me if you want, but at least my BASE rig is freshly unpacked and securely in Nick’s possession for whenever I end up needing it the ‘Stan…
Have fun boys and girls…I’m out
16 July 2011, 1800 CEST, Grafenwohr, Germany