In the 1980’s, the nearest skydiving center from Downtown Los Angeles was called the “Lake Perris Skydiving Center” and it would become a part of my twice-a-month routine to visit this place and “jump” for the “rush of adrenaline”.
I really wanted to become a member of the Special Forces and become an “Airborne” trooper of the Philippine Army during my younger years as an officer. But circumstances then did not give me the opportunity to be one.
So, while having my leave after my schooling in Fort Benning, I visited this place which is 80-90 miles east of Los Angeles early Monday morning. At the end of the day, I had my “first jump” from a small airplane after paying $ 100.00.
Once I registered on the first hour of the morning (8:30 AM), I paid my fee and I was led to an audio-visual room where I was personally lectured by my designated “jump master”, who is a retired member of the US Special Forces, in his mid-forties. After 2 1/2 hours of lecture and video presentation, there was a break.
During this break, my “jump master” and I had a conversation and asked me some questions. The “jump master” ask me why I am interested to learn how to skydive. I told him that I am a visiting student in Los Angeles from the Philippines and I wanted to experience the feeling of jumping from the plane with a parachute. I told him also that there are no skydiving facilities in my country and such activity is only limited to the military. At this point, he bragged to me that an Israeli Commando Team had trained in the skydiving center for one month and the National Skydiving Team of Indonesia whose members are from their Kopassus (Special Forces) had also skydiving activities for almost two months at Lake Perris.
In the afternoon, I was made to do some drills: jumping from an elevated platform (4-5 feet) to simulate landing on the ground; landing on the ground with feet together; doing the body roll on the right/left side of the body once the feet touches the ground; emergency drills just in case of problems with the parachute; drills in case of landing on water, electric lines, etc. and drills to manuever the parachute.
After the drill, my “jump master” started to suspect that I am from the military because I could easily do the drills without so much corrections from him. He knows that I had advance knowledge about jumping from the airplane.
When the winds settled before 5:00 PM, I was already on the plane for my first parachute jump. The plane used was a T-10 trainer plane which is a four-seater plane. The two seats at the back were removed and the jump master and I were seated on the floor during our flight. After testing the direction of the wind from an elevation of 1,500 feet and marking my drop zone/landing area, I was made to jump from the airplane! The feeling of slowly going down to the ground with a parachute and manuevering it towards the landing zone was an awesome experience.
My first parachuting experience was a solo jump. There were no tandem jumps then during the early ’80s.
I got my First Jump Certificate before I left the place and I had to go back for some more jumps in the coming weeks. I had almost 15 jumps from this skydiving center and had experience joining other skydivers during weekends.
At the age of 49, I joined a Special Forces “Airborne” Course of the Philippine Army and finished it and earned my “Airborne” Badge! I did my five jumps in one day! Few months after, I had the chance to join the US Special Forces for a joint parachute jump at Clark Air Base which earned me also the US Special Forces “Airborne” Badge!