by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Smith
Soldiers from the 52nd Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade, viewed the scenery of southern Colorado from a much different perspective Aug. 5. during a singles retreat organized by the chaplain’s office.
Chap. (1st Lt.) Domenic Grotti, 52nd Eng. Bn., took 28 Soldiers through two days of relationship training, culminating with Soldiers making static-line jumps from an altitude of 4,000 feet at the Freemont County Airport.
The training, called Premarital Interpersonal Choices and Knowledge, is a program put out on the Army through chaplains to help strengthen single and married Soldiers, said Grotti. It teaches and trains Soldiers to look at things from an objective standpoint to avoid getting into relationship trouble.
“What it gives you is a tool to interact with anybody,” Grotti said.
“It doesn’t even have to be your future spouse or whoever you date, but it could be co-workers or something like that.”
Grotti used the skydiving experience as a way to link the classroom training on relationships to something more tangible that the Soldiers could physically experience.
“It’s an analogy really,” Grotti said. “Skydiving is about faith and trust. Trusting the tool and trusting the training. You put your life at risk, and Soldiers … put their lives on the line every day with relationships and it either helps them or hurts them. So if they can trust a tool or plan to give them success then … they may put their faith in that tool.”
The tools they were given at the airport were different from the ones they received from the relationship training. In the place of communication skills were parachutes, altimeters and airplanes.
The Soldiers were taught how to climb onto the outside of the plane and hang from a wing strut before letting go and beginning their 4,000-foot descent towards the ground. They were alone in the sky from that point, drifting along with the winds, steering their chutes before being guided into the landing area by an employee on the ground with a radio.
A hard pull of the parachute toggles flared the chute, slowed them down and landed them softly on the ground.
And they loved it.
“It was pretty exhilarating,” said Spc. AmandaLeigh Millar, 52nd Eng. Bn. “It was a lot of fun, kind of scary but I would definitely do it again.”
Spc. Nelson Shendow, 52nd Eng. Bn., had to refer to the training he was given during his jump but was able to enjoy his trip back down to solid ground.
“Emotionally I was still kind of dazed,” he said. “Hadn’t quite caught on that I wasactually jumping out of a plane. When the chute popped (open), it was actually tangled and I referred to what they … taught us and I was able to get it straightened out without freaking out.”
Shendow was among the many that were awed by the experience.
“It’s like reaching the top of a mountain,” he said. “You can say you’ve done it. You don’t realize how much fun it was till you hit the ground and you’re like ‘wow, I’m alive still.’ I can’t explain it.”