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An inside look at a World War II style jump school

FREDERICK, Okla._They may not be in the military, but a handful of civilians and veterans earned their jump wings Friday in Frederick.

The World War II Airborne Demonstration Team holds a 10 day course at the old Frederick Army Airfield each January and July to teach people how to parachute from a plane. At the end of their training, the students go up in a World War II era C-47 and leap out.

Students from all over the country and the world come to Frederick so they can go through the jump school. Kathleen Healey, 42, decided to come all the way from New Jersey after her brother completed the course in 2008.

"My birthday is actually June 6, which is D-Day, so I have always had a connection to World War II and I was just like I want to do that," said Healey.

Now it's not all fun and games from the get-go, there is a lot of important training they have to undergo before they even jump out of the plane. Senior Instructor Tom Boyle has been with the team 10 years and he says safety is a top priority.

"It's like building a house, you have to have a solid foundation, and we boiled that foundation down to hand placement on the exit and landing. If you can have those two things working correctly then everything else is pretty straightforward," explained Boyle.

He says some people may find it weird that they are training someone to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

"This is a very unnatural thing, totally unnatural," acknowledge Boyle.

Once tests are passed and you're clear to jump, it's time to put your parachute on, check your equipment, and board the plane that you won't be on when it lands.

While in the air, Healey says she thought her heart would be beating out of control on her first jump, but it didn't. She was joined by the very person who encouraged her to do the course in the first place.

"I had a sense of calmness knowing my brother was there. My brother would never let me do something that would harm myself,” said Healey.

She says that there is a time when the reality does sink in.

"I think the heart rate will increase once you hear that ‘one minute’ and you repeat it back and you know this is it, it's happening right now," said Healey.

The students said that minute goes incredibly fast, then all of a sudden its time to exit the plane.

"When you get out of the door, just getting into that tucked position and keep your head down so that the risers come up and the chute opens then all of a sudden, you're just out there," explained Healey.

After five jumps, you're qualified and for Kathleen and others it's a special moment when they get their jump wings.

"I get pinned by a World War II veteran and that's just so nice because they aren't going to be around much longer," said Healey.

Open Hangar Day starts at 8:00 a.m. Saturday at their facility in Frederick. The public is invited to come see live World War II history displays and watch airborne demonstrations.

 

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