Paratrooper Frank Kwasnik, Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Kwasnik. Sr., of 7 Washington avenue, formerly of Christie avenue, Clifton, is home on a short furlough from Fort Benning, Ga., home of the famed 508th Parachute Battalion, with experiences as interesting as ever came out of fiction, gained as one of Uncle Sam's "soldiers of the sky."
Lean, bronzed and toughened by weeks of the most intensive and grueling physical training in the world and seasoned by thousand-foot jumps, Paratrooper Kwasnik returned to Clifton to visit his family and friends before resuming training at the Georgia parachute field.
He was Inducted into the Army on Jan. 2 1941, and was sent to Fort
Dix after, which he was transferred to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, where he served in a medical detachment with the infantry. Itching for more action, he asked and
was granted transfer to a machine gun squad, where he served as leader of a section. receiving training at Fort Lewis, Washington. He achieved the rank of Sergeant as a machine gunner.
All during maneuvers, the Clifton youth! gazed upward every time planes droned across the sky, and marveled at the manner in which hundreds of men were dropped to the ground by parachutes. Making up his mind to be a member of that corps, he again applied for transfer and was
gratified to be sent to Fort Benning for training in the most dangerous branch of the armed forces.
The Clifton youth told friends he was placed in the "A" stage of the training which consists of four consecutive alphabetic stages along with other volunteers from all branches of the service.
The course, he stated, is of four weeks' duration, the last week of which Is devoted to the practice jumps from a plane.
The first stage consisted of the most rigorous physical conditioning program given in the Army, he declared. The training is aimed deliberately at weeding out any weak candidates by intensive exercises and physical education courses. One of the things expected of all embryo paratroopers is the ability to travel nine miles at double time with full pack, and at the end, climb a 30-foot rope (hand over hand. Punishment, for failure to carry out a command exactly is to do "hand push-ups" one hundred or more times.
In the second stage, providing a man has had the physical stamina to survive the first stage where many are weeded out, all candidates: are prepared mentally for jumping by practicing packing of chutes, jumping from planes on the ground and executing the required left body turn after leaving the plane, working out on the "trainasium," "landing
trainer," and tumbling.
Strangest paradox, the Clifton paratrooper stated, is that the 40-foot tower, which candidates jump off first, is the one feared most and the one responsible for the most number of "freezes." The thousand foot jumps rarely find a jumper refusing to leave the plane.
Any "freezes" on any tower, he added, is followed up by the Army by automatic "washing out" of the candidate who is quietly transferred back to his former ground unit.
On the 40-foot tower, a candidate
drops 20 feet before a cable takes up the shock and checks the
fall. They are taught to count "one thousand, two thousand, and three thousand" and pull a chute release in this phase of -training.
In the third stage, the men jump off a 250-foot tower, first by controlled chutes and then free chutes, in which wires are dispensed with and the men float to the ground unaided.
A "wind machine" is used to teach the paratroopers how to turn the chute sideways to "collapse" the umbrella in order to avoid being dragged on the ground.
All during the training periods. fractured ankles and knees are quite common among candidates who hit the ground incorrectly.
The myth that all. paratroopers shout "Geronimo" as they leap out of a plane was debunked by the Clifton youth, who laughed and stated that the "thousand counts" are the only ones they actually use.
Ready For First Jump
In the fourth stage, the men are ready for their first jump from a transport plane from an altitude of 1.200 feet. Groups of 24 men. assigned in "sticks" of 12 members, are carried aloft for the first jump.
Also contrary to public belief that the "first" jump is the "hardest." the third and fourth jumps are considered the real hurdles. Kwasnik stated.
On the first jump, the men almost to a man state that they haveabsolutely no recollection of how they left the plane. The whoops of delight from men, who have found themselves suspended in the air over a thousand feet up with others around them, brings a grin to veteran jumpers who have "grown out" of shouting to each other as they descend, and concentrate, instead. upon their objective.
On successive jumps, a paratrooper, the Clifton youth declared,
becomes conscious of the many things which could happen to his
chute and any worrying is done in that stage. Veterans become so
accustomed that they have to be cautioned to actually "worry" a
little bit in order to prevent accidents., 800 .Foot Jumps
Toughest A worry to all paratroopers is the "streamer" : on low
jumps. Sometimes, the prop blast twists the chute like a laundry
wash and, unless there is sufficient altitude, a man could hit the ground before the chute would open up. Consequently, the 800-foot training jumps are considered the "toughest." In actual combat, to avoid sniping by enemy soldiers. jumps are made from 300 feet, where jumps must be made perfectly.
The Clifton youth has suffered no mishaps, except for a few comfortable, but perfectly safe, moments on some of his jumps when he turned over several times from the force of the prop blast before his chute checked him.
On his first jump, he was sixth in line and went out of the plane on the heels of the man in front. Twelve men leave a plane in six seconds, the "'static line" in the plane automatically pulling the release cord. A second chute is worn in the event the first does not operate.
Pack Reserve 'Chute
A humorous incident all paratroopers remember, the Clifton youth added, is the packing of the reserve chute in preparation tor the first jump. Three hours and more is spent by the candidates who check and re-check the very important equipment. Following several chutes, the men. with every confidence in their equipment substantiated, pack them In 30 minutes.
Kwasnik. who is 24 years old. has four brothers and two sisters. He is a graduate of School No. 11,
[The Morning Call, Paterson, NJ, 28 Jun 1943, Mon, Page 16]