It was a spring morning, a pale sun in a hazy blue sky, with just a little chill in the light wind.
I was a Sergeant in the Royal Army Medical Corps and my team were providing medical cover on a parachute drop zone.
The Hercules planes were flying overhead at 800 feet and the air was full of developing and descending canopies.
As I looked up, watching for danger, I saw two paratroopers collide, their chutes tangling and then separating. One chute developed but the other only partly opened and the paratrooper began rushing toward the ground. They were about half a mile away and I started running.
I saw the paratrooper, chute flapping, hit the ground.
When I got to him I immediately recognised one of my friends, Sergeant John Smith, with whom I’d been having a beer in the Mess only the evening before.
Members of my team were arriving, we gave John plenty of reassurance, managed the situation, applied traction to his spine and lifted him into a military ambulance.
As I was sitting in the ambulance next to John he was pale, shocked and terrified. I was talking with him, reassuring him when the Sergeant Major’s face appeared next to mine, “The next time you jump out of a plane Sergeant Smith keep your ******* arms in!”
“Why, will I jump again Sir?” came the feeble request from this normally strong man.
The Sergeant Major’s voice softened as he held John’s hand, “Of course you will John” he said with complete certainty.
John looked into our eyes and he palpably relaxed.
In those few words, delivered with certainty, understanding and compassion, the Sergeant Major immediately improved John’s mental and physical state.
Soft skills par excellence!
And John did jump again.