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Deridder - Fort Polk

Mid 1969 to early 1970

Submitted by Mike Marcon D-3917

There are no photographs of the Fort Polk Sport Parachute Club during the time period shown above that I know of. If there were, they would have been used as State’s Evidence by now. So no pictures of the club’s activities is probably a good thing.

The club only existed, in most part for junior grade officers and a few field grade officers and me, a lowly Private First Class. Due to a rub between the club’s senior officer, Colonel Walde, and the Ft. Polk airfield commander, we had no military aircraft support on the week-ends. So, we were forced to lease a civilian Cessna 180 that cost us a boatload of money to operate. Most enlisted types couldn’t afford anything more than a few forlorn beers at our cobbled together bar and so went jump-less – mostly. The club basically existed for about 10-12 regulars.

The Army had graciously allowed us to use an old World War II vintage theater/church for our clubhouse. My sleeping quarters were upstairs in the projection room. Colonel Waldie was old friend and saw to it that I was assigned to the club full-time. The Colonel was also the post Catholic Priest who conducted services on Sundays with his black Pioneer jump suit and French jump boots on underneath his frock so he didn’t have to waste time changing clothes before heading to the drop zone. I never saw him exit my airplane without genuflecting and making the Sign of the Cross. He once crawled on his hands and knees all day long on the drop zone looking for his lost ripcord (and finding it) before he’d spring for a case of beer.

The Fort Polk Sport Parachute Club was more of an attitude than a jump operation. We only jumped on week-ends and week nights, in fact, every night was devoted to getting drunk. Why? Well, for most of our jumpers, who were basic infantry types, me included, Fort Polk was the last stop before heading off to Viet Nam and whatever the future might hold for us there. In fact, the preponderance of our jumpers were pretty sure that future was mostly bleak and therefore getting sloshed as often as possible seemed as making hay while the sun shined.

In keeping with the club’s operational “I’m gonna die anyway…” mentality, and this is where the “no pictures” thing is good, members, including myself, resorted to a multitude of insane activities to keep our thoughts from wandering away to a possible death in a foreign land. Among those activities were constant rounds of “Dead Ant.” Any jumper worth his or her salt should know what that is. “Tagging” was another game. Tagging was a form of dodgeball for the crazy. Our version meant waiting until everyone was pretty much wasted, turning out the lights in the clubhouse and playing tag by throwing full, not empty, cans of C-rations at one another. Lacerations and concussions were common.
I was the club manager, instructor, rigger, pilot, bartender, and cashier as well peace keeper. We were forced to drive south to Deridder, Louisiana, every week-end, to jump at the old ex-military airport there because Fort Polk had no actual drop zone, just a parade field - a very small parade field. At Deridder, our packing area was in the woods which made packing interesting. Holding tension while lines weaved in and out tree trunks made for exciting openings. Take-offs and landings were fun, too, as I was mostly limited to using taxi-ways situated very close to tree lines. Got to where I could land a 180 similarly to an F4 plopping down on a carrier deck.

A few here may remember the Sport Parachute Club at Fort Polk during that time. Most will not. There is definitely enough material about the Fort Polk Sport Parachute Club, so maybe I will do another book just about it. But, for now, I wanted it entered in The Book of Lost Drop Zones, as much to honor those guys that didn’t get back from the rice paddies as to recount its existence.