FORT BRAGG, N.C. – The night jumps that turned into nightmares. The “sticks” that felt like a stick up his hidey-hole. Cpl. Bryan Copewell, an Army paratrooper, experienced them all.
He has catapedaphobia, the fear of jumping. But now he’s found a solution through a non-profit organization called Airborne Anonymous.
Copewell admits that he’s terrified of jumping from anything, despite being airborne-qualified with over 15 jumps to his credit. But, he admits, “most of those jumps were me going out a window to avoid motor pool Monday.”
The Ft. Bragg AA Chapter, nicknamed “Leg or Bust,” is headed by Chairman Rodney Little, himself a battle-hardened veteran of one terrifying aborted jump at Fort Benning.
“We understand the fear of jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, and our 12 Steps-on-the-Ground program helps transition soldiers into the Air Force,” Little said.
“I can’t jump from an airplane, or from my bunk at reveille, or even go down stairs two at a time,” said Copewell. After being diagnosed, he was recently assigned to the S-1 at the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, as a clerk-flunky.
“I’m so glad I became a ‘leg,’” he adds. “I sit at this desk all day with my feet firmly planted on God’s green linoleum, and I don’t get dizzy anymore when I walk down a sloping drop zone.”
Little escorted Copewell to his first AA meeting, held in a single-story building off-post that sits on perfectly-level ground. Copewell introduced himself with the well-known statement, “I’m Bryan Copewell, and I’m catapedaphobic.” He says, “I knew I was in the right place when attendees responded, ‘I will not jump with you today.’”
AA has seen an exorbitant growth in membership in recent years, once Internet-savvy soldiers realized that paratrooper recruiting videos are complete bullshit, and that there have only been a few unit-sized combat jumps since 1944.
“Tom Hanks screwed me with that Band of Brothers show,” says Copewell. “He’s the problem. I’m not the problem.”