One of the many perks of my job is the incredible training opportunities I am provided. The past few weeks were an example of one of the more memorable courses I have been through. This course is designed to make us better at what is known as a HAHO insertion which stands for high altitude, high opening. We were generally opening our parachutes at between 13 and almost 20 thousand feet so we were under our canopies for quite a while. Every jump was to an unmarked drop zone that we had never seen before. These were not manicured and cleared drop zones, they were essentially random spots in the desert complete with rocks, cactus, mesquite trees, uneven terrain, gopher holes and did I mention cactus? Many of these jumps were at night and we had our night vision goggles, body armor, rucksacks and oxygen systems for the majority of them so the training was as realistic as possible. The instruction was top notch and it was great to see our progression over the couple weeks we were there. Being able to pick a spot on a map, exit an aircraft and fly over 15 miles in formation and land at the objective was an awesome experience. There were many lessons learned that could only be taught by getting out there and messing up, whether it be how to utilize your instruments to determine if the actual winds are similar to the predicted ones or how to fix an issue with the formation. Memories like these make me even more grateful to be able to do what I do, even if I am lying on the ground with cactus spines stapling my glove and sleeve to my body.