I wrapped my hands in their third pair of socks, checking to make sure my scarf was securelywrapped around my neck. My cap was on, goggles secure, headset in place. My jacket wasbuttoned, tucked in- I wished I had brought more clothing, wished that I had foreseen what wasgoing to happen. It wasn't too unexpected, really, that Ben Gurion's airstrip was completelyobstructed by abandoned aircraft, swarming with the thousands of people who had tried toescape, but there was no time to seek a safer alternative. The pilot brought the plane back,running out of fuel as we rounded Tel Aviv, locking the plane in as we prepared to jump. Therewas precious little we could do to protect ourselves from the elements, but we wouldn't have todeal with the temperature for long. I looked to my left, observing the mechanic's clothing; heseemed even less prepared than I was, without anything but the collar of his jacket to protect hisface. Past him, Nogah and the pilot were checking each other's reserve parachutes. I turned backto the pallet behind me, retrieving my rifle and satchel, securing the former to my pack andthrowing the latter over my shoulder, adjusting the strap until it was pressed tightly against mythigh. The muffled thuds of the engines completely obscured the pilot's footfalls as he went backto lower the cargo bay door. I shuffled slightly, fighting the urge to gauge the readiness of theother men around me- It would do me no good to know that they felt unprepared. The pilotshouted something unintelligible as the cargo bay door began to descend.The mechanic went first, starting a jog towards the door and looking back at us for a half-secondbefore jumping off of the side. In an instant, he was just a dot. I looked to my left and gave Nogaha slight nod; he followed the mechanic out into the day. I glanced over my shoulder at the pilot,who was busy unclasping the straps that held the pallets of materials down; I supposed hethought they would survive the fall and still remain of some use to us. I looked back at the skyahead of us and, with another brief breath of thin air, sprinted straight at the edge of the planeand leaped out into oblivion.It was bitterly cold at 25,000 feet.I didn't appreciate the temperature of the air until I found myself floating in it, flailing about inendless nothing for a heart-stopping instant before righting myself. The exposed skin around mygoggles and ears rapidly became numb from the temperature and the wind, but I didn't havemuch time to appreciate this before the time came to deploy my parachute. I jerked down hard onthe cord, feeling the parachute deploy, but there was no hard tug. I didn't bother checking to seewhat the problem was- I partially unzipped my jacket at the top, plunging my hand in and tuggingmy knife free, cutting the parachute free and deploying the reserve. A departure from what Ishould have done, I packed and checked my own parachute; perhaps this was because I hadlived for years by myself, choosing to ignore the values of teamwork that the Sayeret Matkal hadinstilled in me, but below the level of conscious thought I knew it was because I had little intentionto attempt to regroup with the others. As I shed my loyalty to America in favor of loyalty to Israel, Ichose to forgo my loyalty to Israel in favor of loyalty to myself.I landed some time later, immediately ridding myself of my parachuting gear and loading my rifle.I tried to hail the others on the radio, but I received no response through my headset. I removedit, letting it rest around my neck as I rid myself of the extra clothing I had put on to lessen theeffects of the temperature when I jumped from the airplane. My training was kicking in; I wasalert, vigilant, aware of my surroundings. I may be home, but I was also in hostile territory, and Iwas alone. I vacated my landing site as soon as I was able, following my compass and headingtowards Jerusalem. Before, I was too harsh; I never intended to completely abandon Israel, or fight on the side opposite. No, I intended fully to assist Israel in her endeavours.But I had priorities, too.Double arm block above face to counter open-palm forearm strike. Counter with left foot stomp onright toe to follow up with knife-edge hand strike to locked right arm joint.