Even as she insists that her favourite sport, skydiving, is no longer considered an “extreme” sport, Major Andrea Greening is quick to admit that she's not the kind to shy away from physical challenges: “I tried bungee jumping, rock climbing, downhill ski racing; I like speed, I like to go fast!” Not only does she love skydiving, but she's quite good at it. In fact, she is a member of two teams that each picked-up Gold in their respective categories last July at the Canadian National Parachuting competition in Westlock, Alberta.
Although she trains and competes on her own time, outside the military, the Aerospace Engineering (AERE) Officer, presently Squadron Commander at the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering, was formally recognized at the CF Sports Award Ceremony in November 2011. “One of my team mates, Major Renee Point, and I were given special recognition for our achievements in the sport [of parachuting],” she explains. “It was nice to get some exposure for our discipline, and it shows that the CF is no longer looking at it as a fringe sport.”
There are several different disciplines in skydiving, and “formation” is the one that Maj Greening is focused on. “The four-way formation women's team that I'm part of is called Crimson Fox. I'm also part of an eight-way team [Maximum Ride], so I also train for that. Of course, the training for one also helps prepare for the other.”
A member of the CF since 1995 and Graduate from RMC in 2000, Maj Greening was attracted to skydiving after a talk with a female member of the CF Parachute team the SkyHawks. “She asked me if I would like to try it. Eventually I did go with another friend and try a tandem jump, and really, really liked it.” She kept going back and, 50 jumps later, she was hooked. Soon came formation skydiving, progressing to larger and larger groups: “I started with 10, then 20, 30, 80 and eventually...186; that's the largest group I've jumped with.”
Although Maj Greening still enjoys taking part in large formations - she will probably take part in two or three this year, her focus is now on Crimson Fox. And now, as Canadian champions, the team can set its sights on an even bigger challenge: the World Parachuting Championships in Dubai, in November.
“During the winter we're training on weekends in a vertical wind tunnel in Montreal. It simulates freefall pretty well. And before the Worlds, we're planning to do three other competitions just to get more experience at competing as a team.”
In addition to training with her teams, Maj Greening also works in the summer months as a tandem instructor in Port Colborne. She takes people for their first skydive by strapping them to her and, well, getting them to jump out of a plane with her. “Tandem jumping is by far the best way to try freefall,” she says. “You're attached to someone who's experienced, who's trained and knows what to do in case of an emergency. So you can just go and enjoy the ride.”
Jump anyone? Anyone? Anyone?