Soldiers relive history with jump course
June 20, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla.-- Seventeen paratroopers from the 428th Field Artillery Brigade and Ordnance Training Detachment on Fort Sill relived history as they participated in a three-day historic airborne training program by the World War II Airborne Demonstration Team of Frederick, Okla.
Upon arriving, they stepped back in time to 1944. As you pull into Frederick Army Airfield the first thing you see is the guard shack to the left, the hangar right in front of you and the airstrip.
Entering the hangar Col. Raymond Steeley, demonstration team commander, and Command Sgt Maj. Sergeant Richard Wolf, team founder, greeted the paratroopers.
Jeeps and deuce-and-a-half cargo trucks surrounded two C-47 Dakota airplanes appropriately named "Boop D Doop" with a picture of Betty Boop on one nose and "Boogie Baby" with the iconic pinup girl painted right next to her name.
Even the public address system harkened back to the 1940s as the Andrews Sisters belted out "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."
The Soldiers loaded their gear into the barracks on the second floor of the bay complete with bunks from Camp Lejeune, N.C., and old wooden foot lockers at the foot of each bunk.
The training began almost immediately with in-processing and orientation followed up by an overview of all the safety procedures implemented to ensure that everyone in attendance to include the instructors were as safe as could be.
As they gave an overview of the demonstration team's mission and objectives, Fort Sill Soldiers quickly realized in whose footsteps they were following.
"The purpose of the organization is to remember, honor and serve our World War II veterans," said Steeley, though the program has since increased its focus to honor all veterans.
The training focused on proper parachute landing falls, which are critical to prevent injuries as paratroopers land. They also spent many hours on in-plane and during-descent emergencies to include partial and full parachute malfunctions. The Soldiers jumped off platforms simulating exiting the aircraft properly, and reacting to several possible malfunctions.
The training culminated with two jumps from the C-47 at an altitude of 1,500 feet. All jumpers landed safely in the heart of the drop zone with giant smiles on their faces.
Capt. Michael Maurais, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 30th Field Artillery, related the training to his experiences as a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
"Being a paratroop means being the best. Being able and willing to go above and beyond what is expected of you," he said. "The airborne demonstration team teaches much of the same procedures, techniques and rigor as the Army's airborne training."
Sgt. 1st Class Brian Howe has been a paratrooper since April 2004. Howe said he's been itching for the opportunity to serve as a paratrooper in an airborne unit, and in a sense, the visit to Frederick scratched that desire.
"This is a great program out here, and the Lawton community should come check it out and support their program," he said.
Robert Hunter joined the group and became one of its jump masters and trainers, but his interest in joining the group developed much closer to home. His father was a paratrooper during World War II and had three combat jumps.
One of Hunter's 91 jumps was particularly special as he jumped into one of the same drop zones his father jumped into long ago.
"Once you do this, you won't go to an amusement park and have any fun cause this will just knock it out of the water," he said.
Wolf created the organization 1996, in a general purpose medium tent in McAlester, Okla. Like a parachute that seemingly grows as it opens during descent, he hoped and dreamed the organization would grow and that the veterans who have served would always be remembered.
"World War II was probably the single most important world event that ever happened. I wanted to do something to ensure it would not be forgotten," he said.
1st Lt. Susannae Roberts joined the organization with her father in 2007 and pilots one of its aircraft. This falls right in line with her current occupation she's attending pilot training on KC-135 tanker jets at Altus Air Force Base.
"I joined to fly 'Boogie Baby,' though also, it's not historically accurate to allow women to jump, even though the team allows them to," she said. "I wanted to help bring attention to the Woman's Air Force pilots who flew every aircraft that the Army Air Corps had from the lightest trainers to the heaviest bombers."
Their contributions to the war effort will also be remembered as the demonstration team is renovating a section of the hangar to house the Women's Army Corps.
The team holds open hangar days and shares their history with visitors. The next open hangar day is July 27 and it is free to the public. They will feature demonstration jumps, numerous WWII exhibits and the wing pinning ceremony featuring WWII veterans. Also, the 173rd Airborne Brigade will hold a jump school July 16-19 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The next full jump school starts the evening of July 19.
For more information about the demonstration team and its events, visit www.wwiiadt.org.