FORT HOOD, Texas -- As the only airborne unit at Fort Hood prepares to deactivate, paratroopers with Delta Company, 52nd Infantry Regiment (Long Range Surveillance) completed their last jump at Rapido Drop Zone here on Sep. 1. The Paratroopers jumped from a CH-47 Chinook.
An LRS unit is a specially-trained group of Soldiers who are used by combatant commanders to gather intelligence within enemy territory in front of the forward line of troops by providing continuous surveillance while on reconnaissance missions.
The jump helped keep jumpmasters and paratroopers current on their certifications while maintaining proficiency in airborne operations. It was a significant day for most of the unit's members.
"It's an emotional day in the airborne community considering we are the last airborne LRS unit to conduct airborne operations," said Staff Sgt. Nathan Raymond, an infantry Soldier with Delta Co., 52nd Infantry Regiment (LRS). "I've been airborne for 11 years now, and the thought of possibly moving on to a non-airborne assignment -- it makes me emotional."
"This is my first unit and to see it deactivate. It's sad. [This unit] will always hold a special place in my heart," said Pfc. Dylan Howard, an infantry paratrooper with the LRS unit. He has been in the military for only one year.
Not only were the Soldiers saddened to see the unit deactivate, their leadership was, too.
"Today is bittersweet for me. It's been a lot of fun, and it was an honor to serve in this unit. But, this is a very sad day because this is the last jump before the unit's deactivation," said Capt. William Fuller, the commander of the LRS unit since May 2016.
"This will be the last airborne operation that an LRS unit will conduct in the Army. All of the other LRS companies are in the process of shutting down and deactivating."
But what did it mean to the paratroopers to complete their last jump?
"It wasn't the fact that this was the last jump that meant more to me and held a deeper meaning," said Howard. "It was the fact that I had the opportunity to jump one last time with fellow Soldiers, people I came to know as family."
"Although this is my last jump with such an awesome unit, I'm extremely proud to meet all of the criteria and receive my master parachutist badge today," said Raymond, who received his badge with the unit in a brief ceremony at the drop zone.
Although the LRS company is a III Corps operational asset, they are also administratively task organized under 3rd Squadron "Longknife," 3rd Cavalry Regt. Many of the unit's Soldiers will be reassigned to other companies within 3rd Cavalry Regiment.
Fuller said he believed many of the unit's members will always cherish some events, even after deactivation.
"As a unit, we loved physical training, live-fire exercises, and airborne operations," said Fuller. "But as the commander of the last LRS unit in operation, when I get to see Soldiers execute a mission to perfection knowing that they've been training for several weeks, it's always a deeply satisfying moment."