By Mr. Robert Timmons (IMCOM)June 8, 2017
For the past year Fort Jackson held various events honoring the 100th birthday of the Army's "premier" training post.
The post's year-long Centennial celebration burst forth at Hilton Field June 3 with a free concert, rides for kids, and a rousing fireworks display. The day prior Soldiers from across post ran in formation, while later a birthday cake was cut moments before the start of a golf tournament at the Fort Jackson Golf Club.
The culminating event of the celebration included a free concert from country music legend Hunter Hayes with a special appearance from former American Idol contestant Kellie Pickler, and a Golden Knights parachute demonstration.
"Thank you for coming to our Centennial celebration," said Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson, Fort Jackson's commander moments before the music started. "That is 100 years of dedicated service working to train this Army one Soldier at a time."
Festivities at Hilton Field began earlier that day with mascots of various sports teams and organizations across the Midlands visiting Fort Jackson community members at an area filled with rides and activities aimed at youngsters.
The concert not only showcased top-notch musical talent, but it allowed residents of the Midlands to see parts of their Army they don't usually see -- the Golden Knights Parachute Team.
Staff Sgt. Adan Tagle, a drill sergeant with Echo Company 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, was one of those in uniform watching the demonstration with his troops and his Family.
"It's fabulous for the Soldiers," he said as the parachutists floated down to land on, or very close to, a large target on the field. "They are loving it. When they found out the Golden Knights were jumping they were ecstatic."
The demonstration had the desired effect of helping Army recruitment with at least one person at the event, Tagle's son Landon, but it might take a while for him to sign up since he's 6 years old.
My wife and son "were right here watching the jump," Tagle said. "My son was like, 'I want to jump out of airplanes' all of a sudden."
After the jump individual Golden Knights received help from some small helpers like 6-year-old Wilson Black, who helped Staff Sgt. Kenneth Severin pack his parachute. Black was at a loss for words after helping Severin, but said he "really liked the rides."
The demonstration also brought together Pvt. Jacob Floyd and his stepfather Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney O'Dell, the Golden Knights' senior enlisted leader. Floyd, who graduates in three weeks hadn't seen O'Dell in eight weeks and had never seen the Knights in action before.
When the music began pumping and bright lights flashing the concertgoers, especially the large congregation of Soldiers in Training sang along with the songs, and bobbed their heads in rhythm.
Pickler, who has visited Service members across the globe with the USO, got the crowd warmed up and even made the night special for one Soldier -- Pvt. Miguel Angel Hernandez Lopez with Alpha Company 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment whom she kissed on the cheek.
"Basic (Combat Training) is fun," he said after meeting her. "It's worth it. My life was going downhill and the Army is something I've always wanted to join, so I went ahead and did it. I know I'll make it - that's if I don't get smoked tomorrow for getting that kiss tonight."
As the sun went down, Hayes took the stage showcasing his talents with multiple instruments and vocal prowess singing his top songs. Once his hour-long set ended the sky was lit with the booms and explosions of a fire works display.
For Spc. Aurelio Rodriguez, with 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, who sang along with every song played, the concert was a welcome reminder of where he grew up.
"I am absolutely loving it," he said. "It reminds me of home. Oh man, it's fantastic (to watch a concert during basic training). It's an awesome feeling."