By Mr. Michael M Novogradac (Hood)August 14, 2017
FLORENCE, Texas -- A chance encounter between two "Rakkasan" Soldiers during a III Corps and Fort Hood Adopt-A-School visit here Aug. 9 may reap some advantages.
Steven Elder, the Florence Independent School District's high school principal, and Command Sgt. Maj. Mario O. Terenas of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, surprised each other when they realized they were both Rakkasans.
Both were former members of a historical and storied Airborne outfit -- the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment (Rakkasans) -- which was given the name during its tour in occupied Japan after World War II, when no word in Japanese described "Airborne Soldiers."
The story tells of a translator who used the Japanese word for "parachute men," which plainly meant "falling down umbrella men," or "Rakkasan."
The nickname for these Airborne Troopers stuck and remains to this day.
So during OTC's visit to the school, Elder and Terenas could be seen together, looking at old Army pictures on Elder's phone, and having a good time.
"We served with the 3/187 Infantry in the 101st (Airborne Division)," said Elder. "We talked about our shared membership in the Rakkasans and our times of service. I served during the Gulf War and he was with the battalion in Iraq."
In a high-school-boy way, Terenas said no matter how old you are, meeting a principal isn't something you ever want to do.
"So -- one -- it's crazy that a principal of a high school is a former Rakkasan guy in the 101st," he said. "He saw my patch from the 101st, and he said, 'Hey! Rakkasans!'
"He was there during Desert Storm, and I was there during the initial invasion of Iraq. There's this real special connection in the Rakkasans."
For Terenas, meeting a fellow Rakkasan was totally unexpected.
"No matter who you are, there's an immediate bond and connection," he said. "It makes you say, 'I trust that guy. He's a fellow Rakkasan.'"
During the meeting to establish a memorandum of understanding between OTC and Florence ISD, one OTC goal for the 2017 -- 2018 school year was to talk about increasing its participation with the Florence High School.
"When Principal Elder and I made that connection, the first thing that came to mind is, 'We're good to go. We're going to have a good partnership over at the high school,'" Terenas said.
"I am confident that two Rakkasans in the room can accomplish any mission," Elder said. "It was a genuine pleasure to meet and speak with (CSM Terenas), and I think that we will work well together."