By Ms. Megan Garcia (Benning)April 25, 2018
FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 25, 2018) -- Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, at Fort Benning, Georgia, welcomed Airborne Veterans to Fort Benning during the 2018 Airborne Awards ceremonies April 19 through 21.
The annual event celebrates Airborne tradition and the sacrifices of its paratroopers and allows current and former Airborne Soldiers to fellowship with one another.
Typically events are held in Atlanta and on post, but this year Capt. Darren Cinatl, the Headquarters and Headquarters Company Commander of the U.S. Army Airborne School, wanted to bring the three-day event exclusively to Fort Benning.
"This event needed to be a lot bigger and more involved with the actual Soldiers who are assigned to Fort Benning, especially for junior enlisted -- guys who don't have cars, who can't go all the way to Atlanta to be a part of the ceremonies themselves," Cinatl said. "I'm a big fan of history and tradition, so I wanted to keep this event going."
On the first day, veterans arrived to Lawson Army Airfield where they were greeted by the Placid Lassie, a C-47 aircraft that flew during D-Day, Operation Market Garden, the attempted liberation of Holland and the crossing of the Rhine.
Cinatl said it was important to honor the veterans and the Airborne's beginning by going back in time to when it all started.
"That C-47 probably dropped parachutists from the parachute battalion when it started here at Fort Benning in the early 40s," Cinatl said. "To get a historic aircraft, it kind of sets the tone, and it's an homage point to pay tribute to those who came before us, and to celebrate our proud history and storied tradition."
Immediately after, Cinatl, members of the Liberty Jump Team and Soldiers from the 1-507th PIR jumped from the aircraft dressed in World War II-era clothing into Fryar Drop Zone, followed by a commemoration ceremony for paratroopers who died during training, for whom various roads in the Fryar Drop Zone area are named.
At the beginning of day two, the veterans attended the Bravo Company, Airborne School, graduation, where they pinned Airborne wings on some of the graduates. The graduation was then followed by the 41st Annual Airborne Awards Memorial Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Airborne Walk located on Eubanks Field.
"Today we honor the patriot dreams of America's sons and daughters, those who were willing to volunteer to jump out of a perfectly good airplane while in flight, and who have fought in every region and every place in the world, who were willing to risk and give the ultimate sacrifice for our nation's ideals," said 1-507th Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Scott Brannon during remarks at the ceremony. "Here we remember. We grieve, but most importantly we're inspired."
Sgt. 1st Class LaKeisha Sanders, a Basic Airborne Course instructor with Charlie Company, 1-507th PIR, took part in the ceremony and was inspired by the veterans who attended.
"It reminds me of how big the Airborne community is and how proud people are to be Airborne and the traditions that they still hold dear even after they end their time in service," said Sanders. "It helps me look forward to what is going to happen when I retire."
After the ceremony, instructors from the Airborne school provided some entertainment with a performance of the McGillicuddy skit, which goes into detail of what Soldiers can expect during the five-week course and includes a comical character, McGillicuddy, who is a student in the course who cannot get himself together. Cecil Thornton, who retired from the Army after 22 and a half years, attended some of the events and said the skit took him back in history.
"It was outstanding," Thornton said. "It brings back a lot of memories of what I went through when I came through the course in '77. This is my third time seeing this skit, and it's good to see and show these Families who attend what it is we actually do."
On the third day and at the close of the event, an awards ceremony was held to honor some of the veterans and current service members for their contribution to the Airborne community.
Cinatl was honored for his role planning this year's Airborne Awards ceremonies. He looks forward to future events.
"It's really awesome to see these veterans come back," he said. "Across the forces, there's no prouder group of Soldiers than paratroopers. To be a parachutist -- it's prestigious and a high pride to be called a paratrooper."
To see photos from this event, visit "PHOTO ALBUM" on the "Related Links" section on this page.
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