FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Fort Benning, birthplace of the Army's Airborne, will observe National Airborne Day Aug. 16 with a series of parachute jumps, followed by a graduation ceremony of the nation's newest paratroopers.
National Airborne Day was established on August 16, 2001 by President George W. Bush to commemorate the first official American parachute jump, made at Fort Benning August 16, 1940 by the U.S. Army's Parachute Test Platoon.
The observance is scheduled for a 9 a.m. start on Fryar Drop Zone with freefall parachute jump demonstrations by two separate jump teams. One is the U.S. Army Parachute Team, which is the Army's official parachute demonstration team, better known as the Golden Knights. The other is the Silver Wings, which is the official parachute demonstration team of Fort Benning's Maneuver Center of Excellence.
Those freefall jumps are to be followed by a parachute jump from a World War II-vintage C-47 Skytrain transport plane that flew missions in World War II, including those in support of D-Day, the crucial 1944 Allied invasion of France that led to the liberation of Western Europe from occupation by Nazi Germany in World War II. It also took part in supporting Operation Market Garden and other operations of the war.
The jumpers, members of the Liberty Jump Team, will jump in World War II-reenactor paratrooper uniforms. The Team is an organization of parachutists, some of whom are current or former military jumpers.
The final jump will be from a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules transport. The jumpers will be Soldiers from the Army's 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The battalion is part of the Fort Benning's Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, which runs the U.S. Army Airborne School. The jumpers are members of the School's training cadre.
Bush's proclamation establishing National Airborne Day paid tribute to the Test Platoon's jump and what it led to.
"Their successful jump," the proclamation reads, "led to the creation of a mighty force of more than 100,000 paratroopers. Members of this force were assigned to the legendary 11th, 13th, 17th, 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions and numerous other units that fought in every theater during World War II."
At Fort Benning, organizers of the upcoming observance want to pay tribute to the Airborne Test Platoon and also to highlight what has become known as "the Airborne Spirit," said Capt. Andrew P. Mitchell, operations officer for the Regiment's 1st Battalion.
"National Airborne Day is really to commemorate the Airborne Test Platoon," said Mitchell. "Their leadership and paving the way, setting the conditions during World War II for the modern American paratrooper. Their efforts made it possible for us to be able to project power in defense of the United States in a completely new manner," he said. "Furthermore, this also exemplifies what we call 'the Airborne Spirit,' in which paratroopers are prepared to act in the absence of specific orders for long periods of time in small groups, without support. So they are physically fit, mentally tough and trained and proficient and ready to execute."
The jumps are to be followed by a graduation ceremony of several hundred Airborne School students of Bravo Company, Airborne Class 30-19, part of the 1-507th PIR.
The Basic Airborne Course trains some 10,000 military personnel each year as military parachutists. Airborne candidates include not only U.S. Army Soldiers but members of other U.S. armed services, as well as members of foreign military forces.