Saturday’s first ever jump into Redstone Arsenal by the U.S. Army Parachute Team was the 758th freefall for Staff Sgt. Ben Hall.
The first-year member of the Golden Knights described what it’s like to jump out of a plane and float toward the Earth.
“It’s exhilarating,” Hall, 31, from Walhalla, South Carolina, said. “It’s just the feeling of all that speed just generating.
“It’s just so much fun. The words can’t describe it.”
The Golden Knights were part of the 247th Army Birthday Celebration held Saturday evening at the Redstone Gateway at Gate 9. Hall was among the parachute team’s 10 demonstrators. The celebration included a Cruise-In Car Show, vendors, food trucks and culminated in fireworks. As many as 5,000 people attended, according to event director Kenneth McDonald.
“This is the 247th Army birthday and last year we did a similar celebration out here at Gateway,” Redstone Senior Commander Lt. Gen. Donnie Walker said. “How do we one up it? Let’s get the Golden Knights out here. People are stopping me at every corner saying, ‘This is the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen.’ I’ve been in the Army 36 years. This truly is Team Redstone. It’s just great that they come out to support our great Army. It’s just awesome to see them.”
“Extremely proud to have this event for the 247th birthday,” Garrison Commander Col. Glenn Mellor said. “It looks like we have a great crowd joining us. We look forward to a great event with our community.”
Attendees included veterans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Iraq and Afghanistan, active-duty military, retirees, civilian employees, National Guard, Reserve and family members. June is Army Heritage Month.
The last Golden Knight to jump onto the field handed the baton to James Lomax, vice president of asset management for Redstone Gateway, the celebration’s overall title sponsor.
Based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the Golden Knights originated in 1959.
Hall, who joined the Army Nov. 5, 2012, made his first jump at airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, in August 2013. His first freefall was October 2014 in Raeford, North Carolina, at the Paraclete Drop Zone. Stationed at Fort Bragg his entire 10-year career, he said he was drawn to becoming a Golden Knight in July 2020 when he talked to the members who were doing routine training at the drop zone.
The information technology specialist and his wife of 11 years, Ashley, have a daughter, Emberlyn, 10, and a son, Alec, 6.
“I definitely want to stay in and retire,” Hall said. “My long-term goal is to become one of the more seasoned guys on the team, to keep this organization being as amazing as it is.”
Redstone Gateway was the overall title sponsor. The fireworks sponsor was Avion Solutions. Presenting sponsors included 94.1 WHRP, 104.3 WZYP and the Alabama Media Group. Supporting sponsors included First Command, Redstone Federal Credit Union, Robins & Morton, and IHG Army Hotels.
In the Cruise-In Car Show, first, second and third place prizes were awarded in cars, trucks and motorcycles. There was also an overall best-of-show Commanders Cup award. First place was a $200 gift card; second, a $100 gift card; and third, a $50 gift card. The Commanders Cup was a 2-3 foot tall golden cup. Winners included: cars – first, Leo Miller; second, Allan Davis; and third, Bobby Lang; trucks – first, Tom Beam; second, John Strobel; and third, Robert Calannino; and motorcycles – first, Harvey Wright; second, Randy McFerran; and third, James Smith. Danny Hughes won the Commanders Cup trophy.
Shane Williams, an information technology specialist with the Department of Justice, brought his whole family to the celebration – his mom, his wife and daughter.
“I think it was great,” Williams said. “The only thing I would say is more food trucks. Outside of that, everything was wonderful.”