By Maj. Loren merJanuary 25, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It has been more than 40 years since the 1st Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division has marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in support of the Presidential Inaugural Parade.
On Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Monday, the 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade took place in Washington D.C., following the oath of office taken by President Barack Obama. The 1st Bn., 319th AFAR was the unit selected to represent U.S. Forces Command in the parade.
This isn't the first time that 1st Bn., 319th AFAR and other units assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team have donned their berets, laced up their jump boots, and participated in an inaugural parade. The Panther Brigade has marched in President Eisenhower, Nixon, and Carter's parades with 1st Bn., 319th AFAR last marching Jan. 20, 1973 during President Nixon's parade. Now they can add President Obama to this distinguished list.
"The Army has been doing this since the first inauguration in 1789," said Lt. Col. Shane Morgan, commander of 1st Bn., 319th AFAR. "To be able to represent the U.S. Army and all those who served before us in the 2013 inauguration will be an incredible honor."
The paratroopers began their day at 3 a.m. as 1st Bn., 319th AFAR assembled at the National Mall. Sgt. Robert Santana, a signal support noncommissioned officer from Battery A, recalled "When I first got into the staging area I was definitely overwhelmed with the number of people that were going to be marching. I didn't know how big it was going to be and I felt as though I was going to be a part of something great," recalled Sgt. Robert Santana, a signal support Sergeant from Battery A.
The day was brisk as the sun only broke through the clouds towards the end of the day, yet there was a continued energy all around as more than 800,000 Americans watched intently at the passing formations, particularly of paratroopers.
"You could hear the crowd screaming 'Airborne,' which gave me a sense of pride. We got to take part in something that not many people can say that they have been a part of," said Santana.
The formation was fourth in order of march behind the U.S. Army Staff, U.S. Army Band, and a formation of West Point Cadets. "My greatest memory of the parade was when "eyes left" was called, it was the first time that I have ever seen the president in person and we were close to him, I was like 'wow'," said Santana.
"Being in the front wasn't about being an individual, I was just a vessel carrying the maroon beret. This overall experience is something that every single paratrooper that came up here today will remember for the rest of their lives, and it represents something far greater than ourselves, far greater than 319th, we are representing the 82nd Airborne Division so I think that's what made it so special," added Capt. Colin Parker from Battery A.
Upon completion of the one and a half mile parade, Pfc. Stacey Davis, a fire direction specialist felt honored to march in the parade. "My parents were very proud," said Davis. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity."