News: Paratroopers jump for country, loved ones, community
Spc. Michael Giles
100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
CAMP SWIFT, Texas – Soldiers buckled into two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters before the rotors started beating loudly, sending powerful wind against the ground.
The Black Hawks ascended in a single upward spiral loop, the paratroopers leaped one at a time, followed by the snap of an open canopy. After reaching the ground safely, they hiked back to the staging area, drenched in sweat, where family members greeted them. This event was the highlight of family day for the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment in the Texas Army National Guard on Sept. 7, at Camp Swift, Texas.
Soldiers of airborne units like this one regularly jump to maintain their certification, and on Sept. 7, the jumps served additional purposes. First, it was an opportunity for soldiers' loved ones to witness this part of their profession. Second, it was part of the battalion's Best Warrior Competition.
Capt. Joshua C. Edgington appreciates family day as an opportunity to let his young daughter, Rylee, get a clearer idea about what he does every day.
"All she knows is I drop her off at school every morning, and then I'm gone all day working," Edgington said. "It's good for her to be able to come out to see it."
Finally, soldiers jumped with the additional purpose: to inspire their new partners, the athletes of the Special Olympics.
Fifteen-year-old Sydney L. Weigand, one of the Special Olympics athletes in attendance, was especially impressed.
"It's amazing!" she said. "They're so cool!"
Jason Miller, the program director for the Special Olympic said that one of the day's events, named PASO for paratroopers and Special Olympics, involved athletes touring the helicopters, interacting with the soldiers and seeing them compete in their Best Warrior Competition, and he believes that it is the first phase of a long-term partnership. Soldiers from the 143rd have already started to volunteer for some of the upcoming Special Olympics events.
"I think it's spectacular," Miller said. "We've been looking to get our military partners involved for a while, so it was really a blessing that they approached us."
Reaching out like this is a responsibility for National Guard soldier, said 1st Lt. Eric Pedrosa, a platoon leader in the 143rd and officer in charge of the partnership with the Special Olympics.
"We're citizen soldiers," Pedrosa said. "Part of that is being active in our community. We need to not only answer the call on the battlefield: we need to also answer the call at home. That means stewardship of our resources, reaching out to special populations and using our strengths to benefit the society."