News: Paratroopers celebrate National Airborne Day at RC-South
Story by Staff Sgt. John Etheridge
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Paratroopers from airborne units around Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, put on their red berets and gathered to celebrate National Airborne Day at a ceremony at the Regional Command-South headquarters Aug. 16, 2014.
National Airborne day was established in 2002 by President George W. Bush to honor and recognize the contributions of U.S. paratroopers to their nation and the world.
Maj. Gen. Michael Bills, RC-South and Combined Joint Task Force-1 commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Andrew Barteky, RC-South and CJTF-1 command sergeant major, joined a couple hundred paratroopers from Special Forces and Task Force White Devil, consisting of Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, to celebrate the event.
Lt. Col. Paul Larson, TF White Devil commander, addressed the assembled paratroopers in a speech where he told the history of the airborne Soldier from their conception by Benjamin Franklin to the first Army parachute jump on Aug. 16, 1940.
“Today we celebrate this monumental event and take an opportunity to look back at the solemn history that defines the paratrooper,” said Larson. “ It’s a history woven by courage, sacrifice and audacity.
“World War II was the most prolific demonstration of the capabilities of airborne forces,” he continued. “It was the tenacity of the airborne paratrooper that would take this concept to new heights that will surely be remembered for centuries.
“America mastered the art of airborne insertion, but more important we developed something more valuable:; we created a culture of paratroopers,” he said. “This culture is rooted in the shared risk that every paratrooper accepts freely and volunteers for. There is a unified sense of humbled camaraderie instilled in each paratrooper by the risk that we share.”
Larson also quoted President George W. Bush during the speech: “Paratroopers forged a unique warrior spirit, passion for victory, and a reputation that still strikes fear into potential adversaries.”
Capt. Alexander Kearns, mortar platoon leader with 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Div., who attended the ceremony, said that being in an airborne unit builds leaders.
“The advantage of being a paratrooper is that leaders at the lowest level have the opportunity to lead Soldiers. It’s a good place to be a junior officer and I couldn’t have better Soldiers than paratroopers,” he said.
He also said he felt it was important to celebrate the Airborne Day while deployed in Afghanistan.
“It’s important because the airborne community extends beyond Fort Bragg and across the Army,” said Kearns. “It’s kind of unique to get the different airborne units together in Afghanistan.”