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    All Americans never stop being Paratroopers

    “I jumped out of my first airplane in April of 1995,” said Master Sgt. Travis Cooke, the 1st Battalion, 73rd Cavalry Regiment battalion sergeant major of operations. “Back then we graduated on Fryar Drop Zone.
    “My wife and one-year-old son came down to watch my last jump, and the wing pinning ceremony,” he added.
    Little did Cooke know that 22 years later, the same son that watched him graduate Airborne School, would be jumping out of an airplane with his father. The jump that carried both father and son would be a millstone for the pair. For Travis, it would be his first jump with his son. For Cpl. Michael Cooke, an Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 325 Airborne Infantry Regiment team leader, it would be his fifth jump and qualify him as a paratrooper.
    While visiting the Airborne School, Travis was able to jump not once, but twice with his son.
    “I was able to jump twice with my son,” said Travis. “Mirroring our family experience, his two-year-old daughter was running around Fryar Drop Zone, and watched her daddy jump for the fifth time.”
    For Michael, the contrast in attitudes between his classmates and father when preparing to exit the aircraft spoke volumes.
    “Anybody that’s been to Airborne School knows that there’s terrified faces all on that plane,” said Michael. “Everybody is fricking scared; it’s their first time jumping out, their first couple of times.
    “You look past all those terrified faces, you just see my dad happy as hell, just smiling ear to ear, loves what he does and that was a pretty big turning point for me; (that’s) when I realized that jumping out of an airplane can be fun. It doesn’t have to be just scary,” Michael added.
    Travis was able to share another pivotal moment for paratroopers when he was able to pin the coveted silver wings up Michael’s chest.
    “But it gets even better; Airborne School allows 2nd and 3d generation Paratroopers to be pinned by their predecessors, so I got to go up and put his airborne wings on his chest,” said Travis.
    After their shared experience at Airborne School, Travis went back to Fort Bragg, N.C. with the intent to have his son become a paratrooper within the 82nd Airborne Division. With the help of his chain of command, Travis was able to secure a spot for Michael within the division.
    “A few short months later he signed into division,” said Travis.
    Michael spoke of the culture shock that comes with the dawning of the red beret and wearing the double A patch.
    “When you come here to the 82nd the loyalty to the division runs deep,” said Michael. “It means something different to everybody, but every single person is proud of their unit. They’re proud of the division.”
    Travis shared the passion his Michael relayed to him after his first day in division.
    “I asked Mike, after his first day at work, what he thought of Alpha Company, 2/325 Airborne Infantry Regiment,” said Travis. “He said it felt like “coming home,” that the people spoke in ways that we do around the house, they act as we act, they are always walking around singing about putting on their boots, boots, boots, and parachutes, chutes, chutes.”
    Travis felt the same emotions when he first stepped into the coveted jump boots.
    “When I first saw the reflection of myself wearing class As, beret and boots as a corporal it changed the goals I had in my life,” said Travis. “I never wanted to do anything other than to be a paratrooper, to be surrounded by paratroopers and to lead paratroopers.
    “It turns out the same is true of my son,” Travis added.
    Those shared experiences continued to accumulate as Travis had the opportunity to perform his 100th airborne jump when Michael made his first jump in division.
    “This time was different,” said Travis. “At Benning, I jumped ahead of him, and my brain saw it as me training him by doing it first. This time he insisted on exiting ahead of me.”
    Travis said that as they sat on the aircraft, his mind kept drifting back to the fact that he was sitting next to his child, a kid whose diapers he had changed, and that he was about to throw himself out of the aircraft they were riding in.
    “It’s hard to emphasize enough how weird that is,” said Travis. “But every one of us is someone’s kid, and every paratrooper’s parents worry about them, I just happened to be exiting with my kid.
    “And for real, if the job weren’t a little dangerous, it wouldn’t be cool,” Travis added.
    Though he cares for his son’s safety, Travis has confidence in the training of the division paratroopers and once the doors opened all of those thoughts disappeared.
    “He kept his elbow high, didn’t ride the pack tray ahead of him and exited without hesitation,” said Travis. “That’s some proud dad stuff right there, my boy is a paratrooper!”
    After a safe jump, Michael was able to official proclaim himself as a paratrooper within the 82nd Abn. Div. and Travis was able to achieve the highly prized 100th jump. A moment that was commemorated officially on the parade field.
    “A friend of mine and previous co-worker Sgt. 1st Class Matt Thompson was a member of the Silver Wings Parachute club,” said Travis. “On the demonstration jump for the pinning ceremony, (he) jumped in with Mike’s wings and my static line from my 100th exit and gave them both to us on the parade field.”
    After his first jump in division, Michael saw the difference between jumping at the school and division.
    “I found that jumps at division, there’s more confidence involved,” said Michael. “You’re more confident in your own abilities; you’re more confident in your jumpmasters. These are jumpmasters that you know, you see every day and you know they’re proficient.
    “As proficient as the jumpmasters at Fort Benning might be you don’t see them every single day at work,” Michael added.
    For Travis, the division is more than just a unit within the armed forces of the United States.
    “Sons following in their father’s footsteps is a different thing between other divisions and the 82nd,” said Travis. “From my perspective, America’s Guard of Honor has its own persona, it is a living thing that reaches beyond the end of paratroopers’ careers and lives. It becomes a way that our families think and live with. All Americans never stop being Paratroopers.”



    Date Taken: 03.26.2018
    Date Posted: 03.26.2018 13:54
    Story ID: 270623
    Location: FORT BRAGG, NC, US 

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