82nd Airborne Division's All American Week ends with Airborne Review
By RACHAEL RILEY | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: May 24, 2019
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — After nearly three hours of demonstrations that included heavy equipment drops, paratroopers jumping from airplanes and simulating an airfield seizure and airborne assault, soldiers marched through smoke toward thousands in the crowd Thursday at Sicily Drop Zone.
The Airborne Review marked the end of All American Week, the 82nd Airborne Division's celebration of paratroopers past and present.
The Air Force's 437th Airlift Wing from Charleston, South Carolina, dropped two multipurpose wheeled vehicles onto the field, a Howitzer and High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle known as a Humvee, followed by almost 500 paratroopers jumping from a C-17 Globemaster aircraft.
Booms from the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery echoed across the field as flares, smoke and more aircraft — including Chinooks and Apache helicopters and the 82nd Airborne Division's Combat Aviation Brigade aircraft — were used throughout the demonstration.
Maj. Gen. James Mingus, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, said the demonstration is a "small sampling" of what an actual airfield seizure and airborne assault would look like.
It demonstrated the division's capability to be ready to go anywhere in the world, if needed, Mingus said.
"It can be a stability operation, it can be a humanitarian disaster relief type operation, or it can be a large scale ground combat operation, but we really and truly can get anywhere in the world in 18 hours," he said.
In keeping with this year's All American Week theme of "jumping into history," a C-47 that was used to drop paratroopers into Normandy on D-Day and into the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden was part of Thursday's demonstrations.
June marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
Members of the Liberty Jump Team, which includes veteran paratroopers from Vietnam to present day conflicts and active-duty paratroopers, wore period uniforms as they descended under round canopies reminiscent of parachutes used during World War II.
Capt. Darren Cinatl, a tactical infantry officer with the 82nd Airborne Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, is part of the team and was the primary jumpmaster for Thursday's jump.
Cinatl said the first jumper out of the aircraft was an 82nd Airborne Division veteran who lost both legs while serving in Vietnam, retired Sgt. Butch Garner.
"This is the first time he's jumped into (the) Sicily (drop zone) since probably the '60s," Cinatl said.
As they do each year, veteran paratroopers played a part in events throughout the week. They marched in front of Thursday's crowd to represent conflicts dating to World War II, and they were part of the division's Hall of Fame induction Wednesday.
Mahlon Sebring, who turns 95 in July, was one of the World War II veterans in the crowd. He now lives in Tecumseh, Michigan.
Building B-24 bomber aircraft in a plant in Michigan, Sebring was eligible to be deferred from the draft during World War II because his job supported war production. But at the age of 19, he wanted join the Army instead.
Sebring was part of the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, flying a glider aircraft into Normandy and copiloting a glider into Holland.
"Being airborne, it's a close-knit outfit and you got a lot of friends," Sebring said, explaining why he attends All American Week events.
Veteran Jack Gary shared similar opinions. Gary was drafted into the Army in 1951 and served with the 101st Airborne Division during the Korean War at the age of 19.
"I was there when the Chinese came across (Korea)," Gary said. "I held a machine gun with a young white dude from Texas. He fired it and I fed him ammo."
Gary spent five years with the 101st Airborne Division before serving 17 years in the Air Force, including during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s and going to the Dominican Republic to set up runway lights for American troops.
Gary, who had previously been stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, returned to North Carolina and now lives in Southern Pines. He frequently visits Fort Bragg.
He said All American Week brings back memories of when he jumped with the 101st.
"Because I made 50 jumps in five years," he said of his time with the 101st Airborne Division.
Jumps weren't the only part of the All American Week observances.
Sport competitions were held throughout the week, with the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment being named the All American Week battalion champions of the week's sporting events.
Mingus said the competitions instill excellence and pride in the paratroopers who volunteered to join the Army, volunteered to be on airborne status and volunteered to serve with the 82nd Airborne Division.
He described the week as one of celebration and remembrance. The week included recognition of Gold Star families — those whose family members have died in combat — during a ceremony Wednesday and again at Thursday's Airborne Review.
"It just inspires us that wear the uniform today to make sure that the sacrifices that have happened over the 230-plus years of our military history is not wasted," he said. "Because we continue to carry that legacy forward, that winning spirit that when called, we can fight and win our nation's wars."
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