Fort Benning celebrates paratroopers anniversary -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Fort Benning celebrates paratroopers anniversary

April 10, 2003

Columbus-- This is the 63rd anniversary of airborne forces in the United States military. Although years have passed since the first military jump, many traditions are the same. One of those airborne traditions is getting a veteran to pin wings on the youngest paratrooper.

Paratroopers train 250 feet above the ground. The exercise teaches soldiers how the parachute works. The learn how to fall, and how to jump. With flailing screams, one soldier acted out the fright of jumping for the first time for the audience.

"There man who was supposed to be first froze in the door," said 86-year-old Benjamin Reese. Reese was one of the first military men to jump from a high-performance military aircraft. "Incidentally, I had never been in an airplane before in my life," he said.

But Reese volunteered for the duty in 1940 here at Fort Benning. The training has changed since then. "Our training and learning was to jump off the back of a slow-moving truck," Reese said.

But traditions have not changed. Private Michael Ruth of Ohio was presented his silver wings pin by the veteran.

Ruth is only 17. "I'm the youngest one in the company. It's a give and take situation. Everyone busts your chops because you're so young. But you get some privileges too."

The Keeper of the Wings is a long tradition of the Airborne community. The youngest enlisted paratrooper gets a set of highly polished jump wings.

"It was such an honor to meet such fine men," said Ruth. "Especially those who were members of the first jump platoon. It was just an unbelievable experience." Fort Benning trains 55,000 soldiers a year.

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