National Airborne Day was created by former President George W. Bush in 2001 and recognized by the Senate in 2009. Annually observed on August 16, it was created to honor and bring awareness to the airborne members of the Armed Forces, as well as to commemorate the first official United States Army parachute jump.
On August 16, 1940, 48 volunteer members of the Parachute Test Platoon carried out a successful jump in Fort Benning, Georgia, paving the way for future paratroopers. This created an invaluable opportunity for another method of warfare during World War II. Parachuting was used in combat starting in 1942 with the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry. They made a total of 93 combat jumps and allowed the Army a new, innovative way to deploy behind enemy lines.
The legendary 11th, 13th, 17th, 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were formed thereafter, and fought through World War II and other conflicts following its conclusion. Fort Bragg, North Carolina holds a ceremony every year to commemorate the 82nd Airborne Division. And although National Airborne Day is observed on August 16, Fort Bragg will celebrate on Saturday, August 18th so the community at large can experience this milestone of airborne history together. The Fort Bragg celebration takes place from 8am to noon at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in downtown Fayetteville, North Carolina.
In order to earn your wings and become part of the elite airborne family, you must complete the Basic Airborne Course (BAC) in Fort Benning, Georgia. Soldiers from all types of backgrounds and MOSs can gain skills here. To qualify to take the course, you must be enlisted or an officer in the Army (though there are exemptions for special operations in other branches such as the Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, etc.). You must be no more than 36 years of age and physically qualify for parachute training with an APFT score of 180 points. USMA Cadets need to complete Cadet Basic Training, ROTC cadets must be under scholarship or contracted, and enlisted personnel need to have completed Basic Combat Training.
Airborne School is broken into three weeks of highly intensive training: Ground Week, Tower Week, and Jump Week. During Ground Week, soldiers must pass the Army Physical Fitness Test and take an intensive program of instruction to build airborne skills. In Tower Week, soldiers must master parachute procedures from the Swing Lander Trainer, a 34-foot tower, and a 250-foot tower. Jump Week is the final test of performance and requires successful completion of five jumps at 1,250 feet from a C-130 or C-17 aircraft. Soldiers who complete the specialized course are granted a “Silver Wing” skill identifier to wear on their uniform.
Airborne Americans are a vital part of our U.S. military. This Thursday, August 16, remember the patriots that kicked off the airborne division in World War II, and the parachuting soldiers who continue to defend our nation today.
“Airborne School.” Goarmy.com, www.goarmy.com/soldier-life/being-a-soldier/ongoing-training/specialized-schools/airborne-school.html.
“National Airborne Day in the USA 2018.” National Awareness Days Events Calendar 2018 & 2019, www.awarenessdays.com/us/awareness-days-calendar/national-airborne-day-in-the-usa-2018/.
“Airborne Day.” Days Of The Year, www.daysoftheyear.com/days/airborne-day/.