Summer Jump School 2017 culminated in Open Hangar Day July 22.
Military displays and memorabilia were displayed by various vendors and historians. Members of the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team were dressed in WWII uniforms and attire. Even some visitors got into the spirit of World War II and dressed up.
David Brothers from the Air Wing Executive Office for the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team gave a brief history of the beginning of the 82nd Airborne Demonstration Team.
“The Airborne Demonstration Team was the idea of Richard Wolf,” Brothers said. “He’s a retired Master Sgt. in the Army. He started off in his back yard because he had no facility. Mostly it was local guys and they jumped out of little airplanes. This was in 1996. The team acquired Boogie Baby about 3 years after the team was started, probably about 2000, roughly.
“Our motto is ‘Remember, Honor, Serve,’ and what we want to emphasize is that we’re here to honor all of our veterans and their service, not just World War II Veterans. We portray the World War II Airborne Soldier because it exemplifies the innovation, the aggressiveness, the ingenuity of the modern American Soldier.”
Brothers also said the team is looking at expanding their operations.
“We have dreams and hopes for the future,” Brothers said. “We think we’ll enhance our mission. We’d like to build a replica World War II Army base with different buildings that exemplify the type of structures used in World War II. Long term, we’re actually hoping to build a replica European village. It depends on what we can work out with the city.
“It would not only enhance our mission, but it would bring more people to Frederick, bring in revenue and we hope it would create jobs. We’ve had talks with the chamber. There are no formal plans yet because it depends on revenue streams. We’d love to make downtown Frederick a typical World War II americana; clean up and expand empty store fronts, redecorate them, start getting people like vintage car clubs coming in, so that by their presence we get that World War II atmosphere.
“I am a firm believer in ‘If they build it, they will come.’ Please keep coming out, we love your support, even if it’s just to come out and cheer us on.”
During a jump, one trooper came in hard and hit his head. He was checked out at a hospital but was released a short time later. Andrew Kristopik offered to dance to prove that he was fine.
“I am perfectly OK as you can see. I’ll tap dance or do ballet or whatever if you need me to,” Kristopik said, laughing. “I’m fine. I stand by the program here. It’s a great training program and everything is done rock solid here. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this organization. I just really wanted to honor the memory and the generation and that’s why I became involved. There’s something about that culture, that time period [World War II] that was unique.
“For people to come out of the Great Depression already behind the eight ball in so many ways, and still be able to turn back the tide of some of the most egregious evil that’s ever existed, it really made me want to make a statement, a personal statement and a personal commitment to remember and honor that generation. That’s what drew me here. It’s been a wonderful experience.”
Kristopik helped Retired Marine Sgt. Doug DuBois into his parachute to demonstrate all of the safety checks they do before anyone is allowed to jump.
“I do a lot of work in the field of patient safety and if hospitals followed the kind of protocol that the Airborne follows, that this program follows, multiple checks, over and over, safety checks, getting into the shoots and again as they line up, they would only benefit from it,” Kristopik said.
Norwood Thomas is a World War II veteran who attended Open Hangar Day. He talked about his training and his entry into the war.
“I took training here in the states, then I went to England, and then we jumped in Normandy, and after we cleared Normandy of the Germans we went back to England,. And then in September, we went and had an airborne invasion into Holland. I was in the 82nd Airborne Division before it was airborne. I was in the 101st Airborne Division the day it was activated.”
The name Norwood Thomas may sound familiar. In February of 2016, Thomas was reunited with his war-time love, Joyce Morris after more than 70 years apart.
Thomas was 21 when he met 17-year-old Morris in London before the invasion of Normandy. Air New Zealand flew Thomas into Australia to reunite him with his long lost sweetheart.
“I had two wonderful weeks with the first great love of my life,” Thomas said.
Unfortunately, there was no happy ending for Thomas and Morris, as she died from a heart attack in December 2016.
Marshall Scantlin is another veteran who came out to Open Hangar Day. He was in the 82nd Airborne Division during the Vietnam War. He was able to fly up in the team’s C-47 while they dropped paratroopers.
Scantlin retired in 1995, and joined the Texas Military Forces and ended up commanding a medical brigade.
“I wish I could jump, but I’m just a little bit too old,” Scantlin said. “I’d break something. I’d love to jump but getting to ride in it is going to be a thrill. My first jump I was scared to death. As I shuffled toward the door I thought to myself I’m a real idiot for doing this. The second one you’re like let me see if I’m still scared. One thing I remember at the time, I was wearing contacts and I jumped and my contact flew out because I had my eyes open.”
Col. Ray Steely said there were 21 lifts and 347 jumps from July 14 – 22.
Jump school graduate Christopher Somers came in from McPherson, Kan. and brought his family with him. He is a K-9 officer with the McPherson County Sheriff’s Department. His canine partner made the trip with the family.
Somers’ 11-year-old son Wyatt Somers said he’s proud of his dad for coming in and doing jump school and he said he wants to enroll in jump school when he’s old enough.
“It was actually really cool seeing them jump out of the planes,” Wyatt Somers said.
Jump school graduate Will Kristopik said his favorite thing is jumping out of the plane.
“Your heart stops when you start hitting gravity and it starts beating after your shoot opens or if it doesn’t open and you pull your reserves,” Kristopik said. “I didn’t have a single problem with my shoot on any of my jumps.”
Kristopik completed five jumps to earn his wings, and then completed his cherry jump, which made six successful jumps.
One family surprised World War II veteran Richard Adams for his 95th birthday with the trip to Open Hangar Day. He wore his original uniform from World War II.
“I had no idea what was going on when we were driving through all the farms,” Adams said. “They do a nice job here.”
The students who graduated from Jump School 2017 were honored during a pinning ceremony held at 1 p.m:
* Army Private First Class Jonathan Anderson,
* Scot Buffington
* Jelks Cabaniss
* Army Specialist Nathaniel Cayabyab,
* Natasha Childers,
* Navy Ensign Claire M. Clarke,
* Army Ranger Sgt. Richard Glaves,
* Spanish Civil Guard Cpl. First Class Sergio Jurado Guillen,
* Army Specialist Will Kristopik,
* Army Specialist Leonardo Lopez, Jr.
* Army Specialist Alexis Rivera,
* Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Somers,
* Navy Ensign, Allyson Strachan, and
* Army Specialist Harrison Yi.
All of the veterans who visited Open Hangar Day got the chance to pin the wings on the graduates.
Fall Open Hangar Day is scheduled for Oct. 29. For more information contact Laura Goodwin at 469-855-5685.
Reach Kathleen Guill at 580-379-0588, ext. 2602.