The annual Airborne Awards Festival took place over the weekend of April 19th – 21st, 2018 at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia. Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment hosted the event, which featured a jump onto the historic Fryar Drop Zone by the Liberty Jump Team, a Memorial Wreath Laying Ceremony, and a skit by Soldiers of the 1-507th PIR among other highlights. The festival gathers former and current members of the Airborne community together to honor those that they have lost, to share and learn from their experiences, and to celebrate the proud tradition of airborne soldiering.
This year marked the 41st edition of the Annual Airborne Awards, and the D-Day Squadron, with their WWII combat-veteran Douglas C-47 Skytrain named Placid Lassie, had the distinct privilege of participating in the festivities last week. WWII, Korean War, Vietnam and other airborne veterans had the opportunity to tour Placid Lassie prior to the ceremony. The historic transport plane also provided the backdrop for a re-enlistment parade and the presentation of honorary jump wings to two members of the Liberty Jump Team.
D-day Squadron Executive Director Moreno Aguiari stated, “It was truly awe inspiring to watch over 20 jumpers parachute out of Placid Lassie and float safely to the ground. The ceremony afterwards, commemorating the paratroopers who lost their lives in service to their country, and the road naming dedication was a solemn moment and was executed beautifully. Another element of pride and excitement was the fact that our C-47 stood next to the current generation of troop carriers, the C-17 and C-130.”
Placid Lassie flew from Lawson Army Airfield, located within Fort Benning. Operating from this historic site added another important element to the heritage lineage, because C-47s flew from this exact airfield during WWII to train airborne troops in the art of the combat drop.
Lawson Field dates back to 1919, when the U.S. Army built a crude landing field at Fort Benning. Comprising just two small hangars, the field’s initial occupant was a balloon unit which was charged with determining whether observers in balloons could assist the infantry in prosecuting enemy land forces. Lawson field was pretty quiet between the wars, but expanded hugely in size and importance during WWII. The Army dramatically upgraded the facilities, constructing new barracks, runways, parking aprons etc. Parachute Training soon became a primary function for the field, with the Army handing the field over to I Troop Carrier Command on August 26th, 1942. The four C-47 squadrons which comprised the 316th Troop Carrier Group had arrived on site earlier that month. Lawson Field has continually grown since those days, and still plays an important role in Airborne Operations.
“The Lawson Army Airfield management and personnel showed us their southern hospitality and toured us around the WWI and WWII buildings still standing today, along with attending to all the needs of the aircraft and crew,” added D-day Squadron Executive Director Moreno Aguiari, “Working with the Liberty Jump Team was exciting, and they executed their mission flawlessly. HHC Commander, CPT Darren Cinatl, his NCO’s and troopers are impressive! We look forward to visiting Ft. Benning again!”
Headquarters & Headquarters Company Commander, Captain Darren Cinatl contributed, “The 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry regiment opened the 41st Annual Airborne Awards Ceremony in support of the Don Lassen 82nd Airborne Association Chapter with a C-47 paradrop mission over Fryar DZ. The HHC Commander, two HHC Operations NCOs and jumpers from the Liberty Jump Team conducted a jumpmaster directed airborne operation to honor our WWII, Korean War and Vietnam veterans in attendance, and enable the commemoration of Drop Zone roads in honor of paratroopers who passed away during training from 1941-1942. The Liberty Jump team was formed in 2006 and conducts airborne operations around the United States, France and the Netherlands to honor our veterans, especially those who fought in World War II. The team is comprised of veterans and civilians alike who have participated in airborne training.”
All in all, the Annual Airborne Awards weekend was a hugely successful venture. It also provided excellent additional training to the Placid Lassie team as they build up to Daks Over Normandy next June in Europe. This event will see the convergence of several dozen C-47s in the 75th anniversary celebrations of the D-Day invasion. The D-Day Squadron will be in the thick of the action in what promises to be an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime event.