MAXTON — Several Richmond Senior High School leaders took a leap of faith Thursday morning with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights parachute team.
Principal Jim Butler and Athletic Director Ricky Young joined the school’s JROTC instructors, retired Lt. Col. Jon Ring and retired 1st Sgt. Aaron Light — both former paratroopers — in tandem jumping with the team to commemorate the first official jump by the original Parachute Test Platoon onto Lawson Field at Fort Benning, Georgia on Aug. 16, 1940.
“These patriots assumed risks that no others had before and established a standard that others have followed ever since,” Ring said. “I could talk all day about the great paratroopers of World War II — as well as those since — but will allow everyone to enjoy the day.
Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney O’Dell, leader of the parachute team is a friend of Ring’s.
“We have jumped together plenty of times, but from much lower and with a static line parachute,” Ring said in a statement prior to the jump. “This high altitude jumping is old hat to him, but not me. Last time I did a tandem, I bumped then-1st Sgt. O’Dell out of his slot. I didn’t even realize it until we coordinated this jump and I think he’s gotten over it by now!”
The jumpers met at the Golden Knights’ training facility at the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport Thursday morning.
Although Ring has taken part in more jumps then he can remember, “the fear never goes away,” he said. “It’s not a natural thing to jump out of an airplane.”
“This was a opportunity of a lifetime,”Young said. “The Golden Knights are the best in the world and I am very comfortable jumping with them.”
According to Butler, the experience was a way to support RSHS’ s JROTC program as well as take advantage of an opportunity to skydive with the famous Golden Knights.
“During this school year, the Richmond Senior High School Junior ROTC program — the Raider Battalion — will conduct an intensive study of the Airborne concept as it was originally conceived, created, and employed as part of our service learning project,” Ring said in a statement. “Much of the history is right here in Richmond County and the surrounding region.”
Ring added that cadets “will learn the history and attempt to walk some of the same ground as those who forged the Airborne ethos” more than 70 years ago.
The intent, he said, is to learn “while preserving history and honoring those who have and will serve in this unique way.”
Nolan Gilmour of the Laurinburg Exchange contributed to this story.