Two hundred and sixteen years ago on this day, in 1797, a Frenchman named Andrew Garnerin became the first person known to jump with a frameless parachute. Interestingly, the first female parachutist was his student Jeanne Geneviève Labrosse, who later became his wife. Little did Garnerin know he would be the inspiration for a new generation of soldier: the Sky Trooper, Airborne, the Paratrooper.
I am honored to be counted as one of those who have braved the fear of jumping from an aircraft while in flight, a storied history that bonds men and women from countries far and wide. American military history remembers its great Airborne units who have made such incredible combat operations as Salerno, Normandy, Market Garden, Tagaytay, Corregidor, Sukchon, Junction City, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The lineage of the Airborne trooper is interwoven into modern American history, and it extends across all branches of our services: Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. Monsieur Garnerin undoubtedly had no idea that his simple stunt would result in the development of a new strategic military tactic, giving rise to the motto of all American Paratroopers regardless of age, “Airborne, All the Way.”
However, the greatest testimony to the Sky Soldier comes from the words of a towering leader from World War II, British Field Marshal Bernard Law “Monty” Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein:
What Manner Of Men Are These
That Wear The Maroon Beret
“They are firstly all volunteers and are toughened by physical training. As a result they have infectious optimism and that offensive eagerness which comes from well-being. They have ‘jumped’ from the air and by doing so have conquered fear.
Their duty lies in the van of the battle. They are proud of this honour. They have the highest standards in all things whether it be skill in battle or smartness in the execution of all peace time duties. They are in fact – men apart – every man an emperor.
Of all the factors, which make for success in battle, the spirit of the warrior is the most decisive. That spirit will be found in full measure in the men who wear the maroon beret.”I proudly carry that spirit of the warrior.