Mass jump, command change highlight Ranger Rendezvous

FORT BENNING, Ga.More than 1,000 Rangers from the 75th Ranger…

FORT BENNING, Ga.More than 1,000 Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment soared above Fryar Drop Zone here, Monday in a mass tactical airborne operation officially beginning Ranger Rendezvous 2009.

The culmination of the biennial rendezvous was a ceremony Thursday morning in which Col. Michael E. Kurilla assumed command of the 75th Ranger Regiment from Col. Richard D. Clarke. The ceremony was held on the National Infantry Museum field at Fort Benning.

Every two years, since the first Ranger Rendezvous was held in 1987, the week-long event has begun with the jump, which is conducted in combat equipment in excess of 70 pounds. It provides an opportunity for the regiment to showcase some of its tactics and abilities to family members and Ranger veterans, who may not normally be able to witness such demonstrations.

“The key for this week, since it only happens every two years, is to bring in all the Rangers not currently forward and just enjoy the camaraderie,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Hardy, 75th Ranger Regiment command sergeant major. “It helps to build espirit de corps, and also allows us to showcase, for the veterans and distinguished visitors coming in, the regiment’s capabilities and current state.”

Although all four of the regiment’s battalions were represented in the jump, many of their Rangers could not be present as they are either preparing to deploy or are currently serving overseas.

“Not only is our Army and our nation at war, but most importantly this regiment is at war,” said Col. Richard Clarke, 75th Ranger Regiment commanding officer.

With more than half of the regiment currently deployed, Clarke said it would be a much larger event had all his Rangers been able to attend.

Much coordination had to be in place as all four battalions prepared to jump from the C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. With battalions from Fort Lewis, Wash., and Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., linking up mid-flight with those from Fort Benning, safety and communication were crucial.

“Safety is key,” said Clarke, who also acted as the airborne commander for the jump. “We don’t get to do this often, so we really have to stress the importance of safety.”

For the family members present, the jump provided them a glimpse of how their Rangers operate. The regiment is highly trained in airborne insertions to seize key objectives, often hitting multiple targets in rapid succession.

“Movement to contact as soon as we hit the ground,” Clarke said. “When you call the 75th Ranger Regiment in, no one can do it better. If you look at what Rangers are doing every single day in this conflict, and you look at the changes that have been made, how much we’ve developed as a regiment, you can’t lose sight of that.”

Clarke said the Regiment is able to be so successful in its missions, not because of technological advantages, but because of the Rangers on the ground.

“It’s because of what the Ranger squad leader, platoon sergeant and team leader has done,” he said. “The flexibility and adaptability you all bring to the fight. Because of that, this regiment will stay out there after the relentless pursuit of the enemies of our country.”

The Ranger Rendezvous included several days of sporting events such as football, boxing and combatives, as well as a regimental barbeque.

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