CATEGORY: Alcorn County
HED:Army Ranger Paratroopers invade Corinth
By Jane Clark Summers
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
CORINTH - Blue skies over the Corinth airport filled with green Tuesday as three C-130 cargo planes flew over the runway, dropping off Army Ranger paratroopers.
The unusual exhibition by the Army's elite branch was watched by a large gathering of civilians, including about 700 schoolchildren.
The mostly elementary-age children screamed in excitement as the paratroopers ejected from their aircraft. Counting each one, one by one, the students applauded as the soldiers glided through the air, then tucked and rolled to the ground.
Both young and old appreciated the demonstration, including 18 first-graders from the Tupelo Christian Preparatory School. "This is an unusual opportunity for the public to see what the Rangers do," said Jerry Seaman, grandfather of first-grader Drew Bland of Tupelo.
A member of the Army Airborne Division for 32 years, now retired, Seaman wanted his grandson to see the paradrop exercise. One of the Rangers' basic missions is to secure airports, Seaman said, recalling the military takeover at Grenada to rescue American hostages.
Corinth fourth-graders William Dodd, 10, and Terrance Hubbard, 11, were all eyes as they witnessed real-life soldiers in action. "I think it was neat how they landed and then flopped on their backs," Dodd said. "The smoke next to the runway told how the wind was blowing."
"They acted like they were in a real war," said Hubbard. "They were real cool."
Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Eric Hutchings of Columbus, Ohio, said the soldiers from Fort Benning, Ga., were in Corinth to visit nearby Shiloh National Military Park battlefields. Corinth provided the nearest drop zone, he said.
"Our weapons have evolved greatly since the Civil War but human beings remain remarkably the same," Hutchings said. "Shiloh produced courage and military incompetence."
While at Shiloh, the Rangers will be instructed in field craft and close contact in order to conduct missions behind enemy lines, Hutchings said.
In the mission to select and train Rangers, "We are to determine which soldiers have courage and discipline and then train them in field craft and military competence," said Hutchings, who is an instructor at Fort Benning.
Hutchings said his battalion is charged with training in the initial phase of U.S. Army Ranger School.
The day's activities at the Corinth airport included a weapons display and an explosives demonstration. When the paradrop exercise was completed, the huge, lumbering Hercules 130 aircraft landed and taxied in front of the terminal for an on-board inspection by the crowd.
Corinth Airport Manager Richard Carter said the unusual exhibition at a civilian airfield was arranged by some of his friends at Fort Benning.