COLUMBIA, S.C. –
Approximately 12,000 feet in the sky, Joe Mergo arches his back and smiles as he tumbles from an airplane with the U.S. Army logo on its tail. Mergo doesn’t have a cord to pull to open the chute, however. The person in charge of deploying the parachute is, instead, a highly-trained member of a United States Army parachute team, the Golden Knights. After about one minute of freefall the Golden Knight pulls open the chute and the pair ride the wind lazily down to the ground.
Mergo is one of 40 plus individuals invited to jump and attend the Army Reserve Tandem Jump Camp as part of the Army Reserve Ambassador (ARA) program that took place at the McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Richland County, South Carolina, Sept. 07-09, 2017.
“It’s a mind over matter thing,” said Mergo, the Lexington County administrator in South Carolina. “But if I had to do it, I was going to jump with the Golden Knights.”
The event is sponsored by the U.S. Army Reserve and the 81st Regional Support Command (RSC), and also coordinated with the Columbia Army Recruiting Battalion and focused on building better relationships between the American public and the Army Reserve.
The Army Reserve maintains an active presence in hundreds of communities across the United States, including 258 centers and 46 shops in the region. The Army Reserve provides a multitude of educational opportunities as well. This includes the Minuteman Scholarship, the GI Bill, tuition assistance, and technical job training.
The 81st RSC provides base support, equipment readiness and vital customer support functions for the 55,000 Army Reserve Soldiers across the Southeast U.S., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
The Columbia Recruiting Battalion has responsibility for recruiting activities within South Carolina, Western North Carolina and six counties in Northwest Georgia. The battalion is comprised of six companies across the region.
Individuals who jumped at the event were made honorary ambassadors, becoming delegates who help connect the Army Reserve with the public and help spread information on the opportunities presented by the Army Reserve.
“Putting my life in a stranger’s hands for just that short amount of time is a real eye opener,” said Mergo. “The way Soldiers place their lives in the hands of other strangers really solidifies the saying ‘Freedom isn’t free.”