Today’s Paratroopers, Yesterday’s Paratroopers (A Photo Essay)

| November 13, 2015
Categories: Op-Eds
Tags: hernandez


Today’s Paratroopers, Yesterday’s Paratroopers (A Photo Essay)

I recently had the opportunity to ride along as a photographer with the Texas Army National Guard’s 143rd Airborne Battalion. I met the unit at a hangar and watched as the paratroopers prepped for a jump. I have friends in the 143rd and served in Afghanistan with one or two of them. I’m extremely proud that the 143rd, the National Guard’s only Airborne Infantry battalion, is part of my own beloved Texas 36th Infantry Division. The 143rd paratroopers are the same kind of soldiers who fought some of the most brutal battles of World War II, and the unit’s men (and women) are training the same way as their forefathers, for the same missions.

The 143rd is not the stereotypical National Guard unit. The battalion is full of combat veterans and Rangers, including many 75th Regiment veterans. The former battalion commander, below right, is a Special Forces officer. The new battalion commander, on the left, served in the 75th.


My only prior experience with airborne operations consisted of taking the airborne physical in 1990 and then not being allowed to go to jump school. Years later I stood on a windy drop zone at Fort Polk and watched Recon Marines slam sideways into the dried, rutted mud. So basically, everything I saw with the 143rd was brand new to me.

As I wandered the hangar taking pictures, I saw one soldier who looked vaguely like he had a mohawk.


That immediately brought to mind the World War II paratroopers who shaved their heads into mohawks before D-Day.


That soldier got me thinking. I took a lot of pictures of the 143rd, and maybe I could find corresponding pictures of WWII paratroopers before a jump. The idea quickly became pretty personal to me, because one of my great uncles jumped at Sicily, Normandy, and Holland in the 82nd. Tonight I started searching for WWII airborne photos, and these are what I found. The 143rd photos are mine, the WWII photos are from various places on the net, the C-47 photos are from an airshow. Enjoy.






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I often say I don’t have any regrets about my military service. While I didn’t care much for my support MOSs in the Marine Corps, I knew they were important. I loved being a tanker and was sort of okay with being a scout. As a Human Intel collector, I had the opportunity to do really cool things with really cool people. But after watching the 143rd jump, I kinda sorta regret never being an airborne infantryman.

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  1. Mad Duo Chris

    Thanks guys. I hope to get on another jump or two before I retire next year. Airborne Guard Guy, if I have the time and money I’m down for a trip to exotic RI. Got a couch I can crash on?

    • AirborneGuardGuy

      Well I’m actually out of state, as is about half the company (our record commuters actually fly here every month). But if you’re out by then we’ll find a way to hook you up with someone local. And if your still in it’s not an issue because state provides housing for all military personnel (both foreign and US) at URI for the duration. Actually foreign jumpers come in almost a week early to get trained on our chutes and jump procedures.

  2. AirborneGuardGuy

    Our airborne history is filled with such great moments.

    Excellent photos Chris, and glad you got to meet some of the paratroopers from the Herd, even if only the crazy Texan variety.

    To be fair I did say that they were a bunch of OK guys didn’t I ( well so long as you keep your hand on your wallet at all times anyway ;).

    I know you’re out soon, but if you get the chance you should come to RI for the leapfest competition that C Co helps to host every year. Paratroopers from around the world all trying to land on the same spot, plus an international pub crawl afterwords, good times.


    Nice work Mr Hernandez.

    The dude in the pic looking off to right of page while having his rig adjusted. Something struck me about him. I dunno…he looks like a man it would be wise not to fuck with.

  4. OkieRim

    Great pics!

  5. wyogrunt

    One of my blackhats during ground week was smoking hot. She overheard me and my buddy comment on her ass and we spent some serious time pushing up Ft Benning…good days. All the way!

  6. Nick

    Great Job Chris, those pics bring back a lot memories for me.

  7. 2hotel9

    Thanks for this, little brother. I did not go Airborne either, did a hell of a lot of helo inserts and extractions. I miss 0430 on the flight line, all rucked up and ready to go do that thang. Kerosene heaters at jobsites and camp always bring that feeling back!



  1. The more things change | laststandonzombieisland - […] Breach, Bang, Clear has an interesting photo piece matching up WWII era airborne photos with that of today’s Joes.…

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