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Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011

Soaring with Silver Wings

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When people think of Fort Benning, some of the first things that come to mind might be the Airborne towers, basic training on Sand Hill or even the new home of the Infantry and Armor.

But, for Cpl. Edwin Schimmer of E Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, his view of Fort Benning — and many other places around the country, comes from a little different perspective.

Schimmer and other members of the Silver Wings, the Maneuver Center of Excellence commanding general’s exhibition parachute team, routinely exit aircraft at 14,000 feet moving at 100 mph.

“Most of the ground below looks like a tiny model ... too enormous to pinpoint anything,” he said. “For me, it is my daily duty, but for the thousands of onlookers, it looks like an incredible feat.”

While the Silver Wings may not be the first thing you think about when you think of Fort Benning, they are at numerous events throughout the Southeast region and have one of the longest-standing traditions at Fort Benning.

Officially organized in 1965, the team traces its origin back to the inception of the Fort Benning Sport Parachute Club in 1958. It’s made up of U.S. Army paratroopers who have demonstrated excellence in parachuting skills.

If you have been to one of many graduations on Fort Benning, you may have seen the Silver Wings jump in from a plane or helicopter, floating down with colored smoke blowing behind them, displaying the flag of our nation.

And, if you have thought about what it feels like to soar through the air, this may be your chance to find out because the Silver Wings are looking for candidates to join their team.

The ideal candidate for those hoping to join the Silver Wings is someone stationed at Fort Benning for 18 months or longer. Civilian skydiving experience is preferred.

Prospective members should be in the rank of sergeant to sergeant first class, but anyone with experience and the will to work hard to represent the Army well is welcome.

“I’m not a sergeant and I’ve been a member of the Silver Wings for about two years,” Schimmer said. “I wanted to take advantage of a unique opportunity. It’s a job not everyone gets to do and I have managed to get many civilian skydiving certifications.”

The Silver Wings conduct demonstrations in a variety of venues, from basic Airborne School graduations to major college football games as well as NASCAR, Major League Baseball, and air shows all over the country. The team also regularly conducts tandem jumps with various celebrities and VIPs.

Schimmer said his most memorable tandem jump was with Aubie, the mascot of Auburn University. “It was very interesting and challenging,” he said.

The Silver Wings also supply quality personnel to the Golden Knights U.S. Army Parachute Team Selection and Assessment Program.

Recently, Sgt. Jonathon Lopez, from A Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, was accepted into the Golden Knights.

The next time you see the Silver Wings parachuting into an event, think about the hundreds of jumps they have completed to prepare for a jump.

If you are interested in joining the Silver Wings and meet at least 12- to 18-month retention, contact the team leader, Dale Warner, at 706-545-8471.

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