The Bayonet

Tuesday, Jun. 10, 2014

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93-year-old D-Day vet jumps again

UTAH BEACH, France - The motto of the 101st Airborne Division is "Rendezvous with Destiny."

In a true rendezvous with history, paratrooper veteran James "Pee Wee" Martin again took to the sky June 5, over Normandy, France, and parachuted onto the one-time battlefield, seven decades after his historic D-Day landing.

A veteran of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, wearing his vintage tan paratroop jacket with jump wings and patches, Martin caught his breath and seemed surprised the flight was already over after sliding to a smooth landing. "It was absolutely wonderful," Martin told the swarm of reporters. "The best part was when we went out of the door - that was the most exciting part. It's always exciting until the chute opens."

But open it did, and Martin floated through the sky over Normandy, attached to his tandem partner Dominic Kervestin, who landed him safely in the same area where he landed in June 6, 1944 - in field behind Utah Beach.

This time, however, there was no fear for the seasoned paratrooper. While many were concerned about his safety, Martin said he wasn't worried this time around. "I wasn't scared at all," he said. "There is really nothing to be scared of. Once you get in that plane, you forget about everything. It certainly wasn't scary today, because there wasn't anybody shooting at me."

Corps of Engineers finishes projects

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed another chapter in Afghanistan as the Transatlantic Afghanistan District's South Area Office was inactivated in a ceremony here June 6.

Less than a year ago, the Corps had two Afghanistan districts, north and south. Those districts were inactivated mid-2013 as corps officials whittled down the number of projects they were overseeing. A single district, the Transatlantic Afghanistan District, or TAA, was activated July 9, overseeing three area offices, Bagram, Kabul and the South Area Office, or SAO.

The SAO initially had three resident and four project offices, overseeing 84 construction projects with an estimated $1.4 billion cost. The projects spanned 11 provinces in Regional Commands-South, -Southwest and -West. Officials from the last resident office, Kandahar, or KRO, and its two project offices, Arena and Helmand, will now oversee the 26 remaining projects left in the SAO's area.

In the SAO's 11 months of existence, corps engineers and quality assurance representatives exceeded the district's goals. They averaged 5.3 projects a month, compared to the previous district's four-year average of 2.7 projects per month, turning over 58 projects compared to 31 the previous year. This was done while reducing the workforce by 71 percent, in just 10 months.

"This is significant since we achieved these results during a reduction in the workforce of 71 percent by May 2014," said outgoing SAO Officer in Charge Lt. Col. John Connor. "A corps' strength, and a fundamental reason for the SAO's success, is that this team always found a way to identify the issue, develop the situation and achieve positive outcomes. It's the mark of excellence and I am thankful I was a small part of it."

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