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Two Army Families. One with deep roots at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the other with strong ties to Sand Hill at Fort Benning. To the outside observer they may appear different in many ways, but July 24, the Jollota and Rabun Families became part of the Army Airborne brotherhood as Chief Warrant Officer 5 Dan Jollota and his daughter, Cadet Third Class Erin Jollota, and Staff Sergeant Christopher Rabun and his son, Pfc. Christian Rabun, landed at the Fryar Drop Zone at Fort Benning.
"It is a special kind of Soldier who jumps out of an airplane, and it's a brotherhood and sisterhood that I wanted my daughter to be a part of," Jollota said after he and his daughter made their first jump together.
The elder Jollota, who now serves at West Point, saw his wife graduate from West Point in 1983 and both his son and daughter attend West Point. He has made numerous jumps throughout his Army career including a stint with the Army Golden Knights parachute team.
Meanwhile, the elder Rabun and his son were new to the Airborne brotherhood as they completed Airborne School together after Pfc. Rabun's graduation from basic training on July 3.
"I'm thankful the Army and my unit gave me the opportunity to experience this with my son," Staff Sgt. Rabun said. "I couldn't be more proud of him."
While Pfc. Rabun was completing basic training, Staff Sgt. Rabun was a drill instructor on Sand Hill, and although the two weren't in the same company, the elder Rabun said he was able to keep track of how his son was doing before surprising him at his graduation party with some unexpected news.
"I went to basic training but I couldn't get Airborne written into my contract so I had to be in the top 10 percent of my class," Pfc. Rabun said. "Whenever I asked him about his, he wouldn't say anything until he showed me his orders at my graduation party. Then I was totally surprised."
Although the two have always had a competitive relationship, Pfc. Rabun said, "We were constantly pushing each other and during PLF (parachute landing fall) training we would practice on the couch after class."
Staff Sgt. Rabun said he did his best to perform at the same level as the younger Soldiers in the Airborne training.
"I didn't want to look bad in front of the young guys," he said with a slight chuckle as his son smiled in agreement.
At the conclusion of their last jump, both Rabuns were all smiles as they walked together from the drop zone to the buses waiting to take them back to the Airborne school.
After jumping with his daughter for the first time, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jollota said he was extremely proud of his daughter for what she overcame to make the jump.
"She had a setback during a PT run when she rolled her ankle and she was pushed back two weeks, but she overcame it," the elder Jollota said. "I couldn't be more proud of her."
His daughter, Erin, said she grew up hearing about the Airborne brotherhood and it was something that she always wanted to be a part of.
"I was scared of heights at first, but Airborne school helped me overcome it," she said. "It was cool jumping with my father and we were able to talk about our jump on the way back."
When asked to critique his daughter's jump, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jollota simply said, "She did a lot better than I did."