FORT BRAGG, N.C. - For some Soldiers, their military career can
start as a child. “I had a next-door neighbor that came back from
Vietnam where he was a Special Forces Soldier. He gave me his green
beret, some badges, medals, patches and stuff. That planted the seed
to be an Airborne Ranger,” said Col. Roger Cotton, assistant chief
of staff for human resources at Headquarters and Headquarters
Company, United States Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations
Command (Airborne), located here.
The idea to join the military came up again while Cotton was in
high school, where he participated in the Navy Junior Reserve
Officers' Training program.
Following graduation from high
school in the summer of 1982, he left for the United States Military
In 1986, after graduating from West Point and before
reporting to the Infantry Officer Basic, Cotton attended the
Airborne Basic Course, continuing his path to becoming an Airborne
His first jump took place on July 21, 1986, at Fort
Benning, Ga. Twenty-eight years later on Jan. 24, 2014, Cotton
completed his 100th airborne jump at St. Mere Eglise Drop Zone.
Col. Roger Cotton, Assistant Chief of
Staff for Human Resources at Headquarters and Headquarters Company,
U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command
(Airborne), gets ready to perform jumpmaster duties before his 100th
airborne jump onto St. Mere Eglise Drop Zone Jan. 24, 2014 at Fort
Bragg N.C., from a CASA 212 aircraft. (U.S. Army photo by Capt.
Saska Ball, USACAPOC(A) PAO)
“It's surprising to reach that goal quicker than you
realize,” he said. “It's a wonder when you start to look
back and think, ‘How did I get here?' I'm grateful that God
has given me the opportunity 100 times to jump safely.”
Throughout his career, he has used six different types
of parachutes, earned nine foreign jump wings, jumped out of
13 types of aircraft and landed on 17 drop zones.
Along the way, he became a jump master.
enjoy seeing kids who are on jump number six and are scared.
I try to bring them a little calm and help them out, to
overcome something, use that inner strength,” he said with a
smile. “It's exciting for me.”
As his retirement
approaches, Cotton reminisces about some of his most
“Jumping into Holland for part of
the Market Garden re-enactment stands out because that was
historic. As you jump in, there are re-enactors all over the
drop zone dressed up in their WWII garb,” he said.
love the Black Hawk jumps especially and the tailgate jumps
from the Casa 212 because you can see what you're doing,” he
added. “And the C-130 jumps because I started with those.”
Fittingly, his career came to a close at the home of the
Airborne on April 18, 2014.
“The hard part is going
to be stopping because I had so much fun. There is just
something about the camaraderie of being with fellow
By U.S. Army Capt. Saska Ball
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