National Guard Special Forces unit parachutes into Watauga Lake

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Troops from the Army national Guard's 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group jump into Watauga near the Sink Mountain boat ramp.

It was quiet along the Sink Mountain section of Watauga Lake Tuesday afternoon, save the distant drone of a C-130 Hercules. The giant plane emerged from behind green mountains, through the afternoon haze and approached its target on the lake; a drop zone marked by soldiers circling in light Zodiac rafts.
Running at about 1,500 feet, the four-engine propeller airplane was loaded with troops from the Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group based in West Virginia. The soldiers were on a training mission to parachute from the plane into the cold lake water. About 50 other troops, friends and family had gathered on the lake shore to watch the men perform their tasks.
The C-130 made three passes, disgorging men each time. The troops slowly glided down to the water after jumping out the back of the plane. Soldiers already on the lake sped to them to fish them out of the waters.
This drop was special for one family — the Harrys, who actually live on this long, quiet section of Watauga Lake. Geree Harry’s sons were participating in the drop. The boys and their sister, who is retired from the Air Force, grew up on this same lonely stretch of lake shore. Geree’s sons Kevin, Mark and Kenneth participated in the drop.
“I think it’s great,” Geree said of the jumps. “It’s a tear-jerker. I get nervous anytime they’re coming in or anything.”
Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Kevin Harry of the 19th Special Forces Group described Tuesday’s maneuver.
“It’s basically a joint operation we have with the Air Force,” Harry said.
“Using their aircraft. We use means of infiltration through air but also by water.”
His commanding officer Lt. Col. Harrison Gilliam said the soldiers really enjoy water jumps and have a good time each time they get to do one.
“It’s just another way to get where we need to go,” Gilliam said. “It’s a proud tradition. You know Americans have been jumping since World War II, and it’s an honor to be able to carry on that tradition. It’s a lot of fun, honestly. People pay to do stuff like that, and we get paid to do it.”