Photo by Capt.
Jason Burton, center, receives his jump wings from
Andy Burton at a Fort Benning, Ga., graduation
ceremony July 14.
CEDAR FORT and CAMP
WILLIAMS, Utah — For Col. Andy Burton, commander of the 19th
Special Forces Group, and his son Pfc. Jason
Burton, Wednesday, July 19, was a day of firsts and lasts.
Father and son had just
recently returned from Fort Benning, Ga., where the
previous Friday Jason graduated from Airborne School and
Andy was the keynote speaker at the ceremony and pinned new
jump wings on his son.
On this day, the recent
graduate would break in his wings jumping out of a UH-60
Blackhawk helicopter for his “cherry jump,” which is what
Special Forces Soldiers call their first parachute jump
after Airborne School.
The younger Burton would
be joined by his father and commander, who would be
completing his 150th and last jump as a member of
the 19th. The Burtons were also joined on the
first stick—or batch of jumpers—by Sgt. David Burton, Group
Support Company, 19th Special Forces Group, a
nephew to Andy and cousin to Jason, as well as Col. Michael
Adams, who would assume command from the senior Burton later
in the day.
Photo by Sgt. Kelly
Burton Boys, from left to right, Col. Andy, Pfc.
Jason, and Sgt. David,
of 19th Special Forces Group, prior to takeoff for
their jump July 19.
The father-son combination
also garnered a great deal of local media attention with all
the television stations and major and small-town newspapers
represented at Drop Zone Ashau, a conglomeration of farmers’
fields just outside Cedar Fort, Utah.
The weather was slightly
overcast with almost no wind—a perfect day for a parachute
jump, according to Col. Burton.
Jason jumped first,
followed three seconds later by Andy. About two minutes
later the two Burtons landed within about 30 feet of each
other in the soft dirt.
After collecting and
repacking their chutes and trudging through the Cedar Valley
soil to the dirt road representing the western edge of the
drop zone, they were met by reporters—including this
one—anxious to get their reaction.
“The jump was good, but
it’s kind of sad. It’s my first jump with the unit and [my
dad’s] last,” said Jason. “It was a good experience to jump
with him and carry the tradition forward.”
Photo by Sgt. Kelly
Jason Burton, left, and Col. Andy Burton interview
with Jed Boal, local television reporter, at Drop
Zone Ashau near Cedar Fort, Utah.
The young private said he
prefers jumping from the Blackhawk, which was quite a change
from the traditional C-130 fixed-wing aircraft used as
paratroopers’ air frame at Fort Benning.
“In the helicopter you can
actually see the drop zone. In the C-130 all you see is a
little red light before you’re out the door,” said Jason.
Having jumped in sun,
rain, snow, swamp and desert in the U.S. and overseas,
father Andy rated this one near the top of his highlight
“It’s unbelievable! What a
thrill,” he said.
Burton explained that Fort
Benning trainees jump using a T-10 parachute, which requires
Soldiers to pull on the actual risers—the thin strands
linking the jumper and the parachute—in order to turn and
maneuver. But this jump was made with the SF-10, a parachute
with toggles on each side which allow the jumper to more
easily control turns and landings.
Photo by Maj. Hank
Col. Michael Adams, left, receives the 19th Special
Forces Group colors from Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet at
the change-of-command ceremony July 19.
Cheryl Burton, Andy’s wife
and Jason’s mother, was also there at the drop zone to watch
her husband and son—and not without a little angst and a lot
“It was very emotional. It
was a wonderful feeling to see them come out, and they’re
done,” she said with a smile of relief. “I’ll sleep better
“I’m very supportive of
Jason. I wanted him to join the military. We’re a very
patriotic family,” Cheryl added.
With his last jump under
his belt, Col. Burton, a 23-year veteran of the Salt Lake
Police Department who worked extensively with the gang task
force, then turned his attention to his last official act as
commander of the 19th: Turning over the Group’s
colors to his successor.
The ceremony, held at the
Camp Williams Readiness Center, included the traditional
passing of the flag from Command Sgt. Maj. Allen Smithee,
Group sergeant major; to Col. Burton, outgoing commander; to
Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet, Utah National Guard adjutant
general; to Col. Adams, incoming commander, and then back to
Photo by Maj. Hank
Soldiers of the 19th Special Forces Group stand in
the Group change-of-command ceremony at Camp
In his remarks Burton
outlined the scope of missions completed by the 19th
Special Forces during his nearly four years as commander to
include supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in
Afghanistan, Iraqi Freedom in Iraq, Noble Eagle and Desert
Spring in Kuwait, Unified Endeavor in Puerto Rico and
Talisman Saber in Australia.
“The command team and
these commanders are without equal. The staff at Group
Headquarters is the most qualified and experienced staff in
the history of the Group, with combat experience in almost
every case,” Burton said. “The key was that Soldiers
performed flawlessly, accomplishing every mission with
expertise and professionalism while living Army values and
working as quiet professionals.”
Burton also paid tribute
to Soldiers’ families, Family Support, previous Group
commanders and his wife and children.
Tarbet lauded Burton for
his legacy and his service in his comments as presiding
officer at the ceremony.
“The Burton story is a
classic story of service to the state and nation. As I’ve
listened to all that they’ve done over the past five years,
it is a remarkable record that they’ve written and Andy
Burton has been a large part of it,” said Tarbet.
Photo by Sgt. Kelly
Col. Andy Burton, left, and his son Pfc. Jason
Burton before boarding
the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for Dad's last
and Son's first jump.
After the ceremony Burton
summed up his feelings about serving as Group commander.
“The longer you’re there,
the harder it is to go away. But I have a son serving in the
unit, so I can stay involved in some way. It’s a tremendous
honor to have been the commander,” Burton said.
“The credit is really to
the Soldiers. The work they do and the professionalism they
exhibit, it’s without equal. And we have the finest
noncommissioned officers anywhere. They are so professional,
so competent, and so hard-working. They’ve really made the
difference,” he added.
Cheryl Burton was honored
with a bouquet of roses during the ceremony and received the
loudest and longest standing ovation when she was recognized
for her service as the wife of the Group commander.
“I’m honored that my
husband has been in the National Guard. I’ve always enjoyed
the camaraderie of Soldiers and the wives, the whole
atmosphere,” she said after the ceremony. “It’s brought us
closer and the times we’ve spent together, I’ve absolutely
Adams, who comes from a
regular-Army background, expressed appreciation for the
close-knit group of Soldiers that is the 19th.
Photo by Sgt. Kelly
David Burton, Group Support Company, 19th Special
Forces Group, shortly after exiting the helicopter
over Drop Zone Ashau July 19.
“I really feel like I’m
joining a family here. This is different than what I’ve seen
before. Taking command of a Special Forces group is the
pinnacle of tactical command for Special Forces officers. I
respect what means in terms of trust and confidence.” said
“These Soldiers have
clearly demonstrated that they are a dedicated bunch. They
have their civilian jobs to put food on the table, and they
come to train and often deploy. And they do it not to get
rich but because they are great Americans,” added Adams.
And Tarbet has great
confidence in the new leader of the 19th.
“They are challenged in
terms of what is being asked of them. They’ll have to run
hard, but Col. Michael Adams is the right guy to run out in
front of them,” he said.