C-12's AIRBORNE Tradition
Compiled from personal accounts of C-12 alumni
The history of Charlie Company's airborne tradition spans over a quarter of a century. Prior to being reconstituted into Pershing Rifles in 1972, C-12 was first called the MIT Counter-Guerrilla Group and then the Commando Group (CG).1
Setting the Example
At the time that C-12 was designated "Airborne" in 1972, it was due largely to encouragement--both implicit and verbal--from the Army cadre at MIT in the 1970's. They set a high standard for cadets to measure themselves upon and strive to achieve.
"The Army faculty were all excellent examples of military accomplishment: Vietnam vets, Rangers, Airborne," writes A.C. Ross. CPT David Murotake, USA (Ret), adds: "Subsequently, Airborne status was highly coveted by P/R members... [and] some even went to Ranger School in lieu of Advanced Camp."
The company advisor in 1972 was CPT Kevin Upton, a Signal Corps officer who served with the 101st in Vietnam. As a Pershing Rifleman at Northeastern University, CPT Upton realized the value of P/R's for fostering camaraderie and boosting ROTC morale. Furthermore, given the attitudes of college students in the waning days of the Vietnam War, the need was great for strong, organized ROTC extracurricular programs.
"In 1970-72, the Commando Group, of which I was a member, was a hodgepodge of military and civilian types who enjoyed running around in the woods. However, with Captain Upton's arrival we began to take on a more organized, military character," says A.C. Ross. "Eventually, the group was combined with the Drill Team and the Rifle Team in 1972 when the Pershing Rifles were reconstituted that year."
Through his tireless efforts, CPT Upton enhanced the ROTC experience and set the example which created Charlie Company.
Getting Their Wings
CAPT Arthur "Trip" Barber, USN, then a Naval ROTC midshipman, was the first P/R to go to Fort Benning in the summer of 1972. "I was C.O. of C-12 when we added the designation (Airborne) to the company name during the 1972-1973 academic year. A significant number of us went to Airborne School before, during, or at the end of the year, and we were being led by cadre MAJ Kevin Upton, USA, an airborne man and P/R alumnus who had us truly motivated to become the best unit in the regiment."
With CPT Upton's help, a sufficient number of P/R's became Airborne qualified to permit calling the company Charlie Twelve Airborne. "When TRADOC decided to allow ROTC cadets to go to Airborne School, Captain Upton, with no restraint or delicacy whatsoever, made it clear that if you didn't go you were, well, 'a dirty leg2,'" notes A.C. Ross. In a few years "there were enough of us misguided jump-qualified souls around that we decided that the minimum standard of excellence was graduation from Airborne School...
"Despite Captain Upton's and my best efforts, we were unable to pull off an airborne FTX3 before I graduated and was commissioned in 1974. The spirit was willing, though, and we decided to add the Airborne designation because so many people were going through Airborne School -- even Air Force ROTC cadets!"
David Murotake justifies the Airborne descriptor, writing that it "served as an incentive to REMF4-STRAIGHT LEG cadets to get with the AIRBORNE program." MAJ Dan Jaime, USA (Ret), agrees: "[Airborne School] was a real morale builder back then. A slot at Airborne School, regardless of the branch of service, was highly coveted."
In his letter, Larry Ames explains that the company adopted the ABN designator "to encourage others to go to jump school." Floyd Mitman adds, "I wanted to join the staff of C-12 (ABN), and it was made VERY clear to me that being Airborne qualified would be very important....I distinctly remember thinking that if I didn't get those wings, I may as well not come back to C-12 (ABN)."
When Larry Ames graduated in 1979, all of the P/R officers and most of the upperclassmen were jump qualified. "At least through '79, the Company Commanders and [Commando Group] Platoon Leaders (as well as most of the juniors and seniors) were Ft. Benning grads."
The Tradition Lives On
Over half of C-12's members during the past four years are Airborne qualified or have Air Force freefall wings. Our members get many of the new slots every year.
Our training program is largely modeled after Airborne School at Fort Benning. Like the P/R's of 1972, we follow everything with a loud and thunderous "Airborne!" And we love to sing Airborne cadences on the run or march.
Trip Barber reminisces: "At a time when the military was held in low esteem, we were pumped over our profession. I nearly converted my commission to Army at the end of the year, and I still wear my Airborne wings with pride."