Tag Archives: family

An Airborne Chaplain Who Found his Calling in the Classifieds

For one Chaplain serving in the 82nd Airborne Division, his calling did not come in the form of a thunderous voice or dramatic event. It came when he opened the local classified section.

Captain Jacques Albertyn, the Battalion Chaplain for the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, heard a soft voice while sitting in a church pew, third row from the front. He didn’t think about it much until getting home and reaching for the newspaper.

Captain Jacques Albertyn, Chaplain for the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division was sitting in a church pew, third row from the front when he heard a voice calling him to a life in ministry.

“My calling happened March 10th, 2002. Some people might have that big moment where God speaks to them in a thunderous voice or something dramatic happened in their lives that calls them to ministry,” said Albertyn. “For me, it was a quiet voice.”

Albertyn was born in Pinelands, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, in a hospital that was once a Catholic Monastery. A Southern Baptist and endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention, he attended New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Orlando Campus before joining the Army.

“Military Chaplaincy is about selfless service, it is about giving yourself to others with no expectation of receiving anything else in return,” said Albertyn about ministering to Soldiers. “Army Chaplaincy provided me with an opportunity to walk next to the young men and women that serve this country, to share God’s presence with them and support them in the midst of anxiety and fear.

Albertyn had just started a new career at a local company in Florida after immigrating to the United States when he heard that voice in church.

Captain Jacques Albertyn, Chaplain for the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division didn’t think much about a small voice he heard in church calling him to ministry until he got home and opened up the classified ads of his local newspaper.

I am calling you for my people the voice said, calling him by name. After getting home from church, Albertyn prayed to God to reveal the ministry He wanted Albertyn to serve in. “As I opened the newspaper, on the left page there was a quarter-page advertisement about the need for U.S. Army Chaplains to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Albertyn. “I looked at the ad, read it and went onto the next page, thinking to myself ‘that is not church.’

“Each time I served in a church since that day, my wife would say ‘You do know this is not where God wants you to serve,” continued Albertyn. “It might have taken me 14 years to get into the Army, but every day I serve as a Chaplain is a blessing as I fulfill my true and direct calling from God.”

Being a faith leader in an Airborne Infantry Brigade Combat Team requires not only steadfast courage to conduct static-line airborne operations, but also empathy to understand the reservations some paratroopers have before jumping. Primarily, it demands a chaplain serve alongside those he ministers to.”

“Being Airborne is not just a job, it is a way of life. Airborne is not for everyone, but those who are here deserve a chaplain who will look after them,” said Albertyn. “Airborne operations provide an aspect of service that can challenge the toughest soldier. Being next to paratroopers through their challenges and hearing their opinions, fears and joys about jumping is what military Chaplaincy is all about.”

“Rock, You Draw a Hell Of a Crowd”

Paratroopers, veterans and members of the Fort Bragg and Fayetteville community gathered April 20th to honor a living airborne legend.

Retired Command Sergeant Major Kenneth “Rock” Merritt, a distinguished alumni of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division was honored with a paver stone at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in downtown Fayetteville, North Carolina.

A paver stone dedicated to Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth “Rock” Merritt is unveiled at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Merritt, a World War II 82nd Airborne Veteran of Operations Overlord and Market Garden, served over thirty years in the Army and even twice as the XVIII Airborne Corps Command Sergeant Major.

“Rock, you draw a hell of a crowd,” said Mr. Tommy Bolton, the Civilian Aid to the Secretary of the Army for North Carolina during his opening remarks. “This is indeed special. Not just for Command Sergeant Major Merritt and his family, but for all he represents.’

‘That means that place in history, when the world was at war, and the only thing that stood between freedom and the Nazis were guys like Rock who stepped forward, took the oath, withstood the training and dedicated themselves to a higher cause and the meaning of America,” continued Bolton.”

Merritt was a member of the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment when he participated in the combat jumps into Normandy during Operation Overlord and into the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden. He was personally awarded the Silver Star by General Matthew Ridgway for knocking out a Nazi machine gun nest during Operation Overlord.

“Command Sergeant Major Merritt is an exceptional example of the Greatest Generation and is still serving our Army today,” said Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Steve England. “Rock is a role model and mentor to the officers, noncommissioned officers and young paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division and the 18th Airborne Corps and, of course, his beloved 508th.”

Then-Corporal Kenneth “Rock” Merritt poses for a photo.

In October of 1942, Merritt saw a colorful poster while waiting to talk to a Marine recruiting sergeant. The poster depicted a paratrooper descending to the ground with the challenge “Are You Man Enough to Fill These Boots?” emblazoned upon it. That was the beginning of his 35-year long career in the Army, 31 years of which were spent on jump status. Merritt would serve twice as the Command Sergeant Major of the XVIII ABC Corps and is an inaugural member of the 82nd Airborne Division’s Hall of Fame.

“Let me say, without any reservations, this is the greatest honor that I have ever received. In the confusion in the world going on today, we have so much to be proud and thankful for. Number one, our armed forces today are led by the best trained, best equipped, best educated officers, noncommissioned officers and soldiers that the Army has ever had,” said Merritt. “Number two, we live in the best country in the world, the United States of America. Last, but certainly not least, we’ve been able to have two hundred and forty some odd years with our freedom all due to soldiers like you standing here today.”

Merrit occasionally visits the 1-508th PIR and 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division headquarters on Fort Bragg to speak with paratroopers and give them perspective on the foundations of the Army Airborne community.

“Command Sergeant Major Merritt is a national treasure and a living legend. When he visits the Panther Brigade on Fort Bragg, paratroopers have the opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of the 82nd’s baptism by fire in the skies and on the ground during World War II,” said. Col. Gregory Beaudoin, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “The honor he received today at the ASOM ensures generations of paratroopers to come will know about the valor and heritage of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment,” continued Beaudoin.

Panther Brigade Honors First Mass-Tactical Parachute Operation

Fort Bragg paratroopers and residents of South Carolina gathered in Camden, South Carolina on Thursday, March 29 to commemorate an event proving the 82nd Airborne was a viable concept in battle.

Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division and Kershaw County residents celebrated the 75th anniversary of the first mass parachute drop, an event largely seen as the proof-of-concept of large scale parachute operations in World War II.

The original jump occurred Monday, March 29th, 1943 and involved the entire 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment along with elements of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. Led by then-Col. James Gavin, the paratroopers jumped from more than 120 C-47 aircraft before assaulting a nearby bridge over the Wateree River.

“The training exercise not only proved mass-tactical parachute operations were feasible and could be successful, it provided the men of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment valuable training before they departed the United States for the European Theater where they would conduct four Regimental-sized combat jumps; Sicily, Salerno, Normandy and Holland,” said Col. Gregory Beaudoin, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

A ceremony including a wreath-laying by members of the community commemorated the event which also honored WWII veterans present and their family members.