Joint Enlistment Ceremony Highlights Day's Festivities
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
MIAMI, May 5, 2006 As part of Fleet Week USA and 2006 McDonald's Air and Sea Show festivities in South Florida, five services welcomed new recruits here yesterday.
A total of 144 recruits - 25 from the Army; 30, Navy; 50, Air Force; 36, Marine Corps; and three, Coast Guard - were sworn in by Navy Vice Adm. Mark Fitzgerald, commander Second Fleet and Strike Fleet Atlantic, in Miami May 4. The ceremony was part of a day of recognition that included family, friends and employers and the Tuskegee Airmen. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"Who in America says that our young men and women are not patriotic?" Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, asked the hundreds of people present for the swearing-in ceremony.
"They are willing to defend this country, and I tell you, they're becoming the next 'Greatest Generation,'" he said, referring to the title given to World War II veterans.
In a hangar at Opa Locka Airport here, Navy Vice Adm. Mark Fitzgerald, commander, Second Fleet and Striking Fleet Atlantic, administered the oath of enlistment to 144 recruits from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
"This is a group of young men and women who are the future of our nation," Fitzgerald said. "They obviously have what it takes. They have chosen to dedicate a portion of their life to service to their country."
The recruits had different reasons for joining the military.
For Andrew Thorell, that pull was simply a sense of duty. "I know that sounds corny," he said.
Air Force recruit Monique Allen, who will graduate from high school in a couple of weeks, knew she would succeed no matter what she did, but the Air Force will offer her something more.
"I know that if I don't have a strong force behind me, ... I'm going to succeed, but I'm going to slack a little bit. I don't want to slack at all," she said. "The Air Force, that's my driving force."
The day didn't completely belong to the recruits though. A group of 13 Tuskegee Airmen were recognized for their service.
"Every generation in the history of our nation has had it's crisis, and that generation passes the torch on to the (next generation)," Hall said. "Today ... we have a group who answered the call to colors and we deeply honor your service, the Tuskegee Airmen."
The storied airmen were America's first African-American military airmen. They get their name from the Army airfield and town in Alabama where they trained. The original group of 450 pilots flew more than 15,000 sorties as bomber escorts and never lost a single bomber.
Army Freedom Team Salute Program representatives also recognized parents, spouses and employers for their support of the Army by giving them a pin and a certificate.
The program gives active, Reserve and National Guard soldiers a way to recognize those people who make it possible for soldiers to serve, according to information on the program's Web site.
Also on hand was the Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team - surrounded by various aircraft - drawing "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd as it went through its paces. Young and old alike stood wide-eyed as the team sent its rifles - all equipped with bayonets - flying through the air between team members, each weapon landing safely in the intended recipient's hands.
The crowd then moved outside to watch the Army's Golden Knights parachute team jump from an airplane from about 12,500 feet. They maneuvered safely to their target on the ground, guided by gold and black Army parachutes, drawing another round of "oohs.