04/10/11 — 916th airman chosen to jump with Golden Knights at air show

View Archive

916th airman chosen to jump with Golden Knights at air show

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 10, 2011 1:50 AM

Full Size

Courtesy of 916th Air Refueling Wing

916th Security Forces Senior Airman AnneTaylor Hand is looking forward to her upcoming jump with the storied Golden Knights -- and the looming stint in Afghanistan that contributed to her being chosen to represent the wing.

If only for the next few days, AnneTaylor Hand likely won't be thinking too much about her upcoming stint in Afghanistan with members of the 916th Air Refueling Wing's Security Forces detail.

The airman has something else weighing on her mind.

Like just what will happen when she jumps out of an airplane and falls toward the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base flight line.

The Reserve wing's senior airman was recently tapped to participate in next weekend's Wings Over Wayne Air Show -- to represent the men and women of the 916th by falling from the sky with members of the Army Golden Knights.

"I've never jumped before," she said. "But I'm so excited."

And she is humbled, she said, that commanders felt her performance had earned her the opportunity.

"Honestly, I was surprised," the airman said.

916th Public Affairs Chief Maj. Shannon Mann wasn't.

"When it came out that we were only authorized one (jump), we obviously wanted to look for an airman who represented the wing in a very positive manner -- an airman who had excelled in what he or she was doing for the wing," she said. "Her name was the first one that popped into my head and, I mean, it was within seconds that wing leadership agreed that she was the face to represent the 916th."

She was chosen, Ms. Mann said, for many reasons.

Most importantly, Ms. Hand was named an outstanding performer during the wing's recent Operational Readiness Inspection.

"And to be able to offer it to one of our deployers meant so much more ... as a way to say, 'Hey, we recognize what you do,'" Ms. Mann said.

While deployed -- Ms. Hand is set to leave in a few months and will be gone for more than six months -- she and her team will be charged with everything from ground defense to escorting aircraft around theater.

"Whatever is tasked upon us, we're gonna get on that plane," she said.

And even though it is her first tour, she has no reservations about continuing the tradition of service her husband, Jeremy, began as an aerial gunner in the Marine Corps.

"I've sat through three (deployments) with my husband ... so this is my turn," she said. "I can't wait."

Just as she can't wait to take that flight -- and fall -- with soldiers like those she will serve alongside in Afghanistan.

"I will be here bright and early Sunday getting ready for it," she said. "With the deployment coming up, I couldn't think of any better way to start it off."