By Mikie Perkins, Albany Recruiting Battalion
When the first Continental Congress founded the army in 1775, it was done to protect the original 13 colonies against invasion by the British. The U.S. Army continues to fight to protect Americans from aggressors 245 years later. It does so successfully because of soldiers who are dedicated and determined to maintain the traditions and roles established all those years ago.
“It’s our birthday, and I am incredibly proud to not only serve our nation,” said Staff Sgt. Rey Pagan, “but to be a part of a long and very proud legacy of military history.”
Pagan is an army recruiter assigned to the Rutland’s Army Recruiting Station – part of the Albany Recruiting Battalion headquartered in Albany, New York. The New York native grew up in Newburgh, the site of the last bastion of rebellion by Gen. George Washington and his Continental Army against British rule that ultimately brought about the end of the American Revolution. Pagan has served for nearly nine years and said he knew from a very young age he wanted to be a soldier.
“When I was 8 years old, I became fascinated with the history of World War II, in particular the U.S. Army Airborne Corps and their role in fighting the Germans on the beaches of Normandy, France,” Pagan said. “I just knew that one day I, too, would wear the uniform and jump out of airplanes.”
Pagan turned his dream into reality in 2012, enlisting in the Army as a military intelligence analyst and shipping off to basic combat training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
“In basic training, I just wanted to be a stand-up person,” Pagan said. “I wanted to be known for positive thinking and always do the right thing.”
Fort Huachuca, Arizona, was his next assignment and where he received four months of Army intelligence training. Then it was off to Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the U.S. Army Airborne School, where Pagan received three weeks of basic paratrooper training. “Jump School” as it’s most commonly referred to, is not easy at all, and Pagan said he had to overcome some serious fears.
“I remember the first time I actually had to jump out of a plane, I was scared out of my mind,” he said, “but I also remember thinking to myself how those paratroopers who landed on Omaha Beach were scared, too. I just let that thought wash over me, let go of my fear of heights and went out the door.”
The Rutland Army recruiter said there are many things to consider when making the decision to become a soldier.
Pagan said there are times you may have to put your life in the hands of fate to change history, just like those Airborne soldiers at Omaha Beach did. It’s about courage, he said.
“My great-grandfather was a soldier attached to a Marine Corps unit and he was part of the Battle of Iwo Jima,” he said. “Our troops took control of the island and helped turn the tide of the war. They had a mission and did what they needed to, regardless of the outcome,” Pagan said.
The one thing Pagan said he truly loves about the Army is its traditions. Everything from the uniform to the leadership role of the noncommissioned officer is steeped in more than 200 years of honor and tradition.
“As we celebrate the 245th birthday of our Army, I am humbled when I reflect back on how it came into existence and all it stands for,” Pagan said. “The Army is a beacon of freedom not only for our citizens, but to so many other countries around the world. We have been there to help in times of crisis. Every day I wear this uniform I feel a sense of purpose, and I always try and project that to the young people I meet who are curious about serving their country. This celebration of the Army birthday is a perfect day to reflect on all we have done and will continue to do to keep America’s Army strong.”