SANFORD -- When Central Carolina Community College kicks off its 50th anniversary celebration on July 23, people are going to be falling out of the sky.
Don't be alarmed, though - they're trained professionals.
The Fort Bragg-based All American Freefall Team, which represents the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division, will perform a jump during the celebration at the college's Emergency Services Training Center.
The July 23 event celebrates the college and all those who have been part of its establishment, growth and success since it offered its first class in 1961. In the 50 years since then, it has grown to three campuses and multiple centers serving Chatham, Harnett and Lee counties. CCCC has also become a recognized leader among community colleges for its curriculum innovation, workforce training, and preparation of students for continued educational success.
The 50th Anniversary kickoff is the start of a year of activities to recognize these achievements and look to the future. The community is invited to this free admission family friendly event, which also includes fireworks, live music, games, food, and much more.
The All American Freefall Team is a six-man demonstration team that has existed in some form since 1958, according to SFC Darrell Owens, jump team coordinator.
"We travel around and perform parachute missions all over the country," he said. "We support recruiting for the division and enhance community relations."
Owens said a typical show consists of a two-man team on the ground narrating the events and making sure the drop zone is secure, and a four-man team jumping from the airplane overhead.
"The narrator will describe what's happening in the aircraft, and once it is time for us to jump, we do," Owens said. "After we've landed, we'll pack up our parachutes, and a lot of times we'll get some kids from the crowd to help us out. After that, we stick around for autographs or just to talk to people who might be interested in what it is we do."
The team members come from other roles within the Army - Owens is a medic, having served in that role during combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Other members are infantry, but give a three-year commitment to the All American Freefall Team. During that time, the team is their full-time job.
"We average about 600 jumps in a year between March and November," he said, explaining that the team has December off and trains during January and February.
Owens - who actually admits with a laugh that he's afraid of heights - came to the team after hearing about it and deciding "it sounded like a neat mission and a fun job."
"I've gotten to meet so many people I wouldn't have gotten to otherwise," he said. "I've met a lot of veterans from past wars, and family members of people who are serving now. It's just great to kind of get to be a spokesperson for those guys who are deployed and remind America that they're over there."
And getting to jump out of airplanes?
"That's a pretty cool bonus," Owens said with a smile. "The first time you do it, you're scared, but having the ability to conquer that fear is great. It was instant love the second I jumped out of the plane."
Owens said there's no falling sensation during a jump and compared it to "sticking your head out the window of a car that's going 120 mph."
Central Carolina Community College's 50th Anniversary Kickoff takes place from 3 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Saturday, July 23, at the ESTC, 3000 Airport Road, Sanford. For more information about the college's 50th Anniversary, visit www.cccc.edu/50years