MEET OUR VETERANS:
U.S. Army, 82nd Airborne
Lives in Rockwall works in Canton
82nd Airborne motto:
“All the way!” “Death from above”
Jesse Carranza was born May 30th, 1975 in Galveston, Texas. He had an older brother named Joe who also served in the U.S. Army as an MP (Military Police) and they both joined the Army on the same day. He had two sisters named Alicia and Victoria. His father’s name was also Joe and his mother Carolyn.
GROWING UP IN GALVESTON
Jesse grew up on the island of Galveston, Texas. “I remember we could go from one seawall to the other one,” said Jesse as we sat down for this interview in his office. “I could hop on my bike and go just about anywhere I wanted to go. I went out on the rock pier and went fishing a lot and there was always the beach where I could go swimming. I grew up playing baseball and football in junior high. I played right field on the baseball team and right guard and left tackle on the football team.
I got hurt playing my freshman year playing football and part of my recovery was to swim. I ended up joining the swim team in water polo and competitive swimming.
From my sophomore to my senior year I was a high school cheerleader. A girl I liked got me involved with cheerleading,” he laughed. “She said there was an opening on the team and I joined. I really like the sport of cheerleading. In the early 90’s there weren’t many guys that did that,” he said.
JUMPING OUT OF PLANES
Jesse was working at a summer camp right after High School and went to a place called Skydive Over Houston, located in Waller, Texas. Jesse and three friends decided to go take a tandem skydive at 12,500 feet. “It was the thrill and excitement of it,” laughed Jesse. “I had never skydived before and it was just the adrenalin rush for me. I was sitting on the floor of this small plane. You have a harness strapped onto you and loops on the back. The instructor wears the parachute. They told us on the ground how you are going to land and how your body position is going to be. I was tunnel vision focused on going out. It was July of 1994 and it was hot. It was jumping into a cold lake. You jump out and the wind is all around you. Since you are not that far from the ground you don’t have gravity pulling against you. It was not like on a roller coaster where you feel like you are losing your stomach. You feel like you are floating. You freefall for about a minute, then they pull the chute. The instructor allows you to guide the chute down. He then shows you how to pull on the toggles to go left or right and how to steer. He takes back over just before you land. We missed the x-mark by a couple of feet. I was hooked. It was incredible,” smiled Jesse.
GOING INTO THE ARMY
Jesse started Junior College in Galveston, Tx. After his first year, his GPA was 1.87. So, he thought maybe he should do something else. “I wanted to get into nuclear medicine, radiology and courses like that. My grades were not so great. I decided to join the military. In High School I went thru Junior ROTC. I always had a desire to go into the military. I wanted to get a college degree first. It was August of 1995. I didn’t go to basic until January of 1996.
I actually went to MEPS to join the Navy. I went to the Navy specialist and they told me I could be an Apprentice doing different jobs. I told them I wanted to be guaranteed something. But, they said all they had were the Apprentice Programs. So ,I said, no that was not for me.
My brother was going thru the Army recruiter at the exact same time. He decided he wanted to be an MP, (Military Police) in the Army. I went to talk to the Army recruiter and told him I wanted to get into computers. They said they could have me working in supply and inventory but working with computers. I said OK, I can do that. They told me I could make an extra $150. a month if I wanted to jump out of planes. I said, sign me up.”
Jesse signed up for three years but since they added Airborne the total military time was 3.5 years. His MOS was 92 Yankee which was Unit Supply. He did his basic at Fort Jackson, SC and went to quartermaster school at Ft. Lee, Virginia. From there Jesse went to Jump School at Fort Benning, Georgia. Next stop was Fort Bragg and the 82nd Airborne.
JUMP SCHOOL/GETTING MY WINGS
The 82nd Airborne Division is an airborne infantry division of the United States Army, specializing in parachute assault operations into denied areas with a U .S. Department of Defense requirement to respond to crisis contingencies anywhere in the world, within 18 hours.
“Jump School is three weeks long,” Jesse said. “We ran everywhere. You run from the time you wake up in the morning until you go to bed at night. First week is ground week.
You are learning body positioning. You have to learn your PLF, (Parachute Landing Fall). Second week is tower week. You have a 34-foot tower, it is like a zip line. Next, is the 250-foot tower. The third week is jump week. There, they take you up in a plane and you have to perform five jumps. We did three day jumps and two-night jumps.
The night jumps are interesting you are not ready for it. They are a little bit more nerve wracking, you just have to trust your equipment. In the day jumps they set off smoke bombs so you can see the direction of the winds. At night, you can’t see that. At night you have to look for the tree tops. The ground is going to come up faster than you think. We also had to perform combat jumps. You have your reserve pack on the front of your body, and your “Alice” pack down around your knees. NOTE: The original ALICE pack distributed the weight onto the shoulders and lower back. There is a cord that you have to pull to extend your Alice pack so you don’t land on your knees. You are either at the door position, in the middle or the last jumper. I never did door position in jump school. I was either the second or the last jumper. There is a green light that goes off when the “Jump Master” says go. He controls the jump lines so they don’t get tangled up. Everybody sounds off, “go, go, go.”
“The instructors have a bull horn so if you get too close to another jumper whey will alert you with a command of “slip away or slip to the right or left” from this guy. They have binoculars and have your number on your helmet. They will holler, “prepare for landing.” You made it out of the plane, you made it to the ground. There was no scoring system. Once we made our fifth jump we graduated right there. Every jump I made was exhilarating. I loved them all,” smiled Jesse.
Jesse got his diploma that he graduated from jump school. They give you your “jump wings” and you go and get them sewed onto your uniform.
NOTE: Although the Army may not be allowed to perform an old tradition called pinning on your “Blood Wings.” A term where the wings are placed on the chest and hit into the chest, without the backings, drawing blood.
“One of the things I learned after jump school was that nothing is impossible. I was not a big runner before I joined the military, but we were running 7-10 miles each day. An old “crusty” veteran told me on my arrival to Ft. Jackson was, “If you can’t laugh at yourself at the end of the day, you are not going to make it.” You are going to make mistakes, you are going to mess up. I laughed at myself every day. I made it,” smiled Jesse. “I graduated May 31st of 1996.”
ASSIGNED TO THE 82nd AIRBORNE
“Being assigned to the 82nd Airborne is all based on the needs of the Army. They have Special Forces Units, Rangers, 173rd and another unit in Alaska and the 18th Airborne Corp (where the 82nd falls under). Wherever the Army needed you, that is where you were assigned.” For Jesse it was the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“I was excited to be assigned to the 82nd,” beamed Jesse. “You hear about different brotherhoods. Everybody in the military is in a big brotherhood. Any type of special units like the Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard, you get in these little niches, and the 82nd Airborne is considered one of these niches. It is a tight brotherhood, and I am not knocking any other units in the military but the 82nd has a long and proud history.”
Jesse was assigned to Division Support Command of the 82nd Airborne. I was part of the Division Property Book office. Any unit in the military that has equipment including computers, weapons, vehicles, printers and more. You have to keep track of it and who owns that property and so forth. Everything is documented and catalogued. We give a receipt to the Commander and he has to physically go and put eyes on it to make sure we have inventory of those items. It could be 48 pairs of night vision goggles, you have all these weapons or certain trucks assigned to you. Every item must be signed off on. If we get a new commander everything has to be catalogued and signed off on again. We changed from the M-16 to the M-4 during my time in the military. We had to physically catalog and document every weapon and switch them out. The detailed logging of items is for accountability. The 82nd Airborne wants you always to be ready and be able to travel anywhere in the world in 18-hours. If something is not working or missing, you will not be ready. Maintaining that check prepares that you are always ready for anything. At the time I was in the military we used the old dot matrix printers and printed off a list of all the equipment including all their serial numbers.”
“A daily routine at Ft. Bragg was, every day minus the weekends, you get up and PT. Formations at 0600. Finish PT, shower, eat breakfast and work call was at 0830 and work until 1700 each day. Sometimes they would notify you that you had a jump that day in this type plane or this helicopter. You had to jump once every three months to maintain qualifications and maintain your pay. There are also some “fun” jumps for the guys. You would fill out a jump log and they would say “ok you are on this plane.” I did do some training at Ft. Erwin, in California where we spent a month in the Mohave Desert. That was in January-February of 1999. We were in between Desert Storm and Iraq although there were conflicts in Kosovo in Bosnia. However, I was not involved in those situations. We are always training, always getting ready for a conflict. We did training at NTC in the Mojave.”
Jesse continued his jumps for qualifications and the “fun” jumps. Most were from a C-130 or a C-141. He loved both of those planes but two special jumps come to mind. “One was on a Chinook (two prop plane) and the other a Blackhawk,” smiled Jesse. “On the Chinook they lowered the tailgate in the back and you just walk right off the ramp. It was so much smoother. The prop blast was not as bad as I thought it would be. In the Blackhawk you sit on the side. You sit with your feet dangling out. Because of the force for of the aircraft you have to physically have to push yourself out and away for the jump. It was really interesting and a lot of fun. Those were my two favorite jumps in the military,” he smiled.
“Looking back at my career I would have loved to go to the Rangers. Just give it a try. The guys in the 82nd were incredible. It is a huge base and so diverse. The friends and bonds you make last a lifetime.”
Jesse took classes at Fayetteville State University and took some classes on base. “I never gave up on going to college. I was still focusing on basic classes. Getting Math, English and History classes taken care of. I came in as an E-3 because of Junior ROTC and moved up to E-4 specialist. In my last year I went to the E-5 board and passed it. But, instead of going to PLDC (Primary Leadership Development Course) I got sent to NTC. So, I missed that window and would have to extend or re-enlist into the Army. I was going to be a Supply Sargant at the University of Notre Dame in their ROTC program, but you had to be an E-5. I decided not to stay. There are times that I regretted that decision. I even joined the Army Reserves for half a year. Going from Ft. Bragg and the 82nd to a Reserve Unit in Bryan, Texas was night and day,” Jesse said shaking his head.
“I learned about commitment being in the Army. You stay focused and you complete the mission. You always stay prepared and you always trained for missions. It helped me in my career path for a job. This is the job I want, how to prepare and stay focused and set goals. How can I complete this mission.”
LIFE AFTER THE MILITARY
Jesse stayed at Ft. Bragg for his entire military career from June of 1996 until he got out in August of 1999. He moved to Athens, Georgia after he left the military and stayed there for a year. He was working for the University in order to get in-state tuition. “I was there for a year, renting a house with some friends, and they said we can’t give you in-state tuition. I decided to move back to Texas,” said Jesse.
“In August of 2000 I went back to taking college classes at (Blinn JC) in Navasota. In his second semester there he met his wife. She had finished her Bachelor’s and was working on her Master’s. She was moving back up to the Dallas area. She had friends she went to SFA (Stephen F. Austin) and decided to move to Rockwall. My wife is a school counselor in Forney. I stated looking at schools and A&M in Commerce. They had classes I was looking for in Computer Management Information Systems. In October of 2003 of that year my wife and I got married. I graduated shortly after and moved to Rockwall, Tx.”
Jesse worked as a banker at Wells Fargo and then became an analyst for Smith Barney. He had to get his securities license for investments. He worked there for just under seven years. From there he moved to Smith Management becoming a wholesaler. I was travelling around the country talking to financial advisors on investments and asset allocations. He worked there for another six years. Next was USAA. Jesse had been with them since his military days and loved the company. He had planned on retiring with them. “I got to USAA in 2017 and they next year they decided to sell the investments side of the company. One of the companies I used to call on was Edward D. Jones. I knew their culture and it matched with USAA. With fifteen years in the investment field I decided to work for them and was hired in July of 2019.
I enjoy playing golf, reading books and spending time with my three daughters, one who soon will be a Freshman in college. Working with Edward Jones allows me to meet a lot of people in the community and working with the Lions Club and being part of the Chamber. I enjoy the people and love this area. I love to travel. Australia is top of my list. I would love to visit Normandy and visit the places you learn about being with the 82nd.
People on the street would be surprised to know I was a cheerleader in High School and then served in the 82nd Airborne. That would surprise them,” Jesse said smiling.
Jesse, thank you for your service to our country while serving in the United States Army and the 82nd Airborne. Your courage and bravery will not be forgotten.
NOTE: Meet other Veterans from Van Zandt County by going to the top of www.vzcm webpage and click on MEET OUR VETERANS and click one of the (5) branches of services and the veterans last name first and click to read.
“Every Veteran has a story to tell.” Phil Smith
GOD BLESS OUR VETERANS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA
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