The Nebraska Army National Guard is back in the ground-pounding business.

The Guard established its first infantry battalion in two decades over the weekend with a ceremony activating the 2nd Battalion, 134th Infantry Regiment, which will be headquartered in Lincoln.

“This is just the beginning of a new chapter in Nebraska, getting this infantry battalion back,” said Lt. Col. Ted Hanger, the new unit’s commanding officer. “We are the queen of battle for our unparalleled mobility, and we will not let that tradition down.”

The ceremony took place on a chilly, clear Saturday morning at the edge of the Husker Drop Zone, a Nebraska Guard parachute landing area near Yutan. Afterward, 104 members of the unit executed a wind-delayed jump from the rear ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter hovering more than 1,000 feet in the air.

The jumps were part of an airborne training jump for the soldiers, all of whom must be qualified to jump out of aircraft. Hanger said they must do so at least once per quarter. The 2nd Battalion soldiers had jumped as few as five times previously to as many as 100.

Hanger himself had logged 17 jumps, but this was his first in 10 years.

“When you’re in the moment, you’re not nervous,” he said.

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Capt. Emma Kelly, 30, a physician assistant in civilian life and in the Guard, was looking forward to making her 14th jump.

“These are the best kind of jumps,” said Kelly, who lives in Lincoln and is originally from Falls City. “All you’ve got to do is walk out the back.”

She was also ready to treat bumps, bruises or sprained ankles.

“A lot of these jumpers haven’t jumped in a long time,” she said.

Spc. Bo Whaley, 46, of Kearney was one of the older soldiers to make the jump. He originally joined the Guard in 1991, then got out a few years later.

He reenlisted two years ago after visiting his kids’ school on Veterans Day and deciding that he wanted to set an example of service for them. He had to complete basic training again, 27 years after finishing it the first time.

“I’m the old new guy,” Whaley said. “Everybody’s been really accepting.”

He wasn’t nervous about leaping off the ramp of a helicopter.

“I don’t really have any butterflies — just curiosity,” Whaley said. “They just kind of teach you to be confident in your equipment.”

The new infantry battalion is part of a restructuring of Army National Guard medical units across several states. Many of the soldiers were part of the 195th Forward Support Company, an Omaha-based airborne unit that had supported Special Forces units since it was formed 12 years ago. That unit was deactivated a week earlier, and all of its members moved to the new battalion.

Other members moved over from Echo Company, a long-range surveillance unit, and from the 313th Medical Company, a ground ambulance unit that had been based in Lincoln.

For the past 20 years, the Nebraska Army National Guard has been dominated by support units. But infantry is the Army’s bread-and-butter mission, said Brig. Gen. Lynn Heng, the Nebraska Army Guard’s land component commander, and adding an infantry battalion should boost recruiting in Nebraska.

“It’s a very attractive unit for these young folks who are looking for adventure, joining the Guard,” Heng said. “It brings combat arms back into the state again.”

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