More than 100 current and retired paratroopers are expected on Hilton Head Island this weekend.
For the third straight year, the Ben Vandervoort Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division Association will welcome other chapters to the island for its annual conference, this year at the Marriott Hilton Head Resort and Spa.
The three-day event will include trips to Savannah, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Beaufort National Cemetery, as well as a banquet Saturday at the hotel, according to organizers.
With about 34,000 members, the 82nd Airborne Division Association is the largest paratrooper association in the world.
James Andrews, chairman of the Ben Vandervoort Chapter, said the local group hosts the conference each year to help strengthen the bond between former and active paratroopers who served in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, N.C.
"The technology behind jumping out of a plane changes, but the spirit of being a paratrooper is incredibly strong amongst all of us," Andrews said. "There's a mutual respect there between guys that served in World War II and the active-duty guys.
"You would think these younger guys would be like, 'What do these old (guys) know?' but they're always fascinated by what the older guys have been through," Andrews added.
Chartered in 2006, the Ben Vandervoort Chapter -- named in honor of a Hilton Head Island resident who was an 82nd Airborne paratrooper in World War II -- serves about 140 airborne troopers in the Savannah, Hilton Head Island and Beaufort areas.
The conference will conclude Saturday night with a banquet featuring a speech by Col. Brian Mennes, who commands the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade.
Andrews said the group relishes the chance to hear from active-duty soldiers about life as a modern-day paratrooper.
"They can give us the status of our troops and an assessment of how things are going," Andrews said. "They can tell you things that they might not tell a room of civilians. There's always a certain frankness when you're among other soldiers."