Those who have lived in the Fayetteville/Fort Bragg area for more than a day are familiar with this annual tradition.  Despite it being an annual event, due to deployments over the last 10 years, there have been a few times when this week long tradition of honor, tradition, sporting events, demonstrations of military power and an assembly of thousands of Paratroopers in their full military splendor have not taken place.

Each year during the week leading up to Memorial Day, the 82nd Airborne Division and her Brigade Combat Teams and other supporting elements that wear the distinctive Double A patch of the division, hold a week long festival of competitions and team building that involve all of its close to 20,000 soldiers.  There are sporting events such as flag football, soccer, volleyball, tug of war and it looks like the trend of mixed martial arts has replaced the traditional boxing smoker for good now in the always competitive man-to-man (or woman) martial skills competition.  The week is always kicked off however with the Division run and will kick off right after the bugle call for Reveille with the leading elements, led by Division Leaders, often finishing not long after the trailing elements finally get to take off.  One thing is for certain though, the Division Commander will be standing there congratulating each troop as they cross the finish line, as is the tradition.

Key events for the week will be the Division, “Pass and Review” , in which all the available elements remaining behind will assemble for inspection by the Division Commander and his staff.  This impressive aassembly of soldiers is almost impossible to catch in its entirety with one photo and often takes place in the oppressive North Carolina heat and humidity that you can only find in May, often as if the Division has ordered it up special for the event in order to demonstrate how tough the soldiers of the Division really are.  There will be plenty of medics and doctors on hand to deal with the inevitable heat casualties along with the runners who will pull them from between the long ranks of assembled soldiers and take them to awaiting I.Vs and other replacement fluids.

One of the culminating events happens on the Friday of the week, traditionally a day off for the rest of Fort Bragg and the military in general, again demonstrating the sacrifices the Paratroopers of the Division are willing to make.  The event if the weather permits it is a demonstration of a “forced entry” in order to seize and airfield using the techniques of delivery by parachute, otherwise known as an airborne operation, out at Sicily DropZone on Manchester Road, Fort Bragg.  This is the only real event the public is  highly encouraged to come out and see.  There is plenty of parking, along with it may be some serious walking.  There will be displays of various weapons, artillery systems, and other force enabling systems.  There will more than likely also be various helicopters for the kids to sit in and parents to get pictures of them in.  It will end like it has in years past with a simulated attack by an Air Force aircraft of some sort on the drop zone, a drop of “heavy equipment” followed by the parachutes of the designated BCT and the troopers who will do a controlled fall to he ground under them.  Hope for good weather on Friday the 25th, it is well worth the walking and sunburn associated to see this impressive event.

I have never been in the 82nd, despite being on Fort Bragg for close to 20 years.  I am however a paratrooper and I have had the pleasure of the experience of being able to walk in combat across al-Anbar province, Iraq for a couple months of 2005.  I was there to provide support to the battalion commander and the people I was working for at the time in order to help make the first democratic elections in that year a success.  Thanks to the bold planning and constant presence we were able to get out in the most contested geographic area of the almost 10 year war, in the arguably most dangerous time of the war, we were able to stop and limit the violence that was going to be directed against the population as they were going out to vote.  It was one of the key, if not well known things to happen during that dangerous period to help bring Anbar province into the fight against the insurgency, rather than supporting it.  I had the pleasure after that time, of working with different battalions form the 82nd for short periods over the last several years.

The professionals of the 82nd Airborne Division deserve their time to celebrate, they have had many soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice since 9/11.  This is their week and if you visit the Fayetteville or Fort Bragg area through this week, you will know it as the celebrations will not be limited to Pikes Fiels or Ritz-Epps gym, but will extend to the bars, clubs and restaurants of the area too.  As the old Thin Lizzy song goes “The Boys are Back in Town” and it is their well-deserved time.

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  1. […] All-American Week will begin tomorrow, bringing together the 18,000 plus paratroopers of the venerated division in a series of demonstrations and displays, competitions, and an embracing of their long and storied history.  See here for a review of last year’s All American Week. […]

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