Despite the fiscal bloodletting that has gone on between our civilian masters in government and our commissioned leadership here on Fort Bragg (and the rest of the military for that matter), the predominant celebration of the post outside of the July 4th celebration (cancelled due to said fiscal woes) will take place this week.
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.
The week kicks off Monday morning at 0630 with the full force of the division creeping along at a 9 minute mile pace run through their area, snarling traffic for those unfortunate enough not to pay attention to the warning emails and post bulletins that have been circulating for the last week. Family, friends and alumni will line the route looking for a glimpse of their loved ones, listening to the competition of cadences being sung to keep runners in step and to see the colors and streamers earned on the fields of battle since long before the theory of vertical envelopment was a capability in the art of warfare.
The keynote event of the week will be the Division Pass and Review held on Thursday at 1000. This gathering of all abled bodied paratroopers stands at attention in the blazing early morning North Carolina sun, dripping sweat in the ever-present May humidity organized by their assigned battalions, ready to present themselves to the Division Commander and whomever the chosen keynote speaker will be. Veteran paratroopers and former members of the division will be invited to take the field in what has been termed the “old timers parade” in celebration of their sacrifices. The unsung heroes of the Pass and Review will be the medics and combat lifesavers who quickly and quietly remove and aid paratroopers who pass out from locking their knees while standing at attention or who tried to drink Fayetteville dry of beer the night before. These quiet professionals quickly drag the offending fool out through the ranks to the aid station, diagnose their dehydration, stick em with an IV and begin the long shaming process of one who could not hang in the Division’s most important event of the year. It is serious business carrying on the traditions and lineage of one of America’s premier combat organizations and you better be ready to take a ration of shit for not being able to suffer through a couple hours of the NC sunshine.
The rest of the week will be interspersed with various competitions including combative, jump competitions, team assaults and various displays of the lethal capabilities the 82nd can deliver to the field of battle. At 1230 on Thursday soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan will be recognized at the 82nd Airborne Division Museum located at Ardennes and Gela streets. The names of paratroopers who paid the ultimate price since last year will be added to the roles of remembrance and recognized for their sacrifices.
For the uninitiated on Fort Bragg, All American Week seems to place a strangle hold on the limited roads that lead across the post. To those of us who have been around it year after year it is one of the ultimate displays of history, tradition and lineage delivered with all the pride and discipline 18+ thousand paratroopers can deliver. It is a visual definition of Esprit de Corps that affects anyone who witnesses it, but only those who have been in the brotherhood (sisterhood too) can understand.