82nd Airbornes centennial the highlight of 2017 All American Week

Fort Bragg celebrates paratroopers past and present

Sgt. Jesse Leger—Digital
Paratroopers assigned 2nd Battalion

FORT BRAGG — Started in 1986, All American Week honors the soldiers who have been part of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division with a series of events, competitions and memorials that welcome back former military members and bring civilians to Fort Bragg for four days.This year’s event is special in that it’s the 100th anniversary of the 82nd Airborne. The division is the U.S. Army’s quick-action force, able to mobilize, load and land anywhere in the world in less than 36 hours, making it an essential facet of the country’s military and humanitarian efforts.Formed after World War I in 1917, the 82nd Airborne has been part of operations in World War II (including the invasion of Normandy), Vietnam, Grenada, the Persian Gulf War, post-Sept. 11 operations in the Middle East, and countless others, along with relief efforts following catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.Thousands of 82nd Airborne soldiers are serving overseas now, and in late April it was announced approximately 1,500 soldiers from the division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team would be deployed to Afghanistan in the U.S.’s ongoing efforts against the Taliban and Islamic State.All American Week has honored the soldiers both at Fort Bragg and abroad, past and present, for more than two decades, though the festivities were not held in four of the last 15 years (2003, 2006, 2010 and 2012) because of military conflicts.The name of the event was born from the 82nd Airborne’s nickname, the All American Division, which came from the fact its first members came from 48 states (prior to Hawaii and Alaska becoming states). The nickname is reflected in the 82nd Airborne’s patch, the “AA” with “Airborne” arced above it.The 100th celebration of the 82nd Airborne kicked off Monday at 6:30 a.m. with the Division Run. Reports said about 15,000 participated in the four-mile run, which included helicopter formations flying overhead, artillery fire and 7,300 boots that represent all of the U.S. service members who have died since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.It was followed by the Paratrooper Breakfast where members of the 82nd Airborne and veterans meet and greet over mess hall cuisine. Several picnics and get-togethers throughout the week allow veterans and current soldiers to meet with their regiments.Tuesday’s events opened with a 9 a.m. prayer breakfast and ended with a 7 p.m. Fun Run, and people were also given the chance to try out the division’s 34-foot jump tower.All week the units and paratroopers compete in various “friendly” sporting events. A 10-mile race, tug of war, softball, soccer and flag football games, and combat fitness testing are some of the offerings, with boxing and combatives final matches coming Wednesday evening.Fallen soldiers were set to be honored Wednesday, with wreath layings for those lost in Vietnam and Operation Power Pack (part of the U.S.’s intervention into the Dominican Civil War in 1965). There is also a planned memorial service at the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum.The highlight of the celebration will likely be Thursday’s Airborne Review, where transport aircraft will drop heavy equipment and countless paratroopers (more than 1,400 jumped last year) at the Sicily Drop Zone.