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FT. BRAGG STORIES: Ducking Out Of Operation Clean Sweep

Portait of Jay Huwieler
Jay Huwieler

Each year,the men and women of Fort Bragg celebrate All-American Week, a time to showcase the valor and pride of the 82nd Airborne.  

But the behind-the-scenes preparation is less glamorous. The prior week is spent deep cleaning every inch of the 163,000-acre military installation, an annual chore known as Operation Clean Sweep.From picking up litter to raking sand, the work is often tedious, repetitive, and hot.   


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"It's basically the most boring thing that happens at Fort Bragg," said Jay Huwieler,a former non-commissioned officer. 

In the five years he spent at Bragg,Huwieler has seen soldiers come up with plenty of ingenious schemes to shirk cleaning duty.  

"Guys will put off medical [check-ups] the entire year, then in the name of 'combatreadiness', decide they need to get their teeth cleaned, teeth checked, teeth X-rayed," he said. 

Another common tactic is volunteering for vehicle maintenance.  

"They will get underneath the Humvee and then proceed to immediately fall asleep," he recalled. "And no one will really notice, because it looks like you're under there doing something. So as long as they see your boots under the Humvee, pretty much everyone will leave you alone." 

As an NCO, Hewieler was responsible for evaluating the many excuses offered to get out of work, and making sure soldiers stuck to their assignments.

Operation Clean Sweep was a small part of his life at Bragg, Huwieler said, but it's a memory he shares with countless other paratroopers.  

"I'm always interested in those 'slice-of-life' kind of events where you go, 'you know, that's a big part of what it's like to be a soldier, the times when we were all bored together.'" 

Ft. Bragg Stories is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear other stories in the series here. If you'd like to share your Fort Bragg story, you can send it here, or email

Two men and a woman in uniform rake sand as part of Operation Clean Sweep.
Credit U.S. Army Sgt. April D. de Armas / 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs
82nd Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs
In this 2013 Operation Clean Sweep photo, members of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade rake through the remaining sand of the volleyball court outside their barracks after removing large clumps of grass in preparation of new sand.

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