82nd Airborne

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'Time To Bow Out'

Dec 28, 2018
Zach Stamey / Focus Media

This year, after more than a decade of service as a linguist and a paratrooper, Jay Huwieler made the decision to leave the military.  

“It was a combination of feeling like I’d served my purpose, and at the same time feeling like there had been too many times when I was too far away from my wife,” he said.
 

Huwieler recalled his sergeant major telling him: “One day you’re not going to be in the Army. When it’s over, there needs to be a family there because you didn’t leave them behind.”

FT. BRAGG STORIES: From Agriculture To Airborne

Nov 25, 2018
Sgt. Michelle Blesam / U.S. Army

Growing up on his family’s farm in southern Alabama, Private First Class Tyler Dunn thought his future lay in agriculture.

“Our family farm, we’ve got roughly 3,000 acres that we row crop, we have chicken houses, and we have close to 3,000 head of cattle,” he said. “We’re a fairly large operation compared to those around us. I started physical labor [on the farm] around eight years old. I just enjoyed being in the field with my grandad and my father.”

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'No End In Sight'

Nov 11, 2018
Kelly Rodriguez and her son Antonio snap a selfie in uniform.
Kelly Rodriguez

Sergeant First Class Kelly Rodriguez deployed more than five times in the course of her 21-year military career, serving as an Army Combat Medic in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and twice in Afghanistan. She loved her work, but it exposed her to some of the worst realities of war.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'A National Emergency'

Oct 21, 2018
Portrait of Leon Jones
Jean Wilson

Jean Wilson was a college freshman on October 22, 1962, when she heard President John F. Kennedy’s speech announcing the presence of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles on the island of Cuba.       

“It sounded like an emergency, like a national emergency,” Wilson said. 

FT. BRAGG STORIES: Hurricane Florence

Oct 14, 2018
Spc. Alvarez carries a package of bottled water to a family in New Bern, North Carolina, Sept. 21, 2018.
Pfc. Audrianna Arellano / 82nd Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade

Hundreds of soldiers aided in Hurricane Florence rescue and recovery efforts, even as some saw their own homes flooded or evacuated. 

Specialist Ruben Alvarez is a parachute rigger at Fort Bragg. During the storm, he volunteered to help evacuate houses, working long shifts with the 189th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: Earning The President's Hundred Tab

Oct 7, 2018
Portrait of Spc. Jonathon Wannemacher
Sgt. Brian Stephenson / 49th Public Affairs Detachment, Fort Bragg

Specialist Jonathon Wannemacher is an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne. He’s also a skilled marksman. At age 26, he’s ranked as one of the top 100 competitive shooters in the country. He placed 81 out of roughly 1,200 shooters in the President’s Hundred Match, a national competition held this past July in Camp Perry, OH.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'I Refused That Fate'

Jul 8, 2018
A portrait of Solomon Abanda
Solomon Abanda

Sergeant Solomon Abanda proudly serves in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, but his path to get there has been complicated. 

Born in Cameroon, Abanda came to the U.S. at 19 to study.  After a series of missteps, he found himself living on the streets in Los Angeles.  

He was homeless for two years before a chance encounter set his life on a different course. 

FT. BRAGG STORIES: Ducking Out Of Operation Clean Sweep

Jun 17, 2018
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.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: Remembering D-Day

Jun 3, 2018
Portrait of Kenneth "Rock" Merritt taken during World War II
Kenneth "Rock" Merritt

At 94, retired Command Sergeant Major Kenneth “Rock” Merritt is something of a living legend in the Fort Bragg community.

During World War II, Merritt was a young paratrooper with the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment. He was one of thousands of soldiers who jumped into Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

“The war into Normandy, I guess simply put, it was hell. That’s really what it was,” Merritt said.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'They Don't Tell You Much'

May 20, 2018

Debbie Crain and Laura Lauffer both grew up near Fort Bragg, both with fathers in the military. Crain's father fought in World War II, Lauffer's served in Vietnam. Like many who have seen combat, neither man talked much about their experiences. As adults, both women found themselves looking for answers about their fathers' military service.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'The Fireball Went Over'

Mar 23, 2018
Portrait of Richard Clapp
Courtesy Richard Clapp

"I was only in the military six months when the disaster happened," recalled Richard Clapp. He was 19 years old on March 23, 1994, fresh out of basic training and jump school. He'd been at Fort Bragg just three weeks. That afternoon he stood on Green Ramp waiting to make his first official jump with the 82nd Airborne.

FT. BRAGG STORIES: 'I Was Ready For A Challenge'

Mar 12, 2018
Courtesy Tom McCollum

When Tom McCollum transitioned from the 82nd Airborne to Special Forces, he knew the training would be tough.

Portrait of Col. (Ret.) Fred Black
Courtesy of Fred Black

As a young lieutenant in 1969, Fred Black was one of a handful of African-American officers at Fort Bragg. He said racial tensions rarely came to a head on post, but black soldiers could face discrimination when they ventured into the wider community.

Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division wait after being fitted with parachutes for an upcoming training jump at Fort Bragg, N.C. on July 26, 2017.
Matt Couch / WUNC

The 82nd Airborne Division celebrates its 100th year this week. The Fort Bragg-based division is known best for its parachute jumps during World War II, and now specializes in rapid deployments - with or without parachutes.

Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division jump from a C-17 aircraft during a July training exercise at Fort Bragg.
Matt Couch / WUNC

The Fort Bragg division is best known for its parachute jumps in World War II. Today, its specialty is rapid deployments - with or without parachutes.

A picture of the Airborne logo.
The US Army Institute of Heraldry / US Army

All American Week gets underway today at Fort Bragg to honor members of the 82nd Airborne Division. 

Events begin this morning with a four-mile division run with 20,000 participants. 

Wednesday is International Day, where military leaders from US allies will be invited to tour the base and attend a ball in the evening. 

Lieutenant Colonel Bob Risdon said the culminating events will be held Thursday when thousands will turn out to see the Division Review.