82nd Airborne Division Association

Who we are...

The 82nd Airborne Division Association is for anyone who ever served in the 82nd Airborne Division, and anyone who is currently serving on active duty on jump status; or, has ever served in any of the uniformed services on either jump or glider status and was honorably discharged. The Association was organized in England, prior to the Normandy invasion (1944). We have members who have served with the 11th, 13th, 17th, 82nd, 101st Airborne Divisions; 187th, 503rd, 508th Airborne Regimental Combat Teams; 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) as well as troopers from Special Forces, Airborne Rangers, Marine Corps Recon, Navy SEALS, and Air Force Special Tactics personnel.

Our Mission Statement

  • Further develop the bond between current and past Airborne forces of the U.S. Military
  • Maintain a record of the history and accomplishments of Airborne Troopers.
  • Maintain a close liaison with active Division.
  • Support the 82nd Airborne Division Memorial Museum.
  • Provide scholarships through the Association Educational Fund to recently separated Active Duty Troopers and Dependent Children of Veterans, and Active Duty Troopers.
  • Honor the Jumpmaster, NCO & Trooper of the Year
  • Provide support to Veteran and Active Wounded Warriors of the Division.

All Posts (14)

82nd Airborne Division

The 82nd Airborne Division is an active airborne infantry division of the United States Army specializing in joint forcible entry operations. Based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 82nd Airborne Division is the primary fighting arm of the XVIII Airborne Corps.

The 82nd Division was constituted in the National Army on August 5th, 1917, and was organized on August 25th, 1917, at Camp Gordon, Georgia. Since its initial members came from all over the country, the unit acquired the nickname "All American," which is the basis for its famed "AA" shoulder patch.

What has the Army done/ is doing?

The 82nd Airborne Division serves as the nucleus of the Global Response Force, the Department of Defense's quick reaction capability, while resourcing ongoing operations with airborne brigade combat teams supporting combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army has resourced the 82nd Airborne Division to:

  • Fight at the knife's edge of technology and readiness.
  • Continually evolve processes and procedures to become lighter, faster, and more agile.
  • Add the latest mission command technology to prepare to fight a near-peer threat.

In all aspects of readiness, the Division focuses on the nature and composition of future adversaries and the manner in which global transformation will shape employment of light infantry forces in future conflicts. The 82nd Airborne Division is America's Guard of Honor and must be on-call to fight anytime, anywhere for the nation.

The 82nd Airborne Division optimizes training using the 82nd Eight- fundamentals of combat readiness:

    1. Marksmanship
    1. Physical Fitness
    1. Medical Skills
    1. Communications
    1. Small Unit Tactics
    1. Mastery of Maintenance
    1. Airborne Proficiency
    1. Live Fire Exercises

The 82nd Airborne Division will celebrate its culture of readiness with All American Week XXIX, a weeklong display of lethality from May 21st through May 24th on Fort Bragg, N.C.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned?

The 82nd Airborne Division will engage with industry to develop and modernize key capabilities. The Division will evolve processes, procedures and thought, with readiness as its number one priority.

The 82nd Airborne Division will continue to conduct regular Deployment Readiness Exercises to ensure to ensure that the 82nd Airborne Division is ready to employ lethality efficiently anywhere in the world on short notice.

Why is this important to the Army?

For 101 years, the 82nd Airborne Division has been a critical American institution. Ready to fight tonight, it is the nucleus of the Department of Defense's Global Response Force, a force prepared to respond to crisis contingencies anywhere in the world within 18 hours.

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The kitchen sits quiet. Ovens and stoves are still cold. Ladles and pots are still clean, glinting from the luminescent lighting at the Culinary Arts Training Center here.

Military chef serves a course during a competition.
Army Sgt. Daniela Archbold, a culinary specialist assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, presents and serves one of the three courses during the chef competition during All American Week at Fort Bragg, N.C., May 21, 2018. The chef competition is only one of several events and competitions that take place during All American Week. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher


It’s the first day of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2018 All American Week, and a select few culinary specialists assigned to the division start it off strong with a chef competition, relieving all silence.

Four teams, one from each of the brigades, bustle through the kitchen making last-minute preparations before cooking a three-course meal they must present to a panel of judges, including the division commander, Army Maj. Gen. Erik Kurilla, and popular New York chef and business owner of “Folded Napkin Events,” David Autry.

One competitor, Army Sgt. Daniela Archbold, a culinary specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 307th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, organizes her team and prepares them for the events to unfold.


“The hardest part of my job is the preparation,” Archbold said. “Without the proper practice and preparation, you might go into the kitchen blindly or get scared you might mess up.”

This day was no different; her team only had one day to practice their dishes. Archbold said the competition is a side-tasking, and her normal duties at the 1st BCT dining facility will always come first. With that said, the lack of training for these new dishes didn’t slow Archbold down or hinder her confidence.

Her soldier-chef teammates, Staff Sgt. Zachary Mateau, Spc. Louis Mancilla, and Spc. Puthoameapheakdey Kao, all assigned to 1st BCT, prepare their stations while Archbold explains her love for cooking.

“I found my inspiration from my mother,” Archbold said. “I was always helping her as a child, helping chop up vegetables and doing little things here and there. She always cooked every meal from scratch, and I learned from that.”

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Spanish cooking was Archbold’s primary style of food, even after moving to Houma, Louisiana, at age 9.

“My mother owned a small Hispanic grocery store,” she said. “So I made a lot of Spanish dishes, most of my experience growing up was Hispanic-oriented.”

Her love for cooking has led to another year of competing during All American Week, winning first place the year prior, her confidence now boosted to a higher level.

As the competition continued, the entire kitchen burst into sounds of commands from all four teams. Archbold's team remained calm, as she instructed the duties of each paratrooper-chef so all three courses could cook simultaneously.

‘Driven, Motivated’

“She is driven and motivated,” Mateau said of Archbold. “This competition was a credit to her; this was her show.”

“She put together the menu, put together all of the practices. This was her baby. And she just ran with it,” he added.

Archbold chose three dishes she knew the judges would love. First, for the appetizer, she chose a spring mix salad with a ginger carrot dressing.

For the entree, they cooked a chicken roulade with a garlic onion reduction sauce.

A molten-chocolate lava cake followed for dessert.

Military chef prepares a dish during a competition.
Army Sgt. Daniela Archbold, a culinary specialist assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares the ingredients for the main entrée for the chef competition during All American Week XXIX at Fort Bragg, N.C., May 21, 2018. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher


“I like to see the smile on people’s faces when they look at and taste our food,” Archbold said after serving the judges. “I like the satisfaction I get when I make something, and someone is enjoying it. I feel like I've accomplished something.”

Once the cooking is complete, Archbold and her team begin to clean as the judges evaluate and score all the dishes based on presentation, taste and technique.

Repeat Victory

The scores are in; four teams wait to hear the final judgment. The winning brigade is, once again, 1st Brigade.

Autry saluted Archbold’s team and her cooking.

“You have a lot of talent here,” he said. “Being a young cook, this is just a step in the journey. There is a lot to offer in the future of cooking if she wants to pursue it.”

Now winning two years in a row, Archbold is already thinking about next year’s competition and the possible dishes.

“I'm happy it’s over, and we won,” Archbold said. “We could have done better, but that’s OK, because I think you get better as you go. Regardless how experienced you think you are or how many times you have done it, there will always be mistakes. You are always cooking new things, and that’s what we did. We got out of our comfort zone and we tried to be better than what we normally are.”

This year’s 82nd Airborne Division All American Week, the 29th, began May 21 and concludes today. The event, which features competitive contests, military capability demonstrations and more, celebrates paratroopers and the division’s storied history.

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For more information: John Conway | 845.707.8625 | jconway@tcfd.org


Four-Day Event made Possible by Vera and Walter J. Scherr Foundation

HARRIS, N.Y. — On June 23rd through June 26th, The Center for Discovery, in partnership with the 82nd Airborne Association - an independent non-profit dedicated to supporting members of the 82nd Airborne - hosted 20 service men and women for the first ever ‘All American Adventure.’ The inaugural event, inspired by The Center’s world-renowned model for health and wellness, was developed to help support and honor men and women who have recently returned home from service after nine month deployments in Afghanistan and Kosovo.

The ‘All American Adventure’ program idea was initially developed through a request of the 82nd Airborne Division Association to pursue areas to assist the 82nd Airborne Division with the reintegration process of recently redeployed Troopers of the Division. The outstanding support provided by the Division’s Leadership, and their care for the welfare of their Soldiers, allowed for The Center for Discovery and the 82nd Airborne Division Association to make this program a success.  

The ‘All American Adventure’ program was made possible by a generous gift from the Vera and Walter J. Scherr Foundation.  Through decades of philanthropy and the publication of his award-winning autobiography, “Walter’s Way”, Walter J. Scherr has made it his life’s mission to commemorate the heroic service of individuals who have served in the armed forces of the United States.  Mr. Scherr has continued his work honoring soldiers and caretakers by working with the 82nd Airborne Association to support its troops. 

"We feel incredibly honored to have spent time with these young service men and women who have made enormous sacrifices for our country. They have each built a special bond with all of us here - our staff, our residents, and I - and we look forward to welcoming them back with open arms.  They are selfless, dedicated, and courageous individuals and we are proud to know them, "said Patrick H. Dollard, President & CEO of The Center for Discovery.

Throughout the four-day event, individuals participated in exciting athletic and outdoor adventure type experiences, among other activities at The Center, including: a boot camp class, a bike tour of The Center’s campus with opportunities for interaction with Center residents, guided meditation, yoga, campfires, farm-fresh meals, and more.  An additional portion of the event was held at Frost Valley YMCA, which included fly fishing, a hike up Slide Mountain, and an activity on their Y climbing tower and zip line. 

About The Center for Discovery:
The Center for Discovery is a provider of healthcare and education services for more than 1,200 children and adults with complex disabilities, medical frailties and Autism Spectrum Disorders, located 90 miles northwest of New York City. It has long been a leader in developing new models of care for individuals with complex conditions. On 1,500 acres of land in Sullivan County, The Center houses school campuses, residences, medical and research facilities, organic and biodynamic farmland, and leased private businesses. Deeply focused on an individual’s personal potential and possibilities, rather than a disability, The Center strives to create better care and unique and challenging opportunities for the most vulnerable populations.

About the 82nd Airborne Association:
The 82nd Airborne Division Association is for anyone who ever served or is currently serving in the 82nd Airborne Division, and anyone who is currently serving on active duty on jump status; or, has ever served in any of the uniformed services on either jump or glider status and was honorably discharged. The 82nd Airborne Division Association’s mission statement is to further develop the bond between current and past Airborne forces of the U.S. Military, maintain a record of the history and accomplishments of Airborne Troopers, maintain a close liaison with active Division Support of the 82nd Airborne Division Memorial Museum, provide scholarships through the Association Educational Fund to recently separated Active Duty Troopers and Dependent Children of Veterans, and Active Duty Troopers, honor the Jumpmaster, NCO & Trooper of the Year, and provide support mechanisms for our Active duty Troopers and their families.


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https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518119/size1.jpg 446w, https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518119/size2.jpg 342w, https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518119/size3.jpg 150w, https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518119/size4.jpg 100w" alt="Pfc. Frank Crary in the Republic of Vietnam" />
https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518120/size1.jpg 446w, https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518120/size2.jpg 342w, https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518120/size3.jpg 150w, https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518120/size4.jpg 100w" alt="Maj. Gen. Robert P. Walters Jr., Commander of U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, presents Mr. Frank Crary, with the Distinguished Service Cross for his extraordinary heroism during the Vietnam War." />
https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518121/size1.jpg 446w, https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518121/size2.jpg 342w, https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518121/size3.jpg 150w, https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518121/size4.jpg 100w" alt="Lt. Col. Andrew Kiser, Commander of 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry presents Mr. Frank Crary the Vietnam Service Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry." />
https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518122/size1.jpg 446w, https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518122/size2.jpg 342w, https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518122/size3.jpg 150w, https://www.army.mil/e2/c/images/2018/05/23/518122/size4.jpg 100w" alt="Command Sgt. Maj. Warren K. Robinson, Command Sergeant Major of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, congratulates Mr. Frank Crary on his receipt of the Distinguished Service Cross." />

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. - At a ceremony held at Fitch Auditorium May 22, Maj. Gen. Robert P. Walters Jr., Commander of U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, presented Mr. Frank Crary, a Tucson resident, with the Distinguished Service Cross for his extraordinary heroism during the Vietnam War.

Fifty-two years ago, on April 7 in the Republic of Vietnam, Pfc. Crary was assigned as a senior rifleman assigned to D Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Crary's battalion reconnaissance platoon was in pursuit of North Vietnamese regulars when it encountered a numerically superior force in camouflaged fortified positions. Members of the reconnaissance platoon were pinned down and taking heavy casualties from intense enemy fire, including a crew served machine gun.

Crary identified the location of the machine gun and began returning fire, attempting to suppress the advantage of the enemy. Then, on his own initiative, and with total disregard for his own personal safety, he jumped up and ran towards the machine gun position. In doing so, Crary exposed himself to counter-fire from nearby North Vietnamese camouflaged positions, which he methodically engaged and neutralized. Continuing his one man assault, he flanked the enemy machine gun, attacking and killing the enemy. Crary's valiant actions turned the battle, allowing the remainder of the reconnaissance platoon to neutralize the other enemy positions.

Crary's actions that day had members of his unit wondering if he had just lost his mind, but Crary sees it a different way. 

"I was just doing my job," said Crary. "Some may have thought it was a little crazy at the time, but I saw what needed be done and I did it."

During the ceremony the current command team from 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, presented additional awards to Crary. Lt. Col. Andrew Kiser, Commander of 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment presented Crary the Vietnam Service Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry. Command Sgt. Maj. Shelly Jenkins, Command Sergeant Major of 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, presented Crary the Expert Rifle Marksmanship Badge and the Presidential Unit Citation.

The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military award that can be given to a member of the United States Army and is given for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force.

"I never expected to receive this medal, and I was overwhelmed when Maj. Gen. Walters called me and asked if they could host the ceremony at Fort Huachuca," said Crary. "What a thankful addition to my life."

By Randall Baucom

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The engineers from Company A, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, row as hard as the can across McKellars Lake during the Crossing of the Waal re-enactment competition. All four engineer companies from division competed in the event.
The engineers from the 82nd Airborne Division all paddle across McKellars Lake during the Crossing the Waal River re-enactment race on Sept. 18. All four engineer companies from the four combat brigades participated in the event.
Two engineers from Company A, 2 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, swim towards their boat after falling overboard during the Crossing of the Waal re-enactment race at McKellars Lake.
The 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Team engineers push their boats into McKellars Lake at the start of the Crossing of the Waal River re-enactment competition on Sept. 18. All four engineer companies from the 82nd Airborne Division competed in the event.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Running two miles with a boat overhead, then frantically paddling across a lake might seem like an exhausting feat, but for the engineers of the 82nd Airborne Division, it's just a fun way to pay tribute to the past.

To honor one of the most famous feats in combat engineer history - the crossing of the Waal River by pontoon boat into Germany in 1944 - engineers from the four combat brigades of the 82nd Airborne competed in a re-enactment of the crossing on Sept. 18. 

Each of the engineer companies participating in the event ran with a 14- man boat to a launch point at Mackellar's Lake. Once launched, the Paratroopers then raced each other twice across the lake. 

This year the 1st Brigade Combat Team engineers won the competition. 
"It feels awesome to win it," said 1st Brigade's Sgt. 1st Class Randolph Delapena, a Miami native, while holding onto the oar that was presented to the company for winning the competition. 

The engineers try to stage the Crossing of the Waal re-enactment every year on the anniversary of the operation, reflecting its status as an important part of 307th Engineer Battalion and 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment history. 

During World War II, the Paratroopers made five trips across the Waal River at Nijmegen during daylight and under heavy enemy fire on Sept. 20, 1944. Crossing the Waal played a crucial role in the 504th PIR seizing occupied German bridges.

The re-enactment is always a good time for the engineers, and this year proved no exception. Through out the morning the engineers remained loud and rambunctious, from screaming at the top of their lungs during the run to voluntarily jumping into the lake to help push off the boats. 

The event was attended by several past and present commanders who got a kick out of the engineer's enthusiasm.

"This competition is live and loud," said Col. Christopher Gibson, the 2nd BCT commander. "I know we're going to have a great competition for years to come."

"You all did a great thing here today," said Lt. Col. Frederic Drummond, the 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion commander, addressing the engineers. "It's a great way to honor our distant past."

A lot of the engineers who competed in this year's event were not new to the Crossing of the Waal re-enactment, like three time contender Staff Sgt. Rich Gerzmehle. Even though Gerzmehle, a Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., native, has competed several times, he was quick to mention that this year's event stood out from the past. 

"This was by far my favorite," said Gerzmehle, a platoon sergeant for Co. A, 2nd BSTB. "It seemed like all the Brigades were into it," he said in a voice barely audible over the screaming and hooting Paratroopers in the background. 

Even though the engineers exerted a lot of energy during the competition there were no signs of exhaust after.

"Nobody's tired, the adrenaline is still kicking," Delapena, a platoon sergeant from Co. A, 1st BSTB, 82nd Abn. Div, said of the engineers. 

Although the event was a competition, a lot of the engineers just enjoyed being together and catching up with old friends.

"We don't see each other on a day to day basis like we used to," said Sgt. 1st Class James Gaw, a platoon sergeant from Co. A, 1st BSTB, referring to when all the engineers were in the same battalion. "Today is a reunion."

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The history of the “AA” arm patch

The Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, an elite division specializing in air assault.

Based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, 82nd Airborne soldiers are easily recognizable by their maroon berets and “AA” arm patches. They have been involved in virtually every U.S. military conflict since World War I.

The history of the “AA” arm patch

The “AA” arm patch, worn by all 82nd Airborne soldiers, stands for “All American,” the nickname given to the division when it was first formed at Camp Gordon, Georgia, in 1917.

During World War I, many units created nicknames for themselves to build camaraderie and boost morale. Shortly after its inception, the newly-formed 82nd, in partnership with the Atlanta Georgian newspaper, held a contest to collect nickname ideas for the division. The winning nickname, “All American,” was submitted by Vivienne Goodwyn and was chosen for its embodiment of the 82nd’s unique makeup. Unlike other divisions at the time, a diverse group of men from all 48 states served in the 82nd.

Listen to this podcast by the 82nd Airborne Division for more information about its “All American” nickname:

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A message from Walter Scherr:

           Hello again to the great people of the 82nd Airborne and to all of the Airborne Divisions that make up this country's great military; I thank you for your service.

           As I had mention in my previous letter, I would breakdown the contributions I have made and how you can take advantage of them.

 Donation to the 82nd Airborne Association

 Walter Scherr and the Walter and Vera Scherr Foundation are pleased to announce a major new initiative with the 82nd Airborne Association.  Walter has committed to a generous donation totaling $250,000 to support the members of the 82nd Airborne Association and a new partnership with The Center for Discovery.

The donation is divided into three parts:

 • $100,000 for a Scholarship Education Fund to support for members of the 82nd Airborne Association.

 •$100,000 for the development of an Adventure Challenge Program to help safely reintegrate service men and women of the 82nd Airborne who are returning from service.  This program will take place in partnership with The Center for Discovery on their upstate NY campus and is also expected to include a career training component.

• $50,000 for the purchase of the indieGo power wheelchair for disabled veterans.  indieGo is a power wheelchair device that was developed with major grant funding from the Google Foundation by a team of rehabilitation and power mobility specialists at the Walter and Vera Scherr Maker’s Lab located at The Center for Discovery.

If you are eligible to take advantage of the donations please feel free to contact:

Bill Bauer execdir@82assn.org

           I am honored to be able to help you wonderful people of the 82nd and I look forward to all the stories of how my gift to you has changed your lives.  Please visit my websites WaltersWay.org and WaltersCommunity.com and show your support for our cause and enjoy all of the videos, photos, and stories that reflect all that I do for you and others of this great nation.  Thank you again to all that serve in the greatest military this World has ever seen.

"God Bless America",

                  Walter J. Scherr

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Walter Scherr Letter to 82nd Airborne

82nd Airborne Association:

Thank you very much for letting myself and my wife along with our team attend this year's 100th Anniversary of the 82nd Airborne.  It had been an honor to witness the pride and at times the pain that saturated the room as the memorial and banquet had unfolded that weekend.  I myself was unable to attend but had seen many photos and videos of the event and it humbled me. 

I would like all of you to visit my website WaltersCommunity.com and see the photos and videos of this great event as it was captured throughout the weekend.  Many have already viewed the videos published on my YouTube and Facebook sites, I thank you for that.

One way of giving back to you at the 82nd, I had offered over 500 award winning books to you as my thanks for the gracious invitation to your celebration.  If you were fortunate enough to have taken "Walter's Way", I hope you had the chance to read the book; I look forward to your reviews.     

In the coming weeks I will again reach out to you and explain how to take advantage of the contributions I have put in place to benefit many of you great people of the United States Airborne.  This gift was put in place to help you the individuals and your families overcome obstacles you face every day; such as education, rehabilitation, and disabilities that you may be struggling with.  Most of all to help this great nation of ours "The United States of America" to continue to be the best in the World with the best people in the World; you our nation's military!

Thank you,

Walter J. Scherr   

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A paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division jumps out of a C-17 jet transport during a training jump last month at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Matt Couch/WUNC

The 82nd Airborne Division's identity and culture are built around one thing: parachuting into combat.

But the division was formed in 1917, a quarter-of-a-century before there was such a thing as paratroopers.

In the popular imagination, its story starts with a single man.

"That's Sgt. York's helmet that he wore on the day he earned his Medal of Honor," said historian John Aarsen, director of the division's museum at Fort Bragg, N.C., as he stood in front of a display case. "And that's his uniform that he toured the U.S. in."

York has been called the greatest American hero of World War I. He killed more than 20 German soldiers while assaulting a machine-gun unit and almost single-handedly captured another 132.

And yes. The division has its own museum. And a series of podcasts on the unit's history.

Civilians can visit, but the 82nd Airborne mainly uses it for something else.

"Primarily the museum is here to train soldiers," Aarsen said. "I'm here to train soldiers to know their history, and a lot of it is I'm here to reinforce those values. The esprit de corps of the 82nd."

In short, the division has turned its extraordinary history into a crucial tool.

Every new paratrooper is brought to the museum. It's a way of maintaining a consistent culture and set of values in an organization that has constant turnover as soldiers cycle in and out — far more turnover than most civilian companies experience.

That history offers lessons in tactics and strategy. And helps young soldiers deal with a job so daunting that their method of getting to the battlefield can kill them.

"An 18-year-old in 1943 jumped out of the door over Sicily, and did what he needed to do," Aarsen said. "And you are an 18-year-old in the United States Army, and what I'm asking you to do is no different than what happened in that door in Italy. And you can do it. There are 75 years of soldiers like that, soldiers standing in that door all this time."

Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division walk towards the jump door during a training jump last month at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Matt Couch/WUNC

A Veteran Remembers

One of the 82nd's soldiers standing in a door on D-Day was 20-year-old Kenneth "Rock" Merritt.

Kenneth "Rock" Merritt jumped into Normandy with the 82nd Airborne Division on D-Day in 1944.

Jay Price/WUNC

He was the second man out of a C-47 transport over Normandy - hours before landing craft hit the beaches - into a sky lighted only by German tracer rounds.

"If somebody tells you, no, you're not scared, he's either lying or he's a fool," said Merritt, now a 94-year-old retired command sergeant major.

The plane was flying much lower than his practice jumps, and the parachute barely had time to slow his fall.

Merritt came down in in a briar patch, and a German machine gun fired at him as he wriggled out of his parachute harness. Then an American transport plane fell towards him, on fire. As it passed just overhead he saw the lines trailing out that had yanked open a load of paratroopers' chutes.

That, he thought to himself, meant they had gotten out.

Then Merritt collected his equipment and crept away to find the rest of his unit. What was left of it, at least.

"On D-Day, my entire chain of command got killed," he said. "Not wounded, not captured, all of them got killed."

Merritt was among the nation's first paratroopers. He said back then they were taught they could beat any five men in a fight, and that they were the best soldiers anywhere.

They were also taught to move up two levels of command if their leaders were lost in battle. By dawn, that training seemed clairvoyant.

Merritt says nearly 2,100 in his regiment made that jump. After a month of fighting, fewer than 1,000 were left.

He also was part of a big combat jump into Holland in a battle depicted in the movie A Bridge Too Far. And he fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

Later Merritt was sent to Korea and Vietnam, and retired after rising to one of the Army's highest positions for enlisted soldiers.

During 35 years in the Army, he served with various units. Many were good, he said, but none matched the spirit and leadership of the 82nd.

Battles Fought On Many Fronts, And Not Just In Combat

The full sweep of the unit's history is almost too much to absorb, from York's exploits, to the 82nd's dramatic role in the Normandy invasion, to a long list of other famous battles and conflicts, right up to multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. 82nd troops are still in both those countries now.

With an Army AH-64 Apache helicopter passing above, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division march across Sicily Drop Zone as part of the Airborne Review at Fort Bragg, N.C., last May. The 82nd Airborne celebrated its 100th birthday with a week of events and demonstrations, culminating in the Airborne Review.

Matt Couch/WUNC

After World War II, it became the first Army division to be permanently integrated, and it has had roles in every major conflict since then except the war in Korea.

Soldiers of the division were sent to keep order at the desegregation of the University of Mississippi, to riots in Washington, D.C., after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. They served humanitarian missions in Haiti and south Florida after Hurricane Andrew.

The big parachute assaults in World War II were perhaps the most famous chapters of the 82nd's history. But they led to a lot of casualties, had mixed success and prompted a question that goes right to the heart of the unit's identity. A question people are still asking: whether it makes sense for the Army to maintain such a large unit of paratroopers.

Other units, particularly in special operations, make combat jumps with small numbers of troops. But large jumps have been rare since World War II and paratroopers of the 82nd haven't made a large jump since the invasion of Panama in 1989.

"But just as the 82nd doesn't do an airborne assault doesn't mean the capability hasn't been put to use," Aarsen said. "Hurricane Katrina was like that. The 82nd is the only unit in the Army that can load on an airplane 18 hours after you call it up and be moving to where ever you need it. Because it's rehearsed."

Rehearsed a lot.

Remaining Relevant

In one sense, the 82nd's specialty is parachuting. In another, it's being ready. One of the division's three brigades always has some of its soldiers ready to board aircraft, and ready to fight, within 18 hours. That's a role called Global Response Force.

That speed is something no other unit that size offers the Pentagon.

Sometimes being ready means not fighting at all. Aarsen said the Pentagon held the 82nd out of the war in Korea because it wanted a quick way to respond in case of surprise aggression from the Soviet Union.

And sometimes being ready means being used — but as a threat. The 82nd is credited with averting a conflict in Haiti in 1994 just by loading into planes and getting into the air.

One reason large combat jumps are rare is the increasing sophistication of anti-aircraft systems. The 82nd is experimenting, though, with something that could help against many foes: a light armored vehicle that can be dropped by parachute.

John Gordon, a senior defense researcher with RAND Corp., has been working with 82nd leaders on plans for the unit's future, including the use of something like the eight-wheeled LAV-25s the unit has borrowed from the Marines for testing.

The 82nd wouldn't need to use a full set of vehicles for every mission, but having enough ready would give it more flexibility, Gordon said.

"With many of these potential opponents today, the number and quality and range of their air defense systems is such that you're going to have to find a place to land the paratroopers outside the range of the air defense systems," Gordon said. "And if that distance is a long, long way and the paratroopers are limited to foot mobility it's going to take them a while to reach their objectives.

"But if the soldiers and enough vehicles could be dropped a short distance from an objective like an airport, they could be out of range of its anti-aircraft defenses, but close enough to attack quickly," he said.

A Tradition Endures

Army Spc. Kevin Bogucki, left, of the 82nd Airborne Division prepares for a training jump last month at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Matt Couch/WUNC

Aboard a hulking C-17 jet transport, young paratroopers prepare for a training jump. Army Spc. Kevin Bogucki is among them. As the plane banked and turned towards a drop zone, Bogucki was nonchalant about jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft for a living.

"They get a kick out of it when I tell people, it blows their mind," he said. "Me, it's old news now. Oh, I got another jump today."

Soldiers get hurt on jumps, and not just combat jumps. Mainly it's ankle injuries. Though there's worse. One of Bogucki's friends broke his hip after another plummeting soldier fell into his parachute and they got tangled.

They are all volunteers, one more thing that sets the 82nd apart.

Bogucki said that it was the extra $150 a month that first got his attention, but once he got into the 82nd, he said, it became obvious that all the talk about it being special wasn't just talk.

Now, he said, he believes that it really is better than other units.

"It is," he said. "Absolutely. You...go on training things like this all the time [and] it has to pay some dividends."

A few minutes later, Bugucki and dozens of other paratroopers stood, all burdened with heavy packs, rifles and parachutes.

They filed back to the two open doors of the huge jet, the men in front of Bogucki vanishing one at a time into the night sky until finally he was standing in the door.

Then, just as "Rock" Merritt had done so many decades ago, Bogucki jumped.

Source: JAY PRICE FROMNORTH CAROLINA PUBLIC RADIO – WUNC npr.org/2017/08/24/545757890/82nd-airborne-division-celebrates-its-100th-anniversary

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“It didn’t make any sense. I was a fat Jewish kid from New York. I was the kid who was picked on in high school. I was the kid who didn’t play any sports. I was afraid of heights. What was I doing in the 82nd? I didn’t belong there.

But, I had a great squad leader. He made me realize I could actually do stuff by just doing it harder than anyone else. I realized that if I pushed myself hard enough I could be the same as the guy who grew up an athlete or the guy who was born to jump out of planes or the guy who grew up tough. I had to work harder than they did, but I could meet the same standards. In the end, being an All American Paratrooper was the best and the hardest thing I ever did. Every day I was in the 82nd was exhausting for me.

When I left the 82nd, I got back to New York City and was living in my folks basement. This was back in ‘96 when the internet was new. I didn’t really know anything about the internet but I saw there was opportunity. I said ‘I survived the 82nd, I can figure this out.’ I taught myself the internet. Then I taught myself IT. I got a job in downtown New York. I never planned to be in business for myself, but I did well at my first firm and thought ‘I can run all this myself.’ So, I started consulting for small businesses. Everything that I learned in the 82nd about paying attention to detail, about inspections, all of that came naturally to me and I kept growing in the business.

I started doing cybersecurity for energy companies. Then finance companies. I wanted to keep it small, but I found out my wife likes money [laughs]. So, I went to big companies and said ‘look, don’t just bring me on for consulting, outsource your entire IT infrastructure to me.’ I got a reputation and my company kept growing and growing. It still is. What I do is really cool but I’m finding that it’s only cool to people like me [laughs].”

Jonathan Schwam, 1992 - 1995, Sergeant. Mr. Schwam is the owner and principal architect of Core 82 Inc., an information technology consulting firm based in New York City. Mr. Schwam named his company after the core values of the 82nd Airborne Division that he applied to be a success. Mr. Schwam now uses his platform to hire All American Paratroopers departing military service.

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"The All American Paratrooper is the greatest Soldier alive.

1962. We went into Mississippi - the entire Division - to protect James Meredith when he integrated into the University of Mississippi. When it was all over they asked President Kennedy: 'Sir, why did you have to send the 82nd Airborne Division to get one man into college?' He said 'This is an important job. When you want your job done right you send your best. The best this country has is the 82nd Airborne Division.' I was there. That was the day I made Sergeant Major.

I still say to this day there ain't no Division that comes close. Trust me, I know all the others. I know how they train. I know what they do. I been watchin'.

Leadership principles. Leadership plans. PT. Hard training. They just do all that stuff better. Always have.

When I met President Trump I said 'Sir, I am Command Sergeant Major Rock Merritt and I represent the 82nd Airborne Division. Sooner or later, in all probability, you will need the 82nd Airborne Division. They will be ready.' He shook my hand and said 'Thanks, Rock. I know they will be.'"

Command Sergeant Major (Retired) Kenneth "Rock" Merritt, 1942 - 1977. Rock jumped into Normandy and secured Hill 131 on D-Day and then jumped into Nijmegen and went on to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. He would go on to serve in Operation Power Pack and the Vietnam War. In July 1944, General Ridgway presented Rock Merritt with a Silver Star for valor earned while fighting near La Cuiroterie, France.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/82ndAssociation/ 82nd Airborne Division Association Facebook page

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