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    Behind the scenes of All American Week: Under the canopy of Division’s annual celebration

    Behind the scenes of All American Week

    Courtesy Photo | Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division work behind the scenes of the All American...... read more read more

    FORT BRAGG, N.C. – “Make no mistake about it: All American Week is the focus,” said Maj. J. M. Phillips, an infantry officer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, and one of the planners for All American Week 2015. “We’re celebrating everything in the 82nd Abn. Div. that is ‘Past, Present, and Future,’ and that is a big deal.”

    To make All American Week happen, Service members from across the Division and Fort Bragg devoted a large amount of time and effort to fulfilling the weeklong celebration of the legacy of generations of Paratroopers.

    The week’s events included the traditional 82nd Abn. Div. four-mile run, Paratrooper Breakfast, seven different sports tournaments featuring 33 battalion teams, the 10-Miler road race, a Team Assault Course Competition and regimental ceremonies and picnics. The Division held a solemn ceremony at the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum, honoring those Paratroopers who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation.

    The inclusion of an airfield seizure operation into the Division Review was the most noteworthy difference this year. The All American Week culminating event moved to Sicily Drop Zone, where nearly two-dozen aircraft deposited 49 heavy drops of vehicles and supplies, followed by nearly 1,500 Paratroopers. Throughout the demonstration, carefully coordinated fixed and rotary wing aircraft with simulated and live fire artillery missions showed how the Air Force and 82nd Division Artillery, 82nd Abn. Div., support ground troops maneuvering to capture an objective. Finally, nearly 5,000 Paratroopers marched across the drop zone in uniform formation to conduct the review ceremony.

    Phillips pointed out that the annual All American Week serves a significant purpose to many beyond the Division’s own Paratroopers.

    “We get to demonstrate our capabilities for joint forcible entry and [the public] can get a really good appreciation of what their support for the 82nd Abn. Div. gives them in return,” he said of Fort Bragg’s neighbors.

    Sustainment operations are critical for large-scale events like All American Week for example. With the culminating event located where parking is limited, Division planners needed to coordinate for 44 buses to shuttle spectators from Pike Field to the event. The Division Transportation office also arranged for 30 troop transport trucks to assist units with moving the Paratroopers participating in the ceremony.

    All week, thousands of gallons of ice and water were distributed throughout the events, mitigating potential heat asualties. Personnel staged more than 170 temporary santation facilities. Hundreds of pieces of warfighting equipment moved about the installation, occupying static displays to inform visitors. Dining facilities hosted up to twice as many patrons as they normally would.

    With so much happening across the installation in only four days, planning and coordination was no casual affair. According to Phillips, the work started more than three months ago. He stressed that none of it would have happened if those involved had not sacrificed their time up to and during that week. Unfortunately, that meant some were unable to participate because they were working to ensure everything went smoothly.

    Some of those working throughout the week were the military police, who provided support for increased gate security and vehicle searches, placing traffic signs, managing the various road closures and parking throughout the installation for key events, as well as conducting random antiterrorism measures.

    “Military Police support is crucial for All American Week,” said Capt. Keith McElroy, a military police officer assigned to HHBn., 82nd Abn. Div., and the provost marshal office planner. “We have to get it right so we rehearsed as many times as we needed.”

    “We actually began our planning after the conclusion of last year’s All American Week,” he added.

    Many Paratroopers spent their time focused on two important audiences for the week: Gold Star Family members and Veterans. Welcoming and supporting Gold Star Family members and Veterans was a critical part of fulfilling the theme ‘Past, Present, and Future.’ Paratroopers ensured those airborne Family members were participants in the events or able to comfortably observe the activities. Support happened on all levels as current Paratroopers set up shade for the comfort of Veteran organizations attending the Airbone Review or as escort to the 31 Gold Star Families in attendance for the Memorial.

    The hard work and long hours paid both tangible and intangible rewards according to one food service specialist from the 1st Brigade Combat Team dining facility. While serving at the Division’s Paratrooper Breakfast on Monday morning, an Operation Just Cause Veteran approached her and handed her a challenge coin, praising her polite and friendly demeanor.

    “He came through my line and as he was about to leave, he handed me a coin and fist-bumped me,” said Spc. Jazmine Perez. “This is the very first coin I’ve received since joining the military.”

    In addition to that small token of appreciation, Perez said working in the dining facility was an invaluable opportunity to visit with the paratroopers that served before her.

    “I’ll listen to war Veterans tell stories all day,” she said. “I love hearing that kind of stuff and you have to give them that respect.”

    With All American Week 2015 intended to be a celebration of ‘Past, Present, and Future’ paratroopers, the moment held significance for Perez and her fellow cooks who witnessed it.

    “It means a lot,” she said. “Never take the small moments for granted.”

    It took a host of servicemembers like Perez to set up and direct the myriad competitions and events for many others to enjoy. The day-to-day roles and responsibilities of a Soldier don’t just disappear during All American Week. Continuity of leadership made it possible for one noncommissioned officer to oversee the basketball

    “Senior leaders within the organization carry the torch for me when I step out of that seat,” said 1st Sgt. Samuel G. Miles, a first sergeant assigned to 407th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. “The mission continued to go on because I have competent leaders that have the company’s best interests at heart.”

    Faced with the challenge of making sure everything runs safely and smoothly, a well-meshed team can relieve some stress for planners and managers of the events.

    “I was a little overwhelmed at first, but with the teamwork in my platoon, we were able to make it happen,” said Sgt. 1st Class Craig Schlichenmeyer, an infantryman assigned to 2nd Btn., 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st BCT, 82nd Abn. Div., and the coordinator for the Assault Course Competition. “Without them, it would have been a lot harder to be successful.”

    This year’s All American Week also required a large amount of team work and coordination between the Air Force and the Division for the Airborne Review, due to the C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft executing heavy drops and exiting Paratroopers, as well as the inclusion of F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft conducting simulated pre-assault fires.

    “Involving the Air Force into this shows that mutual respect that speaks volumes,” said Tech. Sgt. Sean Deam, a member of the joint terminal attack control from the 14th Air Support Operation Squadron. “It sounds cliché but it really shows that team concept.”

    The JTAC serves as the liaison between maneuvering ground forces and the pilots providing close air support. Deam pointed out that forward air controllers served alongside Paratroopers since World War II, when they were a part of the Army Air Corps. The airfield seizure demonstration showed that the historical relationship continues today due to the unique nature of the 82nd Abn. Div. mission.

    Throughout months of planning and resourcing for a short week full of many moving pieces and high-profile events, the team concept was prevalent from the lowest to the highest levels.

    “It has definitely been a team effort across the Division,” said Phillips. “It has been a pleasure working with such a diverse team to pull such a big event together.”



    Date Taken: 05.22.2015
    Date Posted: 05.22.2015 13:48
    Story ID: 164289
    Location: FORT BRAGG, NC, US 
    Hometown: FORT BRAGG, NC, US

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