By Sandi Moynihan
The Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, an elite division specializing in air assault, turns 100 this year.
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.
In honor of the 82nd Airborne’s centennial year, we’ve rounded up 8 need-to-know facts about the division:
1. 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:
2. Powerful re-enactments
Every year on Fort Bragg, combat engineers from the 82nd compete in a re-enactment of the World War II Waal River pontoon boat crossing, a bold combat maneuver that greatly helped the Allies liberate the Dutch city of Nijmegen. 48 U.S. service members from the 82nd were killed during the historic 1944 crossing and are honored today by 48 street lamps positioned along a recently built bridge over the Waal River.
A paratrooper conducts an airborne operation at Fort Hood, Texas.
Paratroopers from across Fort Bragg, North Carolina prepare to perform a static line jump.
A paratrooper from Fort Bragg performs a static line jump
Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division exit an Air Force C-130 over Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Paratroopers from across Fort Bragg, North Carolina perform a static line jump.
Army paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne jump out of an Air Force C-130.
3. Seriously Airborne
The 82nd Airborne takes its name seriously. On any given month, roughly 10,000 training jumps are conducted by soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg.
4. Fort Bragg
5. Celebrity veterans
Country music star Craig Morgan, also a USO tour veteran, served in the 82nd Airborne Division during his 17 years in the Army and Army Reserve.
6. 82nd Airborne on the silver screen
Over the years, the 82nd Airborne Division has been featured in several movies, including the 1962 classic, “The Longest Day”. The film, which boasts a star-studded cast featuring John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Sean Connery, won two Academy Awards in 1963.
7. There in a flash
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, units from the 82nd Airborne Division arrived in New Orleans just seven hours after receiving orders. In the days following the catastrophic storm, the 82nd expedited evacuations, performed search-and-rescue operations and helped kept order within the city, among a slew of other operations.
8. Record-breaking soldiers
Army Sgt. Monica Lin Brown, who serves in the 82nd Airborne Division, was the first female Afghan War veteran and the second woman since WWII to receive the Silver Star, the third-highest medal for valor in combat. Brown, also the 2008 USO Soldier of the Year, was still in her teens when she received the honor for heroic actions she took in 2007, when she was temporarily attached to the 4/73rd Cavalry unit in Afghanistan.