9 Things You Need to Know About the Army's 82nd Airborne Division

By Sandi Gohn

The Army’s 82nd Airborne Division is an elite division that can rapidly deploy in just 18 hours’ notice. The soldiers of the 82nd are able to conduct forcible entry parachute assaults, as well as other key military operations.

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

“AA” shoulder patch.

Here are 9 need-to-know facts about the division:

1. 82nd Airborne is the Heart of the Nation’s Immediate Response Force (IRF)

The IRF is a rapid reaction force jointly maintained by the Army and Air Force that can deploy in just 18 hours notice. A Brigade Combat Team from the 82nd Airborne Division is at the heart of the this force and has been activated for several rapid deployments in recent years.

Most recently, the IRF has been tapped to assist with evacuations in Afghanistan. The USO was able to be there by these soldiers’ sides as they left for their mission, offering them hygiene kits, snacks and other comforts as they waited to deploy to uncertain circumstances.

2. 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.

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

3. Powerful Re-Enactments to Remember World War II Bravery

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.

Photo credit U.S. Army/Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett

Paratroopers wait to exit a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III over Geronimo Drop Zone at Fort Polk, Louisiana, on February 1, 2021.

4. Taking Their Airborne Name to Heart

The 82nd Airborne takes its name seriously. On any given month, roughly 10,000 training jumps are conducted by soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg.

5. Fort Bragg, Home of the 82nd Airborne

Fort Bragg, the home of the 82nd Airborne, is home to 57,000 service members and 11,000 civilian employees, making it one of the most populated U.S. military installations.

6. The 82nd Airborne has 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.

7. 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.

Photo credit DVIDS

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division and members of the Coast Guard use a “Zodiac” Rubber Rescue Raft to patrol the flooded streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, during Hurricane Katrina relief operations.

8. There in the Wake of the Storm

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 keep order within the city, among a slew of other operations.

9. Soldiers Breaking Records Through Valor

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.

-This story originally appeared on USO.org in 2017. It has been updated in 2021.

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