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More than 14,000 paratroopers gather for 82nd Airborne Division Review

U.S. troops at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army/Released)

The 82nd Airborne Division on Thursday hailed its heroes, past and present, and reaffirmed its role as a ready-to-go force.

“After a long, hard decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are near mission completion,” Rep. Chris Gibson told more than 14,000 paratroopers in maroon berets standing in formation on Fort Bragg’s Pike Field.

The 82nd Airborne Division will play a key role in the nation’s ability to deter future conflicts with “peace through strength,” Gibson said.

“It always is the paratrooper standing in the (airplane) door with the courage to exit that door on a hot (drop zone), to land on the ground and fight and win,” Gibson said. “That’s your focus. That’s what we are asking you to take on now.”

Gibson straddles the worlds of rapid deployment and national decision-making on the future of the military. In January 2010, he was commander of the division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team when it received an order to go to Haiti immediately to assist in humanitarian relief efforts after an earthquake. He left the Army to run for Congress in his home state, and the New York Republican is now a second-term congressman with a seat on the House Armed Services Committee and its panels on military personnel and intelligence and emerging threats.

Gibson, who said he remembers what it feels like to stand on the parade field for hours in the heat and humidity, kept his remarks to less than seven minutes.

For the first time in recent years, the formation included soldiers from all of the division’s brigades and battalions. Over the past decade, deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have sometimes curtailed activities during the annual All American Week.

Past division commanders attending the ceremony included retired Gens. James J. Lindsay, John W. Foss and Dan K. McNeill and retired Lt. Gens. James H. Johnson Jr., George Crocker and Keith Kellogg.

During the review, veterans of the division’s regiments that trace their lineage to World War I and the parachute and glider forces of World War II marched with their flags, guidons and banners.

Of the soldiers on the field, 13,000 served in combat and 4,500 deployed twice or more, said Maj. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the division commander.

“Whether they have deployed or not, all of them are ready and willing to go tonight,” Nicholson said.

The 82nd Airborne Division’s paratroopers are the nucleus of the nation’s ability to respond to events around the world, Nicholson said.

“Some might make the mistake of believing that since they have endured so much that they are tired,” Nicholson said. “But friends and foes alike should make no mistake. We are not tired. We are ready.”


© 2013 The Fayetteville Observer

Distributed by MCT Information Services