Paratroopers proved their tactical prowess and combat acumen during a demanding field exercise conducted late February and early March on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Paratroopers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division proved their ability to synchronize a multitude of lethal assets and Mission Command elements during the brigade’s Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise from February 18, 2019 to March 5, 2019.
CSM Burgoyne and I are deeply troubled by recent reports of sub-standard living conditions experienced by some of our All American family members living in on-post privatized housing and barracks. At the Fort Bragg Town Hall yesterday we heard from many family members about the issues they have been facing with housing conditions. The current situation is simply unacceptable.
The entire Division chain of command will act immediately to help the installation and Army restore accountability and trust. There is a real opportunity here to resolve some of Fort Bragg’s long-standing housing and barracks challenges.
Our first step is to develop an accurate picture of the specific housing and barracks concerns facing you and your Families. There will be no reprisals for reporting – not from the Army nor our privatized housing partner: Corvias. I’ve directed the chain of command to lead the assessment. Similar to the effort after Hurricane Florence, each barracks room in the Division footprint will be re-inspected by a senior leader. This will enable the Division leadership to capture an accurate picture of the issues facing our formation. At the same time Paratroopers will have the opportunity to identify and report any issues that have not been resolved or have recently occurred.
I’ve also asked the chain of command to reach out to Paratroopers and their Families living on-post to offer a command visit. Our leaders’ involvement will help cut through bureaucracy and will bring better visibility to the housing problems. This is not mandatory — all visits will be coordinated and conducted by invitation only. There is truly no pressure to participate, but we welcome your participation as it will help us in our understanding of the scope and scale of the problem.
In any situation where life, health and safety issues exist, the chain of command will ensure that conditions are immediately remediated. If a life, health, or safety issue cannot be immediately resolved, the chain of command will work with the Paratrooper, Family, Corvias, and the installation to provide an alternative housing arrangement.
This will be a long process, but we are committed to improving the housing and quality of life for all. The Division’s number one priority remains the readiness and welfare of its Paratroopers and Families.
“There was a terrible explosion. Twigs flew through the air, pine needles began to fall, dead branches and dust, and dead logs went up” said Richard Barnhouse to Oregon’s Mail Tribune, describing the detonation of a Japanese bomb.
However, Barnhouse not talking about combat in the Pacific Theater; World War II Japan was attacking the United States.
The Japanese fire balloon campaign, known as Fu-Go, involved hydrogen-filled balloons carried across the ocean by the Jet Stream to the US’ West Coast, where they would drop their payload of explosives.
The men of the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment answered the nation’s call to fight back. Never reaching the necessary manning to fight in the European Theater, the 555th PIR received orders on May 5th, 1945 to report to Oregon and be assigned to the 9th Services Command.
Their primary mission; recovery and destruction of Japanese balloon-bombs; firefighting was their secondary mission according to a report published by the U.S. Army War College.
Arriving at Pendleton Field, Oregon a week later, the men of the 555th PIR conducted more training in land navigation, medical aid and physical endurance while waiting for their equipment to arrive.
Even there, the all African American unit faced discrimination much like that of the deep South when training at Fort Benning. The paratroopers found it difficult to buy a drink or a meal in the town of Pendleton and the commander of the base did not want them mixing with the base’s population. Undaunted, the paratroopers continued taking pride in their skills and staged demonstration jumps for local civilians.
By that time, however, the Fu-Go campaign was tapering off, the Japanese reportedly having used it as an effort to improve morale among factory workers, telling them the balloons were causing havoc in Los Angeles or Seattle.
They soon received training by the U.S. Forest Service to parachute into heavily wooded areas and fight fires caused by the Fu-Go balloons, careless campers and lightning. Specially equipped and trained, the “Triple Nickle” paratroopers became the forefathers of modern-day Smokejumpers.
Based at Pendleton Field, Oregon with a detachment at Chico, the 555th PIR responded to 36 fire calls, making more than 1,200 individual jumps.
More than thirty paratroopers sustained injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to broken legs and even crushed chests. Tragically, Malvin L. Brown, a medic assigned to Headquarters Company, died August 6, 1945 after falling while trying to descend from a tree.
While at Camp Pendleton, the 555th PIR would establish another historic landmark. On July 25, 1945, fifty-four men conducted a full combat-equipment jump with live ammunition. After their initial assault on their objective, they marked it and called in Naval aircraft piloted by trainees to bomb and strafe it. This marked the first time African-American paratroopers to conduct a joint operation with the Navy.
Even with the accomplishment of these tremendous feats, their most important footsteps were yet to come.