82nd Airborne Division: All-American

Despite the 82nd Airborne Division is not considered as a special operations forces unit, it is still a significant force in the U.S. Military. In fact, the 82nd Airborne Division is a brand that made his way through history. Today, it is an elite, an active duty airborne infantry division of the United States Army which has been are specialized in parachute assault operations into hostile areas. They are located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and the unit is part of the XVIII Airborne Corps.

The 82nd Airborne Division cannot be compared to the Green Berets or U.S. Army Rangers, because they are different organized and with different objectives. It is quite similar to the 101st Airborne Division but with a slight difference.


The origins of the 82nd Airborne Division are tied to World War I when they were constituted in the National Army on 5 August 1917 and were organized on 25 August 1917, at Camp GordonGeorgia as 82nd Division. Since the unit’s initial members came from all 48 states, the unit acquired the nickname “All-American“, which is the basis for its famed “AA” shoulder patch.

Through history, many soldiers went through the unit and one of the units most famous soldiers include Sergeant Alvin C. York, General James M. Gavin, Dave Bald Eagle (grandson of Chief White Bull), Senator Strom Thurmond (325th GIR in World War II), Senator Jack Reed, and Congressman Patrick Murphy (the first Iraq War veteran elected to Congress) and many others.

To honor the 1944 Waal assault river crossing made by the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 307th Engineer Battalion (Airborne) during Operation Market Garden in World War II, an annual Crossing of the Waal competition is staged on the anniversary of the operation at McKellars Lake near Fort Bragg. The winning company receives a paddle. The paddle signifies that in the original crossing, many paratroopers had to row with their weapons because the canvas boats lacked sufficient paddles.

World War II

The 82nd Division would gain its reputation in the next war. Recalled for World War II in March of 1942, the Division was re-designated as the 82nd Airborne Division the following August. The 82nd Airborne Division has become the first airborne division in the United States Army, before the 101st Airborne Division. During WWII the 82nd Airborne Division made their name through parachute assaults and combat jumps into Sicily, Salerno, Normandy, and Holland. At the battle of Anzio in Italy, a German officer gave the paratroopers one of their many nicknames when he referred to them as “those devils in baggy pants.”

82nd Airborne Division paratroopers over Normandy
U.S. paratroopers fix their static lines before a jump before dawn over Normandy on D-Day June 6, 1944, in France. (AP Photo/Army Signal Corps)

Korean and Vietnam wars

The 82nd Airborne Division didn’t experience combat in the Korean War. They were shifted to the United States strategic reserve and rapid deployment force. In January of 1968, during the Tet Offensive, the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division was alerted and en route to Chu Lai within 24 hours.

82nd Airborne Division in Vietnam
82nd Airborne Division in Vietnam (Photo: XY)

The 82nd stayed in Vietnam for 22 months of direct combat. The All-Americans fought in the Hué – Phu Bai area, and then later fought heavy battles in the Mekong Delta, the Iron Triangle, and along the Cambodian border. The 3rd Brigade returned to Fort Bragg in December of 1969.

Peacekeeping and War on terror

As the most highly trained light infantry division in the world, the 82nd Airborne Division has participated in practically every potential combat deployment of the U.S. Army since Vietnam. They fought in Grenada in 1983, Honduras in 1988, the invasion of Panama in 1989, Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia and into Iraq in 1990-91, Bosnia in 1995, Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2002, and the invasion of Iraq in early 2003. As of 2007, elements of the 82nd Airborne Division are on rotation to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Camp Ramadi 2009
U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division and Iraqi army soldiers board a Marine Corps CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter in Camp Ramadi, Iraq, 2009 (Photo: XY)

The soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division continued to support US operations worldwide including engagements against Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) in Iraq where the operational parts ere engaged into the program of the train and advise for Iraqi troops.

Operational structure and organization

The US Army 82nd Airborne Division has been fully restructured and reorganized in December 2013. There have been a lot of changes, but in fact, according to those who serve there, nothing has changed. The 82d Airborne Division is currently composed of three brigade combat teams, an aviation bridge, divisional artillery and support. Their assigned TO&E strength should be somewhere around 10,800 soldiers.

A common expression I hear their when they are offered new weapons and equipment is “Why do I care? Everybody knows the most dangerous weapon in the world is an airborne soldier. All I need is a parachute, boots, and M4 carbine, and a bayonet”. The same goes for the reorganization.

82nd Airborne Division: Organizational structure chart
82nd Airborne Division: Organizational structure chart (Photo: Pinterest/Army)

The 82nd Airborne Division also carries the moniker of “America’s Guard of Honor.” They are the nation’s strategic offensive force, maintaining the highest state of readiness. Generations of veterans have lived up to the Division’s motto. They truly went “All the way!”

As the many units in the world are describing themselves through mottos, it is the same within an 82nd Airborne Division. The usual mottos of the 82nd Airborne Division are: “All the way!” or “Death from above” while their march slogan is “The All-American Soldier”.

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