FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The nation’s premier Airborne infantry division, the 82nd Airborne, will lose its hallowed airborne status in the next fiscal year, Army officials announced Thursday.
Reasons for the change include the high cost of maintenance and fuel in the face of looming budget cuts, and the higher-than-average injury and fatality rate for soldiers conducting training jumps, according to a statement from U.S. Army Forces Command.
“As much as it helps esprit de corps and a sense of unit pride,” said Army spokesperson Col. Mike Mulally, “It hurts in terms of readiness, injuries and the bottom line. The time spent on jumps could be used for more relevant training. We would save over $4 million a year in facility and equipment upkeep.”
“And let’s not forget,” Mulally added, “The awful fatality incidents we suffer about once a year. Every time the general has to give another flag to a wife or mother whose soldiers were lost on a training jump, we have to ask ourselves: Why are we training on an insertion technique that hasn’t been relevant in over fifty years?”
As expected, the announcement caused much consternation among former and current 82nd Airborne veterans.
“This is a horseshit,” said 1st Lt. Jeremy Dallas, a paratrooper and former Airborne School instructor. “Back before I went to OCS, I did a combat jump with the 173rd into Bashur during the initial invasion. FORSCOM doesn’t think that airborne training is relevant? What do they think that jump was? A Hollywood?”
Noting that the airfield had been secured hours earlier than the Bashur assault, Pakistani Gen. Abdul Mansour al-Islamabadi told reporters the "Americans missed their drop zone so badly that it took them fifteen hours to reassemble. And let’s not forget that the 173rd almost caused an international incident when they mistook some of our Turkish allies for Iraqis. They arrested and beat the shit out of them, even though they were wearing Turkish army uniforms. Because I guess all us brown people look alike."
"But sure, whatever, call it a combat jump, I don’t care," he added.
The 82nd Airborne Division will immediately cease all airborne training, and at the end of the 2014 fiscal year will officially cease to be an Airborne unit. It will retain the "Airborne" designation in its unit title, but much like the 101st Division, will not be a real airborne unit any longer.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade, stationed in Vicenza, Italy, will remain on Airborne status for the next fiscal year, although anonymous sources in the Pentagon confirmed that it too will soon revert to leg infantry.