FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- All-American paratroopers filled the sky in a daring daylight drop into Holland, September 1944, marking the fourth and final combat drop in World War II. To this day, paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division train for airborne operations through deployment readiness exercises, which ensure they are always ready to fight and win.
Pfc. Tyler Dunn, a mortarman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, completed his 12th jump as he descended onto Holland Drop Zone, July 19, 2018, at Fort Bragg during Operation Devil Storm.
"The sun was just coming up," said the 27-year-old Skipperville, Alabama native, as he continued the weeklong training event. "It was not that hot and the wind wasn't crazy. You can't really have asked for a better jump."
Dunn was a successful businessman in farming economics before enlisting in the Army, but he always wanted to be in the military like his grandfather, a retired Army colonel.
It wasn't long before his wife convinced him to join. "You're always talking about it. Why don't you just do it?" Dunn recalled his wife saying.
Together they came up with a game plan for him to join the Army while successfully running a business back home. His experience as a businessman instilled a sense of structure and organization that he carried into the military, especially when it came to accomplish a mission.
As he began to descend to the ground after the jump, his mind started processing what to do next.
"You've got about a 12- to 15-second window where you can really enjoy being in the air," said Dunn. "After that I start focusing on which direction I'm going, is there anybody around me as I prepare to descend."
"Okay, now I need to start lowering my equipment," he added, walking through his thought process.
Dunn arrived to his unit in October and made a good impression on his leaders while achieving personal accolades. He earned the Latvia foreign jump wings, was awarded two Army Achievement Medals for managing an arms room and unit property book, and was selected for early promotion.
"I've only known him just a few months but he's done exceptional work," said Sgt. Christopher Plaza, a Morganville, New Jersey native and a section team leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. "He is very well organized and reliable."
Upon landing on the Holland Drop Zone, Dunn and his team setup a mortar firing point to provide indirect fire support and security for units on the ground. The combination of heat and rain started to test the resiliency of the mortar team.
"There's going to be times to where the heat is getting to you," said Dunn. "You're exhausted and everybody is sucking a little bit.
"There's a whole lot of emotions that go into it," he continued. "All in all, the end result, it brings everyone closer together."
Devil Storm may have brought the team together, but it also provided Dunn with a unique understanding of the deployment readiness exercise and how his team ties into the Army's ability to move troops on short notice and take over a contested environment.
"This was set up to simulate an actual operation," said Dunn. "From that instance it's where I really learned more. How things are strategically set up and placed and what's the thought process behind it."
Dunn is not the type to shy away from asking questions; he is always trying to learn more and take any task that comes his way and excel in it.
"He has an unparalleled ability to be the best and to get the job done," said 1st Sgt. Michael Argent, the senior enlisted advisor for Headquarters and Headquarters Company.
Argent, a Lancaster, California native, went on to share one of Dunn's accomplishments in the short time he had come to know him.
"He basically single-handedly turned the Headquarters and Headquarters Company arms room completely around and reorganized the entire thing by himself with little or no supervision, so it was a pretty incredible task," Argent said.
With lessons learned from Operation Devil Storm and a stronger bond with his team, Dunn's drive for excellence continues as he plans to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge and go to the U.S. Army Ranger School.
"As long as you're okay with being okay, okay is all you will ever be," said Dunn. "I've never been about just being average or just being plain Jane. I think being part of the 82nd is one step in the direction of not being your average normal Army Soldier."