By Maj. Martin Meiners, 101st Airborne Division Public AffairsJune 1, 2019
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Soldiers, Families and Veterans of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) came together with citizens and community members of Fort Campbell and the surrounding area for the 101st Airborne Division annual celebration, "Week of the Eagles," May 17-23.
"Week of the Eagles allows us to celebrate our rich history and strengthen bonds with our veterans, Families, and community," said Maj. Gen. Brian Winski, commander of the 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell. "This week we honor the commitment and sacrifice of those that have gone before us, and honor and remember those that sacrificed all so that we may live free. As we remain focused on our next rendezvous with destiny, we remain committed to caring for our wounded, caring for our Families and honoring our fallen."
This year marked several "Firsts for the 101st," as it marked the first time that Fort Campbell's Military Survivor Appreciation Week and Retiree Appreciation Day events were included in the Week of the Eagles, making it easier for guests to plan travel and attend multiple events honoring the service and sacrifice of Screaming Eagle Veterans and fallen.
It was also the first year to include an honorable "Veteran's Formation" in the week's closing Division Review. Several dozen Veterans from World War II through the modern era marched at the front of the formation.
HONORING THE FALLEN
The week began on a somber note, as the division and installation conducted opening ceremonies for the annual Fort Campbell Survivor Outreach Services annual Boots on the Ground Display opening ceremony. More than 7,600 boots from all branches of service lined the lawn of the 101st Airborne Division headquarters, each one dedicated to a fallen DOD member since September 11, 2001. Each boot was decorated with a photo of the individual, as well as personal notes, trinkets and a small American flag.
"Every boot means that it's a fallen Soldier," said Sgt. Nico Nkululeko, 101st Airborne Division Artillery, who spent the three days prior laying out every boot, adding the flags, and ensuring they were in perfect condition for the ceremony, along with several other volunteers. "It's someone that dedicated and sacrificed their lives for this country, and the freedom of everyone who lives in it."
As thousands of flags fluttered in the breeze, Winski addressed the crowd, to include Gold Star Family members, friends and fellow Soldiers of those memorialized in the boot display.
"During Week of the Eagles, our main purpose is to honor the fallen and recommit ourselves to taking care of their Families," said Winski. "[These flags and boots] are a true visual reminder that freedom is not free. These were all special Americans. Each and every one of them raised their hand and voluntarily committed to serve in the forces that protect our country and our way of life, knowing full well they might give their life in defense of our nation."
SCREAMING EAGLE SUPER SATURDAY
The next day started "Screaming Eagle Super Saturday," as nearly 1,000 Soldiers, Families, veterans and community members gathered early Saturday morning for Fort Campbell's annual Run for the Fallen. The runners, walkers, marchers and riders wrapped past Fort Campbell's "Memorial Row" as well as the Boot Display. Almost all participants wore bibs with hand-drawn names and notes to honor personal connections to fallen Soldiers.
Super Saturday continued with Fort Campbell's Retiree Appreciation Day, which welcomed all retirees and Veterans for an information exchange, a health fair with Fort Campbell's Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, and remarks from Rep. Mark Green.
Next, thousands of Screaming Eagle fans lined the field at Fort Campbell's Sabalauski Air Assault School for a "combat" Air Assault demonstration. TSAAS instructors rappelled via Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System, while multiple aircraft from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade conducted simulated attacks on an objective before delivering personnel and equipment from 101st Division Artillery, who put on an explosive show for the cheering fans.
"Today's demonstration was meant to highlight the rapid and lethal capabilities of the 101st Airborne Division, and how we are uniquely able to rapidly place, then move if needed, Soldiers and equipment on the battlefield," said Sgt. First Class William McBride, TSAAS operations non-commissioned officer and narrator for the demonstration. "What's most special about today is getting to show so many Families and members of the public what the world's only air assault division does every day."
Super Saturday concluded with a Fort Campbell Morale, Welfare and Recreation concert featuring Jake Owen, Eric Paslay and Terrra Bella. Thousands of residents from Fort Campbell and neighboring communities enjoyed a warm summer evening of music, food and drinks at the parade field.
Monday morning resumed WOE with a bang, as cannons fired to greet each brigade during the Division Run. Thousands of Soldier ran past Memorial Row and the Boot Display to honor the fallen of each unit's history. This was also the first judged event for the Commanding General's Commander's Cup, as each unit was scored based on number of participants, quality of the running formation, and most motivated cadence!
Monday evening was bittersweet as the division said goodbye to both its deputy commanding generals in an Honor Eagle ceremony. Brig. Gen. Todd Royar, deputy commanding general -- support, and Brig. Gen. John Brennan, deputy commanding general -- operations, both move on to positions of greater responsibility in the Army.
"Todd is a Screaming Eagle luminary, his accomplishments are too many to list… he sets and applies high standards and enforces them, influencing generations of leaders," said Winski. "John is one of our nation's premier war fighters… we couldn't have asked for a better leader to prepare and lead the division to what awaited them in Afghanistan, that next rendezvous with destiny."
In addition to the division run, units faced off on the friendly fields of battle throughout the week, as each sought to gain the most points and win the coveted CG's Commander's Cup. Hard battles were fought and won on the golf course, basketball court, softball field, football field, tug of war rope, culinary center, and "Eagle Fit" challenges. Points were also earned through tactical challenges such as "Best Air Assault Soldier," marksmanship and shooting challenges, and a week-long combatives tournament culminating in a "Fight Night" cage match before a packed crowd. Ultimately, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans" prevailed as the champions, earning the Cup until 2020.
"Command Sgt. Maj Pertuz and I have made it a priority to build a culture of winning in the Rakkasans," said Col. John P. Cogbill, 3rd Brigade Combat Team commander. "Readiness, resilience, teamwork and innovation all contribute to winning teams. There are no points for second place in combat and that is why we continue to push our Soldiers to win at everything they do, at the platoon level or the U.S. Army's Best Ranger competition. Competition breeds excellence and excellence leads to winning on the athletic fields or on future battlefields. If it's worth doing, it's worth winning."
Soldiers and leaders across Fort Campbell also took time during WOE to honor and celebrate their veterans and fallen at the regimental and brigade level, with numerous ceremonies to induct Honorary and Distinguished Members of the Regiment.
The 101st Sustainment Brigade took time out of their week to officially open a brand-new memorial dedicated to their fallen "Lifeliner" Soldiers. This impressive display united the names of several smaller monuments located in and around the 101st Sustainment Brigade footprint.
"Today marks a unique history for the Lifeliner brigade, it represents the commitment of the division, the installation, and past and present Lifeliners to honor our lineage and our history," said Col. Stephanie Barton, commander, 101st Sust. Bde. "Today is a celebration of America's men and women who dared all and gave all, so that we can continue to enjoy the freedom and benefits of this great nation."
In a week of "firsts," there was one notable "last," as 2nd Brigade Combat Team "Strike" decommissioned their Gander Memorial, which honors 248 Soldiers and eight crew killed in an 1985 aircraft accident in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada returning from the Sinai Peninsula. 256 Strike Soldiers stood alongside 256 Canadian maple trees, each planted in memory of the lost. Sadly, the trees have grown too close over time, causing the necessity for the new memorial, to open in December 2019.
"Week of the Eagles is a time to honor those who have sacrificed, Soldier and Family alike. It is about honoring our past, our history and heritage. It is also about shaping our future," said Col. Joseph Escandon, commander, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. "Today we honor the hallowed ground upon which the memorial sits, and say one last goodbye to the 256 trees that represent the Soldiers and crew lost at Gander. We do this so the memorial of the future can live on."
CONCLUDING WITH HONORING WWII VETERANS
2019's Week of the Eagles concluded as thousands of Screaming Eagle Soldiers assembled on the parade field for a division review. Many very important people were present, but the most special were four 101st Abn. Div. WWII Veterans, who received commemorative plaques and recognition as 2019 Week of the Eagles "Honored Eagles," then joined the commanding general on the reviewing stand, saluting as each unit marched past, to include a final flyover by the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.
Their presence was an inspiration to every Screaming Eagle, who reflected back on D-Day 75 years ago, said Winski.
"To our Veterans, particularly our WWII Veterans, we honor you and your comrades today," he said. "75 years ago next month marks the first combat action of the 101st Airborne Division. The WWII Screaming Eagles were the greatest generation, and our hat is off to you. But every generation of Screaming Eagle and Fort Campbell Soldiers have, without question, been the greatest of their own generation."