BAGHDAD - Many Fort Bragg-based veteran paratroopers think of themselves as superstars, but on Jan. 31 a former XVIII Airborne Corps jumpmaster-turned-country-music-star took to the Camp Victory stage as current Corps members cheered from the audience.
Country musician Craig Morgan spent about on 11 years active duty as a fire support noncommissioned officer, most of it with the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.
"I am so fortunate to have served," Morgan said. "I jokingly used to say that I was training for the music industry...because it gave me a better appreciation of how good I have it now."
After Morgan left active duty side of the Army he spent some time in the reserves, re-enlisting with a jump with the Bragg-based U.S. Army Parachute team, the Golden Knights, and serving with the Nashville-based rigger company, the 861st Quartermaster Co. until 2004 "when the music business got too busy and [he] couldn't do what [he] needed to do with that unit."
Though Morgan, a jumpmaster with more than 200 static line jumps, has left military, he has kept the military mindset, running his business like he would a military unit with help of his road manager, who he refers to as his 'sergeant major.'
"I'm real strict," said Morgan. "I have very high standards and I'm proud of that - I'm proud of my service, and am proud that I have a group of people that respect and appreciate the military as much as I do and I think that has a lot to do with where I came from."
His time spent as a paratrooper and at Fort Bragg has definitely affected his music.
"Music is like anything you do in life, when you spend that much time doing something - I don't care who you are or what you do - it's going to affect your thought process and your decision-making process," said Morgan. "When you spend a lot of time in the military, you learn things and experience things that are going to affect the way you do business and live your life in general."
This is the country musician's ninth troop tour, tours he refers to as homecomings - even vacations, sharing old stories with old friends. He actively volunteers his time with the Stars for Stripes and the USO performing for American servicemembers.
"I think it is important that we support [these organizations] so that they continue to bring back entertainers so that when [servicemembers] start to feel low that they are spirits are picked right up with a show," said Morgan. It is also important "that entertainers are provided a platform to reach the troops in ways that the command cannot - and then return home and share that with America the great things that our forces are doing over here."
Morgan played a highly interactive 90 minute set of new tunes and old favorites, meeting with servicemembers after the show. It is easy to imagine that there were many spirits lifted by this taste of home, made even dearer knowing that the man on stage was truly one of us.