By Spc. Mia Klavon/3rd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. PAODecember 7, 2012
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Local hockey team, the Fayetteville FireAntz, welcomed Fort Bragg Soldiers and their Families to the Crown Coliseum Saturday by donating free tickets as part of Military Appreciation Night.
The crowd cheered as paratroopers assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division presented the national flag during a performance of the "Star Spangled Banner," sung by Nashville recording artist, Trae Edwards.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Colt, deputy commanding general of the XVII Airborne Corps, was on hand with Maj. Gen. Jeffery Jacobs, commanding general of United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), to participate in the puck drop, symbolizing the start of the game.
More than 6,500 hockey fans were in attendance along with paratroopers, Family members, and veterans of the 3rd BCT and USACAPOC (A).
Soldiers from USACAPOC (A) coordinated with the FireAntz to receive toys for the upcoming Operation Toy Drop, an event for paratroopers to make a parachute jump with paratroopers from around the United States and from around the world. For the public, Operation Toy Drop is a chance to see a parachute jump and to donate toys for under-privileged children.
Jacobs thanked the fans during the second intermission for their gifts that will be donated during the Christmas holiday. Before to the game, 3rd BCT manned static displays outside the arena giving demonstrations of their training and equipment for the fans in attendance.
The 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment provided a squad of infantrymen and a humvee with a .50 caliber mounted machine gun. Paratroopers of 1st Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment provided a static display truck, a M119 howitzer, and a gun crew for Family members to ask questions and get hands-on experience with the equipment.
"The military-friendly environment was great," said Maj. Pete Bakke, the 3rd BCT information operations officer. "My kids both saw their first hockey game and loved the close-up static display as we were coming in."
"This is exactly the type of organization that we need to partner with," said Colt about the FireAntz. "An organization with dedication to their team, and one with physical and mental toughness."
During the game, the crowd cheered with each goal scored by the FireAntz as they dominated the Huntsville Havoc and cruised to a 6-2 victory.
"It was a great game, the people were fired up for the FireAntz," said veteran Michael Benca, of Company B, 63rd Signal Battalion, Fort Gordon, Ga. "It was great to see the home team win and appreciate what Soldiers do for this country."