FORT CAMPBELL, Tenn. (WKRN) — Top military officials call them the “tip of the spear” and the “most powerful and tactically mobile” troops of all the U.S. Army. The 101st Airborne Division soldiers – who have donned the Screaming Eagles patch – have played a major role in most of our nation’s conflicts since 1942.
“We really are the most recognized division in the world,” said CPT Dan Herbster, the division’s historian. The Don F. Pratt museum showcases the storied past of the specialized Air Assault Division and the high expectations established early by the first commander, Major General William C. Lee.
“He said, the 101st has no history, but we have a rendezvous with destiny,” explained Herbster, “And of course, history would prove him right.”
From the battlefields of WWII were the legendary Easy Company became known as the Band of Brothers, to the arduous conflict in Vietnam. Then Desert Shield, Desert Storm and most recently the Global War on Terror, their missions impact the globe.
“Our veterans are a series of generations that are linked together – the history, the heritage, and the values,” said the museum’s director and retired Army LTC Dr. John O’Brien.
Most of the soldiers at the division graduate from Air Assault School, known as the ten hardest days in the Army. Their skills allow them to maximize the use of helicopter assets in combat. “When you’re traveling at 120 knots, 10 feet off the ground at night, you have to have a first-class team from pilot all the way to the back to the lowest soldier who’s getting ready to execute the mission on the ground,” said O’Brien.
A winged helicopter, pinned over their heart as a badge of distinction, is a common connection that these 101st Airborne soldiers feel strongly about on Veterans Day.
“Just the fact that I’ve worn this patch, and other people have worn this patch, there’s that special bond of brotherhood,” said CPT Herbster. “It’s like an instant connection. If you take the meaning of connection seriously,” said O’Brien. And even after retirement, News 2’s Alex Denis asked, “Do you ever stop being a soldier?” Dr. O’Brien responded with a smile, “I don’t think so.”