By Army Sgt. Stephen Decatur
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 21, 2009 - Sometimes a football game is more than just a game. Although tens of millions of Americans watch the Super Bowl every year, at the end of the day, it's just a game. But when 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers participated in sporting events during this week's All-American Week here, they knew that one day they might have to depend on their fellow players in combat. Although this year's All-American Week was scaled down because of deployments in the division, the most important elements, such as team-building, esprit de corps and fun, were still on the schedule.
"Sports bring the team closer and give young Joes the opportunity to see what teamwork is," said Army Sgt. Jonathon Clements of Company B, 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team. "All-American Week brings everyone together in the whole division."
Much of this year's All-American Week consisted of athletic events such as the division run, 10-kilometer and 5-kilometer foot races, softball, volleyball and football.
Army Pfc. Justin Schmidt of 782nd BSB's Company B said team-building events were one of the most important parts of All-American Week. "If [your fellow paratroopers] watch your back on the field, then they'll watch your back overseas," he said.
For units preparing to deploy, the week also has been one of the last chances paratroopers would have to come together as a team to do something fun.
"It's good for everyone to take a break," Clements said. "Especially with the upcoming deployment, it's an opportunity to clear our minds."
Perhaps the most important reason why paratroopers participate in All-American wWeek is because they are proud of the division's legacy.
"It's a tradition," said Army 2nd Lt. Paige Porchia of 782nd BSB's Company A said. "It gives us a sense of honor by doing what those who came before us did. We've held on to our values as a division. Despite the war, we've still set aside time to come together."
Whether paratroopers were calling cadence in a division run, squaring off with other brigades in a game of football or pummeling each other in an unarmed combat tournament, they were building pride in the paratroopers they serve with today and those who came before them.
"There's so much pride being able to say that you've got that patch on your shoulder and those wings on your chest," Schmidt said. "Wherever you go, people will know who you are."
(Army Sgt. Stephen Decatur serves with the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)