Paratroopers Compete to Be Named Best at Fort Bragg Competition

A CH-47 Chinook from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade lands at Latham Drop Zone during the Little Group of Paratroopers event of All American Week, Fort Bragg, N.C. May 23. (U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman/ 82nd CAB PAO)
A CH-47 Chinook from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade lands at Latham Drop Zone during the Little Group of Paratroopers event of All American Week, Fort Bragg, N.C. May 23. (U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman/ 82nd CAB PAO)

Chinook blades chopped through the overcast sky over Fort Bragg as paratroopers floated to the ground.

Once the soldiers hit the ground, they ran into action. They had a matter of minutes to gather their parachutes and sprint to their assembly point to receive their next orders.

It's no different than what's expected of them every day, but during All American Week, paratroopers were fighting to prove they are the best in the 82nd Airborne Division.

It's known as the Little Group of Paratroopers Competition, and it tests how quickly and accurately soldiers prepare their equipment, complete an airborne operation and meet at an assembly point in their little groups. Nine-man teams represented 20 units across the 82nd Airborne Division.

Time was added as penalties for errors. The fastest team would be named the best Little Group of Paratroopers.

About halfway through Monday's competition, Staff Sgt. Marcus Sylvester's team -- made up of infantrymen from 1st Brigade Combat Team's 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment -- was leading.

He wasn't surprised. In fact, Sylvester said he was confident they would win.

"This is what we do every day," he said.

Sylvester, who has deployed twice to Afghanistan to conduct patrols and escorts, takes pride in his skills and those of his soldiers to accomplish tasks when they are called upon. The infantryman said his skills have grown each of his last six years, and he enjoys watching his soldiers improve.

"Just seeing them succeed is rewarding," he said.

Spc. Jesse Autry, an infantryman and native of Fayetteville, was the fourth person on his team from 2nd Brigade Combat Team's 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, to make it to the assembly point.

Growing up in the backyard of the nation's largest Army base meant he was constantly surrounded by maroon berets -- and he knew he wanted to be one some day. He said he takes pride in serving with paratroopers who push each other to improve.

Even though he was in school for the past month, Autry said the skills tested in the competition are tested every day. He said he's confident in his team's abilities.

"It's all a competition, but no matter what, you endure that experience together," he said.

Sgt. Shea Myatt, an infantryman for 2nd Brigade Combat Team's 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, said he's proud to serve with the storied 82nd Airborne Division. The competition this year was an ideal way to showcase the unique skills of the division's paratroopers, he said.

"We're very good at airfield seizure," Myatt said, talking about his paratroopers.

At the end of the day, the 1st Brigade Combat Team's 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment was the winner, completing the timed portion of the competition in 21 minutes, 38 seconds, officials said.

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