By REBEKAH SANDERLIN
Fort Bragg, North Carolina – “When the President dials 911, the phone rings at Fort Bragg,” … and if you’ve ever been stationed at Bragg you’ve heard that, oh, at least 750,000 times. As home to the Army’s Airborne and Special Operations Forces (and a bunch of other units that try to avoid being called “Leg” by Airborne and Special Operations soldiers), Fort Bragg prides itself on consistently maintaining the highest of speeds. What else would you expect from an installation where soldiers sing “Blood on the Risers” as a children’s lullaby? Also, covering more than 250 square miles and parts of four counties, it’s one of the largest military installations in the world. That’s right, the WORLD. Go big or go home — Airborne!
1. “All the Way” is neither directional nor sexual.
When that gate guard greeted you with “All the Way! he or she was using the motto of the 82nd Airborne Division — not hitting on you. You’re in the land of paratroopers, the only division in the Army where everyone — from the cooks to the clerks to the infantry —regularly jumps out of airplanes.
2. “Leg” is not a compliment.
Anyone who has made the mistake of wearing a black beret on post at Bragg can attest to being repeatedly called “Leg.” In case you couldn’t tell, that’s an insult. Hey, no one said paratroopers weren’t cocky.
3. Longstreet. It’s one word.
Yes, it’s a long street. It’s the longest street on Bragg, actually. But it’s named for General Longstreet, so it’s Longstreet not Long Street — proof that whoever designed the post had an excellent sense of humor.
4. The Leaning Sh*t House.
That’s what everyone calls the patch for the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, formerly known as COSCOM, because, well, have you seen the patch?
5. And there’s a Flaming Piss Pot, too.
That’s what everyone calls the patch for the JFKSWCS, also known as “swick”, because, hey, that’s what it looks like.
6. Alice. Who the f@*k is Alice?
When Paddy Gibney sings about Alice, everyone in the crowd yells this back to him, just like they’ve been doing every weekend for about 20 years. Also, maybe it’s just the beer, but a room full of paratroopers singing the National Anthem along with Paddy? It doesn’t get better than that! ‘Merica!
7. Don’t ask “Where do you (or your spouse) work?” Ever.
Bragg is home to Delta Force, 3rd Special Forces Group, Special Forces Command, Joint Special Operations Command and the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. In other words, secret squirrels seem to grow on trees at Bragg. Bragg-ites (We just made up a word!) know better to ask where someone (or their spouse works) because odds are good that the person they’re speaking with will not be comfortable saying and it will just make the conversation awkward.
8. Bragg Boulevard. (Need we say more?)
No matter what time of the day or day of the week, the hookers are out on Bragg Boulevard. Even on Sunday mornings. They’re especially prevalent in the pre-dawn, weekday hours — when all the soldiers are driving in for work. And that really tall one? Not a girl. Tell Jasmine we said “Hi!”
9. Even if you aren’t crazy about Fayetteville, it is passionate about you.
Seriously. Fayetteville LOVES the military, though it can sometimes feel like a psycho, obsessive kind of love. The city calls itself “America’s First Sanctuary City for Military Families” and last year it was named the most patriotic city in the U.S. There are some posts where the locals aren’t fond of the military (looking at you, Schofield Barracks) — Fayetteville is not one of those posts. Also, like a stalker ex, even when you think you’ve moved on, Fayetteville always figures out a way to get you back.
10. But it’s still “Fayette-nam.”
Fayetteville has been “Fayette-nam” since, well, the Vietnam War. Duh. The locals hate the nickname because it’s not really a compliment, but the name won’t go away. Interestingly, “Faye-raq” never took off.
11. Pineland is the keeping it real-ist country that never existed.
Real countries have things like wars and strife and hunger and drama … so much drama. Pineland’s got all of that. And it is hundreds of miles in size, too. It’s even got farmers, pigs and often hostile residents — except the “residents” are all civilians who are paid to be role players, all in the name of training Special Forces soldiers. Mind blown.
12. The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker.
You really love this bird — except for when you really hate this bird.
13. All the windows rattle when the Marines come to town.
When Marines show up for their annual Field Artillery training, they’re like the boom that keeps on booming.
14. “My dad/mom was jumping” is a perfectly legitimate reason for a kid to miss school.
Seriously. The teachers around Bragg all get it. When a parent jumps out of an airplane, the family often shows up to watch. Sometimes it turns into a picnic.
15. Plank Road = Speeding Ticket.
They will get you. Every time. In fact, you aren’t really even at Bragg until you’ve been caught going at least 20 miles over on Plank Road.
16. The Yadkin 500.
Wanna see how fast you can drive a giant duelie down a road with ridiculously narrow lanes? Of course you do! You’re Airborne! Try your luck on the Yadkin 500.
17. The Rockefellers Used to Party Here.
That once-beautiful, now falling apart, mansion that’s just randomly in the woods in the middle of nowhere on post? It’s called Overhills and it was formerly owned by the mega-rich Rockefellers. They and their guests used it as a retreat.
18. Always eat the “conflict food”.
Pick a war, any war. Someone from that country opened a restaurant in Fayetteville and the food in that restaurant is outstanding. German, Korean, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, Panamanian, Colombian — whatever you fancy — it rocks at Bragg.
19. “Hell’s Horseshoe” is off limits to soldiers, and yet it stays open.
Soldiers haven’t been allowed to patronize that U-shaped strip mall (emphasis on the “strip”) on Bragg Boulevard, with Mickey’s as the anchor business and all sorts of dubious others as well, in maybe ever. And yet somehow those businesses don’t close. Hmmm.
20. Everyone in Lumberton is related.
Ever looked in the Lumberton phone book? It’s all Oxendines and Locklears, all the time. Tupac’s mom’s hometown is an interesting place, indeed.
21. And speaking of rapper’s moms — J.Cole’s mom’s house.
You know exactly how to find 2014 Forest Hills Drive.
Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army spouse and a self-described expert on Fort Bragg, after spending nine years living there and working as a reporter for The Fayetteville Observer and editor of Fayetteville’s CityView magazine. She writes the weekly Must-Have Parent column for Military.com.