Green bids farewell as 82nd Airborne welcomes new command sergeant major
By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. (Tribune News Service) | Published: October 27, 2017
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael D. Green didn’t want to stop.
As he helped lead thousands of paratroopers on a run through Fort Bragg, N.C., earlier this week, the senior enlisted adviser of the 82nd Airborne Division lamented the approaching finish line.
“The closer to the finish we got, the more I wanted to keep running,” he said.
Green didn’t need the exercise. Instead, he only hoped to delay what happened Thursday, when he bid farewell to the All Americans during a change-of-responsibility ceremony outside the 82nd Airborne Division headquarters.
“It’s tough just thinking about this,” said Green, the top noncommissioned officer in the 82nd Airborne for the last two-and-a-half years. “All good things must come to an end.”
On the Division patio, with hundreds of soldiers in attendance, Green marked the end of his time with the division as officials welcomed his replacement, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Ferrusi.
Maj. Gen. Erik Kurilla, the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, said the role of command sergeant major was a long-honored and sacred duty.
The job entails maintaining the backbone of the division. It requires someone who is “incredibly competent, physically fit, a role model for all officers, noncommissioned officers and paratroopers, who operates with limited guidance and places unit and others above himself,” Kurilla said. “Green exceeded all of those expectations.”
Ferrusi became the 26th command sergeant major, also known as All American 9, and thanked Green for a seamless transition.
He also thanked Kurilla for giving him the opportunity to join the division.
“Thank you for trusting me to lead, care for and prepare these 18,000 paratroopers for any contingency this great nation asks of us,” Ferrusi said.
Green, who served for two different division commanders, said being the top enlisted paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne was the opportunity of a lifetime.
He said it was even more special to be a part of the division leadership during the 82nd Airborne’s centennial celebration, which ended with the Division Run earlier this week.
“It has definitely been busy,” Green said.
That could be said for the entirety of Green’s time as All American 9.
Shortly after accepting the position in 2015, he deployed with the division headquarters to Iraq for a nine-month deployment.
When he returned, he turned his focus on improving one of the U.S. Army’s most legendary units.
Kurilla said Green was a visionary and change agent who reinvigorated the world-class brand of the 82nd Airborne Division and its warrior culture.
Under his direction, the 82nd Airborne Division embraced its legacy with banners along Fort Bragg streets, returned music to morning physical training on Ardennes Street, opened an obstacle course known as the All American Mile and began airborne integration and leadership courses to further inoculate the division’s culture into its paratroopers.
“He has invested in a cultural awakening and strengthening that will sustain the division for generations,” Kurilla said.
His most lasting legacy, the general said, may be the concept of being a paratrooper for life.
“His impact on the division has been colossal,” Kurilla said. “We see it in the posture of our paratroopers, the eagerness of our young officers to lead this division and the resolve of our noncommissioned officers to always complete the mission and the pride of our paratroopers when they don the beret.”
Green said he lives by that concept.
“I may not be an all American 9 anymore, but I’ll always be a paratrooper for life,” he said.
Green said he hoped to live up to the legends who previously served as the 82nd Airborne’s senior enlisted leader. But at the same time, he said his legacy wasn’t anything he had done or accomplished, but instead those he has worked to develop and mentor in recent years.
“That’s what your legacy is,” he said. “Those that you leave behind.”
In the final days of his tenure, officials said Green continued to teach, mentor and coach soldiers, as he has for most of his career.
On Wednesday night, instead of being home preparing for his last day as division command sergeant major, Green was ensuring paratroopers were ready as part of a no-notice training exercise.
He said he hoped for word that the training might turn into a real mission, which would have offered a reprieve of sorts in a few more days with the 82nd Airborne.
“It sinks in more and more each hour,” he said. “That this is the last time.”
Green’s last jump with the division came last month, near the city of Nijmegen in the Netherlands on the anniversary of the 82nd Airborne’s combat jump into the city as part of Operation Market Garden in World War II.
“I don’t think you get any more special than that,” he said.
Green, who enlisted in the Army in 1992, said that as a young soldier, he never envisioned he would rise through the ranks.
He said he was considering leaving the Army in 1995, when a squad leader instead suggested he transfer to the 82nd Airborne Division.
The All Americans are different, the squad leader told Green. They work at a different pace than others in the Army.
And on Ardennes Street, where most of the division’s soldiers work, Green found a home.
“I liked the culture. I liked the atmosphere,” he said. “I took it one enlistment at a time.”
Over his 25-year Army career, Green has spent 19 years with the 82nd Airborne. Of his seven deployments, six have come while wearing the familiar “AA” patch.
And since joining the division in 1995, he has only left two other times – to attend the Army’s Sergeant Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, and to serve as a battalion command sergeant major at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
“Each time you leave it’s tough. Each time you leave it’s hard,” Green said.
This latest departure is even tougher, he added.
Green will next serve as senior enlisted leader for the Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization in Washington. And for the first time, returning to the division he loves is not an option.
“Even if I come back to Fort Bragg, I’ll never be able to come back to the 82nd Airborne Division,” Green said.
While Green was a lifetime All American, Ferrusi donned the 82nd Airborne Division patch for the first time on Thursday.
Ferrusi most recently served as the senior enlisted leader for U.S. Army Alaska at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska. And Kurilla said he comes to the division with an “incredible resume and an even more incredible reputation” hand selected from dozens of potential leaders.
Kurilla said Ferrusi, who enlisted in 1987, has spent 30 years leading soldiers and 25 in airborne units.
“After his next jump, he’ll become one of the few paratroopers in the Army who has served in every airborne unit,” the general said.
Kurilla said Ferrusi was the right man to build on the legacy to which Green contributed.
“He understands that it is not about us. It is about 18,000 paratroopers wearing the ‘AA’ patch and the maroon beret,” he said.
With the centennial behind them and a new command sergeant major, officials said the division was now writing the first chapters of its second 100 years.
The focus, as always, will be on maintaining readiness and a reputation as the Army’s 9-1-1 force, tasked with deploying anywhere in the world on short notice.
“As our 100th year comes to a close, we know that the storm clouds of conflict are gathering on the horizon,” Kurilla said. “It is not a matter of if the nation will call on this division, it is a matter of when. And we must be ready.”
©2017 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)
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