Ft. Bragg Stories: An American Homefront Special

An hour of storytelling about life on and around Fort Bragg, N.C.  Recorded live at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, N.C.

North Carolina is home to the largest U.S. military installation in the world by population. Ft. Bragg employs more than 50,000 military personnel and close to 30,000 civilians.

The base also has a long and storied history. It was built in 1918 as an artillery training ground, and it later became home to the 82nd Airborne Division and U.S. Army Special Forces.

To commemorate a century of life at Ft. Bragg, WUNC is partnering with The Fayetteville Observer and the American Homefront Project to collect first-person accounts of life on and around the base.

As part of the project, WUNC hosted a live storytelling event Nov. 4, 2017 at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum near the base. Four storytellers -- two active duty soliders and two veterans - shared their stories of life in the Army.

Ft. Bragg storytellers Bill Wadford, Judy 'Yoli' Betancourt, Tom McCollum, and Phil Sussman.
Credit Matt Couch / American Homefront

The Storytellers

Major Bill Wadford, U.S. Army, Retired, was working as a nurse with the 5th MASH unit in 1989 when he got the call to deploy for Operation Just Cause in Panama. In a matter of hours, he went from the operating room at Womack Army Hospital in North Carolina to a surgical tent at the end of a runway in Panama, waiting for combat wounded to roll in.

Master Sergeant Judy "Yoli" Betancourt has served in the Army for more than 23 years. It's a job she loves, but it comes at a personal cost. Since the birth of her son, she's fought to balance motherhood with her lifelong dedication to military service.

Major Tom McCollum, U.S. Army, Retired, is a Fayetteville native, born at Fort Bragg. He joined the Army to see the world, but by a twist of fate ended up spending the bulk of his military and civilian careers at Bragg. Along the way he's learned to negotiate complex relationships, both personal and professional.

Captain Phil Sussman, U.S. Army, is a former Scout Platoon Leader, currently in the Special Operations training pipeline at Fort Bragg. Two years ago, a training accident involving a soldier he knew only briefly changed his life.

Our storytellers were coached by Jeff Polish from The Monti.  Funding  from the Bob Woodruff Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.