For the first time, the Airborne and Special Operations Museum Foundation is hosting the Legacy Ball on May 21. The Airborne and Special Operations Museum, established in 2000, “captures, preserves, exhibits, and presents the material culture and heritage of the U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations Forces from 1940 and into the future. The Museum celebrates over 80 years of Army Airborne and Special Operations history and honors our nation’s soldiers — past, present, and future,” according to the museum website.
The event has been designed to celebrate the history of Airborne and Special Operations soldiers. The guest list will include distinguished guests of honor, Medal of Honor Recipient, Master Sgt. (Ret.) Leroy Petry, and Lt. Gen. Christopher Donahue, Commanding General 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.
“Our guests will hear stories of bravery and courage from two very impactful distinguished guests of honor. It is my hope that they are inspired to support our endeavor to improve our visitor experience and educate future generations through our Honoring America’s Heroes capital campaign,” said Renee Lane, ASOMF executive director.
Donahue is recognized as the last American soldier to leave the country during the 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan. Petry, who received the Medal of Honor in 2011, was the second living recipient of the medal and was recognized for his actions in Afghanistan in 2008.
The event dress code is black tie or military equivalent, and the evening has been organized to match the glam attire. Catered by Elliotts on Linden, a Pinehurst restaurant that boasts “refined, imaginative dishes made with local ingredients, and global wines.”
The evening’s menu includes an appetizer, salad, steak and scallop entrée and dessert; there is a vegetarian option. Attendees will also enjoy a cocktail hour and flag presentation by Vann Morris, a combat veteran, orator and motivational speaker.
The 82nd Airborne Division All American Chorus will perform, and a bourbon bar, cigar station and fire pit will also be offered. The event will conclude with dancing.
In addition to fine dining and drink, there will be a silent auction supporting the ASOMF. Event check-in begins at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are limited and are only available in advance. Tickets are $250 or $400 for two tickets; member tickets are $150; active-duty military tickets, which include a plus one, are $200; tables of eight are available for $2500 or $2000 for museum friends; tables for four outdoors are $1500.
To purchase a ticket or table, visit www.asomf.org or call 910-643-2778.
Fort Bragg’s Smith Lake Beach's opening weekend is scheduled Friday, May 27, until Monday, May 30.
The fun-filled weekend will feature themed days, giveaways, games and plenty of activities for the whole family.
On FREEdom Friday, the first 500 guests can enjoy free entry and a meal. SUPER Saturday will feature water slides, bouncers and games.
Those visiting on Sunday Fun Day can check out local food trucks and participate in family-fun games. Giveaways and more fun activities will conclude the weekend on Memorial Day.
New to the lake this year is an inflatable aqua park with over 40 elements and a 1/4 mile long Ski Rixen, which pulls wakeboarders, water skiers and knee boarders.
While family fun is undoubtedly high up on the list for an epic Memorial Day weekend, safety takes the top spot.
“The beach is, well — a beach,” said James Day, chief of outdoor recreation, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
“It has very little shade, so be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and you just might want to bring a sun hat.”
Though Smith Lake Beach does have lifeguards on duty, parents are responsible for their children.
Any ID card holder under the age of 13 must be accompanied by an adult guardian 18 years of age or older. Patrons 7 and under must be within arm’s reach of an adult guardian 18 years of age or older at all times. Children are allowed to wear Coast Guard-approved life vests in the water. After destruction from Hurricane Matthew, Smith Lake was closed from 2016 until 2020. The park is now open seven days a week to the public. Although Smith Lake is on Fort Bragg, only certain areas are restricted to DoD ID cardholders.
“Because of its location, tucked away in the pine trees of Fort Bragg, you can enjoy the outdoors without having to travel too far,” said Sharilyn Wells, Fort Bragg spokesperson. “Smith Lake Recreation Area really has everything.”
Smith Lake Recreation Area is a popular location for military and civilian families alike. The 200-acre park features picnic areas, grills, playgrounds, camping, fishing and trails for hiking or biking.
“As the garrison, it is our job to provide our community with holistic ways to improve and maintain mental and physical health,” said Col. Scott Pence, Fort Bragg garrison commander. “Smith Lake is just one of the many facilities that offer service members and their families options for an overall better quality of life.”
The fun kicks off at 11 a.m. and those coordinating the event are excited to get the party started.
“When visitors leave, I hope they say, ‘What a great day! I cannot wait to come back again,’” Day told Up & Coming Weekly. “We hope the time they spend at Smith Lake is enjoyable, and we’d also like them to spread the word. Smith Lake will be a great place to cool off from the summer heat and enjoy time together.”
Smith Lake Beach is open only to DoD Id cardholders and their guests.
Current access fees for swimming are $5 for guests aged 12 and older and $3 for those 11 and younger.
Soldiers regularly arrive at Camp Mackall to undertake what has been deemed one of the most stringent selection processes in the U.S. Army. They show up, set aside rank and unit, are organized alphabetically by last name, and embrace 21-days of “suck.” The Special Forces Assessment and Selection process is a grueling one. But it is only the beginning. Those selected then enter the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and attend the Special Forces Qualification Course, where they are met with challenges and learning opportunities that will, if they persevere, deliver them to the ranks of some of America's most elite soldiers.
Many of these soldiers do not arrive to the Q-Course alone; they arrive with their spouses and families in tow.
Several of those spouses signed up for a unique opportunity to walk in their partner's footsteps, even if only for an afternoon on Wednesday, May 4.
This is the second year the Spouse Q-Course, organized by JFKSWCS and Orient, Navigate, Employ, Train, Educate, Advise and Mentor (O.N.E. T.E.A.M.), has been offered. DeeAnn Rader, the JFKSWCS family resiliency coordinator, explained that the event took on a life of its own, with spaces filling up very quickly.
“There was huge interest,” Rader explained.
One participant signed up to gain insight into what her husband was experiencing and to meet new people.
“I signed up mainly to get the experience he went through, and the second thing was to meet other wives, other spouses,” said Ashton, whose husband is in the Special Forces Delta (Medic) Q-Course.
The day began with a briefing on the events planned for the day. After being separated into groups, the spouses rotated through different modules, each representing some form of the training their partners have experienced or will be experiencing on their journey to becoming Green Berets.
Arriving in a caravan of white buses, participants disembarked at the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) training facility at Camp Mackall.
At the SERE facility and under the instruction of the school's cadre, the spouses were introduced to forms of makeshift weaponry such as atlatls, an ancient style of spear, and wooden bows. Each took a turn with the weapons while learning skills and details similar to what their spouses are taught when they attend the SERE school.
After demonstrating the construction and use of the weapons, the instructor explained that the weapons help the soldiers feed themselves in austere conditions.
“Now we have something we can kill with, with a lot more accuracy,” a cadre member said. After learning how to create an active means to feed themselves through weaponry, the spouses took a stroll through a winding path of preset snares and traps.
“In Vietnam, one of their [Prisoners of War] main sources of protein was trapping,” an instructor explained. “When they [soldiers] are out evading and need to feed the machine, these are some of the techniques we teach them.”
Beginning with Figure Four, a baited trap, the SERE instructor explained how each trap could help a soldier survive.
“This is a baited trap, and as we tell y'all's husbands you need to catch the nose first,” he said. As explained to the participants, each trap on display has a particular mechanism designed to target specific types of prey and each trap or snare works best when placed in the right environment.
“It's got to be in the right area,” he explained.
After learning about trapping and snares, it was time to learn about the other wildlife that can make or break a soldier's survival chances. Entering the Little Muddy Training Area, a classroom with stadium seating and a wall of primarily venomous snakes, another SERE instructor welcomed the participants.
“This is the survival training area,” explained a member of the SERE cadre. “This is the first-place students come before they continue on in the SERE pipeline. We set the ground rules for everything we need to be able to survive behind enemy lines.”
After a joke or two about escaped snakes, civilian instructor John Breach, originally from the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), taught the visiting spouse-students about the different types of snakes on display. While most were dangerous, one of the menagerie was a harmless corn snake that was passed around to the participants. Some squealed, some faced fears, and some handled the serpent like old pros.
As the participants filed out of the facility, they were greeted by the “Roadkill Café.” Two types of meat were presented on a grill over a smoking firepit. Each pile of meat was accompanied by the corresponding creature's leg to help identify which was deer and which was goat. Cadre offered the teams of spouses small portions of both to sample.
One of the spouses asked about food preparation techniques.
“If there is one thing we stress, there is no medium rare with wild game,” explained the Roadkill Café chef as spouses collected their samplings. “You thoroughly cook it and then boil it until it's nice and tender and then I cut it up, put it over the fire and let the smoke take care of it.”
After grabbing a piece of each Roadkill Café offering, the students assembled on bleachers to learn all about fire.
Christopher Kibler, a civilian instructor, asked the attendees, “What is our goal here?”
In unison, they responded, “Survival.”
Kibler rattled off a long list of pros and cons of fire and showed his audience what wood to burn and how to create fire with a mix of unexpected tools, including household batteries. Kibler explained that while fire is essential, they teach soldiers it has a time and a place.
“It provides that psychological boost. You know, you're staring at the old Ranger television, and it makes you feel good,” Kibler said. “The problem is you're staring at this [fire], and you don't see who is staring back at you. So, fire gives you that psychological boost, but it also gives you a false sense of security.”
After the group fire course, the spouses broke for a lunch of Meals, Ready-to-Eat.
Next up, the spouses encountered an obstacle course of legendary proportions. The Nasty Nick obstacle course is a rite of passage for would-be Green Berets. The course is named for Col. James “Nick” Rowe, who was held captive during the Vietnam War and was one of only 34 American POWs to escape his captors. He spent five years in captivity. Rowe is credited with developing the SERE program from the knowledge he gained as a POW.
The course comprises more than 20 obstacles and stretches for a mile through the Camp Mackall woodlands. As the participants navigated the course, they called out words of support and coached one another over difficult hurdles. Michelle, who is an Army veteran herself, said she did not train before the event.
“I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” she said.
At the third obstacle, she was feeling the difficulty of the task.
“I am winded, and I am nervous to see what's next.”
However, the experience has been a positive one.
“My biggest takeaway is how fortunate we, and I am, to be able to come out and do something like this. And to just be around an awesome group of people, not just the spouses but the cadre and the service members themselves. That they're taking their time to do this for us and teach us these things, give us this boost of confidence,” Michelle said.
Rader explains that the teams have built a strong connection by the end of the event.
“You can see the interaction build, and you see how throughout the day they encourage one another, and they build on one another's strength,” she said. Rader said that she feels this event exemplifies how the Special Operations community works hard to support soldiers and their families.
“SOF World is an awesome enterprise that focuses on the health and wellness of the whole family; this is just one of these examples that we take pride in of taking care of our soldiers and the families. Families are very important, and I think that is a great experience for all of the spouses to be able to have,” Rader said.
Ashton was excited about going home to share her experience with her husband.
“It was a blast,” she said. “We are going to sit down and talk about every single obstacle, and I am going to try to remember every instructor's name and say, ‘do you know this guy’ and ‘do you know this guy?’”
She said that her feedback for the organizers is simple, “Keep doing it … Keep doing and providing things like this.”
The Von Karman Line, or "the edge of space," is only sixty-two miles above sea level. For those living in the Sandhills, the great frontier will get even closer with the Grand-Reopening of Fayetteville State University's Planetarium on May 15.
Closed since 2017, when major renovations to the Charles A. Lyons Science Building began, the planetarium has received some major upgrades during the hiatus.
"Our university prioritized making sure the planetarium was a part of the renovation process," said Dr. Jonathan Breitzer, assistant professor of Chemistry and Planetarium director. In addition to new seating, the planetarium boasts ten new projectors, a high-resolution computerized system that captures the deep black of space and a 6500-watt sound system for an experience that's truly out of this world.
Planetarium Manager and Instructor of Astronomy Joseph Kabbes was brought on board just as the planetarium closed its doors and was hugely instrumental in its extreme makeover.
"With the old system, we could only show the stars from earth due to the mechanical limits of the projector," explained Breitzer. The projector ran on gears; you'd have to calibrate it to make sure Mercury was in the right spot. Everything is calculated with the new computerized system, and we're not just confined to the earth. We can go to different planets; we can even go outside the galaxy."
Breitzer, who ran the planetarium alone for six years before Kabbes was hired, feels the planetarium is essential in maintaining the connection between the community and FSU and called it a "great public service."
"Historically, the planetarium has been a way to connect people with our university and get them interested in science," said Breitzer. "It's been here since the 1980s, but not many people knew about it. We reached out to schools and homeschool groups and it's grown from there."
"When I was five years old, in Chicago, I couldn't wait to go to the planetarium as soon as I was old enough to get in. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, and it made me want to be a scientist. I want to be able to give that back," Breitzer explained.
To further capitalize on the planetarium's wow factor, the date for its grand re-opening corresponds with a major astronomical event: May 15 is the night of a lunar eclipse.
The partial eclipse will begin at 10:27 p.m., with totality occurring at 11:29 p.m. The planetarium will have telescopes available to view the event, and even those without show tickets are more than welcome to join. Breitzer shared a few tips for guests to observe before arriving at the planetarium: "Like any theater experience, try to remain quiet during the presentation, put away cell phones." Ultimately, Bretitzer hopes people arrive ready to be amazed and leave with more knowledge about our place in the cosmos.
"I know I've failed as a teacher if there aren't lots of hands in the air after a presentation," Breitzer joked. "Bring your questions, your curiosity and your sense of wonder. It's a place where everyone is valued, and where everyone is treated as a scientist.
Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children and can be purchased on the planetarium's website, www.uncfsu.edu/community/planetarium. The planetarium is located at W.T Brown Drive in the Charles A. Lyons Science Building on FSU's campus.
It's springtime in the Sandhills. The local flora is alive with color, and it's a perfect time to grow something beautiful. For those born without a green thumb — not to worry; the Cape Fear Botanical Garden is here to help. The second annual Gardenmania event returns to the Cape Fear Botanical Garden on Saturday, May 14, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, Gardenmania made its debut in the spring of 2021 with great success. This year promises to be "bigger and better," said Meghan Woolbright, marketing director at Cape Fear Botanical Garden.
Fayetteville is a city that shows a lot of love for its local musicians, artisans and makers of all kinds. Gardenmania brings the same exciting energy to a skill set that's perhaps not celebrated enough.
“Our Director of Events and Marketing, Sheila Hanrick, wanted to create a signature event that would give a festival-type atmosphere celebrating all things gardening; thus, Gardenmania was born. Anyone interested in learning more about gardening, art, birds and sustainable living will have a blast!” Woolbright told Up & Coming Weekly.
Designed as a garden symposium, participants can look forward to a slew of activities that both enrich and educate throughout the day. From those who feel right at home in their flower beds to those who aren’t sure how to get started, Gardenmania has a wealth of knowledge to sow.
Gardenmania will have several presentations and workshops to entice advanced and novice gardeners alike. Participants can sign up for camellia pruning demonstrations, berry gardening, make/take herb garden, DIY bird feeder and create/take sculpted daylily canvas, to name a few.
Woolbright is especially excited for this year's keynote speaker, Bryce Lane. Lane is a professor of horticulture at North Carolina State University and the former host of the Emmy Award-winning show “In the Garden with Bryce Lane.” Professor Lane will be leading a special workshop on container gardening for those who sign up. One lucky garden visitor will win his creation in a raffle.
In addition, Amber Williams, park ranger supervisor at Lake Rim Park, will be leading a table talk about bird watching.
Guests wishing to attend workshops like “Build Your Own Bird Feeder,” “Make and Take Your Own Herb Garden” or “Daylily Canvas Painting” will need to select “add-on” when pre-purchasing tickets on Eventbrite.
For those simply wanting to enjoy a lovely day outside, Gardenmania is ripe with things to do. New this year, the Cape Fear Botanical Garden will have a plant sale, and Sustainable Sandhill's Farmer's Market will be in attendance with locally made crafts and produce.
Gardenmania is a family-friendly event, and there will be plenty of activities to keep the kiddos entertained. Pond dipping, a scavenger hunt, a seed table and farm animals provided by Sweet Valley Ranch ensure a variety of fun for all ages in attendance.
No day of education, entertainment and fellowship would be complete without good food. Gardenmania will have local fares such as The Walking Crab Food Truck, Hollywood Java, Lady and the Frank and Tropical Sno on-site to assist in that aim. Several vendors will also have food and drinks to sell. While fun and camaraderie are a priority on May 14, Woolbright expressed her passion for the value of this event to the community and its long-term benefits to those in attendance.
“Gardenmania is about educational opportunities, social interaction and an awareness of gardening and sustainability. Gardening teaches a person reliability, self-confidence, curiosity, teamwork, patience and so much more. These are all important traits that all people must have to be successful. Being able to experience growing from seed to harvest is a memory that will last a lifetime.” Founded in 1989, Cape Fear Botanical Garden has been an “urban oasis” within the hustle and bustle of downtown Fayetteville. Popular among tourists and locals alike, the Cape Fear Botanical Garden strives to evoke a sense of wonder and a deep appreciation for the beauty of nature.
“Whether it's the chosen venue for your engagement, wedding, maternity photoshoot, baby shower or your child's first birthday party, Cape Fear Botanical Garden is where memories are created,” said Woolbright. Gardenmania, and events like it, speak to Cape Fear Botanical Garden's desire to not only educate their guests but inspire them as well.
“At the end of the day, I hope people feel encouraged and excited to learn more about gardening through the activities and workshops we offered,” said Woolbright. “I hope visitors find gardening to be a new hobby that relieves their mind, body and soul. I also want there to be an anticipation for the next Gardenmania!”
“There's always something blooming here at Cape Fear Botanical Garden, twelve months out of the year. Whether it be our camellias in winter, the tulips in spring, sunflowers in summer, or the ginger lilies in the fall.”
The Cape Fear Botanical Garden's homepage boldly proclaims, “Nature is the Poetry of Earth.” With events like Gardenmania and their continued role as an educational resource, Cape Fear Botanical Garden ensures earth's poetry is heard.
Gardenmania is free for members. $10 for non-members. Non-member children's tickets for ages 6-12 are $5. All children under five are free. When pre-purchasing tickets, workshops require an “add-on” before checkout.