Fort Bragg | April 15, 2019
Sgt. Deanna Orallo has been a soldier for more than 10 years.
She was among the hundreds of Fort Bragg soldiers and airmen gathered Monday to hear from first lady Melania Trump and second lady Karen Pence during a tour of the military installation.
The two, along with Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, landed at Pope Army Airfield about 11:15 a.m. and spent about four hours at Fort Bragg. During that time they met with troops, visited a school and learned about the special operations community.
Orallo, who is with the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, said it meant a lot for the women to visit.
“It’s rewarding, very motivating, that somebody that high up is going to take time out of their busy schedules to speak to the families, especially the kids,” said Orallo, mother of a 6-year-old son. “To hear that (one of their stops) was the middle school, that was touching that they took the time out of the schedule to say that hi and say thank you and give the recognition of everything that we go through”
Trump, Pence and Esper were greeted by Gen. Michael Garrett, commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, and his wife; Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s leader, and his wife; Maj. Gen. Brian McKiernan, deputy commander of the 18th Airborne Corps; Theresa LaCamera, wife of Lt. Gen. Paul LaCamera, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps who is deployed; and Carmen Albertson, wife of Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Albertson, who also is deployed with the 18th Airborne Corps.
Fort Bragg is home to many of the nation’s quick reaction forces, including elite special operations forces, the 82nd Airborne Division and the 18th Airborne Corps. It is home to approximately 54,000 troops, the most in the U.S. military.
Trump, Pence and Esper immediately were taken to sit in on a briefing and to observe demonstrations of special operations capabilities.
They also toured the post’s facilities and received a briefing on the selection and training of special operations service members. Media were not allowed to attend that part of the visit.
Later, Trump and Pence visited more than 150 students at Albritton Middle School to observe the Month of the Military Child.
Students wearing red, white and blue school uniforms cheered and clapped as Trump and Pence walked into the crowed gymnasium.
They also sang a song and asked questions.
“How have your lives changed after becoming first and second ladies of these United States, and how will these changes impact your life going forward?” student Elanor Sullivan asked.
Trump said it’s balancing responsibilities she had before her husband took office with her new responsibilities. But, the first lady said, she would not change anything.
“I will always shine a light on children and (the) next generation,” Trump said, sharing that her Be Best initiative encourages children to be the best at everything they do, challenge themselves and be positive.. “I’m here to spread positivity and confidence in all of you.”
Pence said she considers it a privilege to be able to “elevate” causes they feel passionate about.
After the stop at the school, Trump and Pence visited with about 200 soldiers and a few spouses in a packing shed at Fort Bragg’s Green Ramp.
Soldiers had phones out to record video of the speeches and crowded around Trump to take photos.
While introducing Pence, Esper said her 25 years as an educator makes it fitting that she visited Fort Bragg.
“Mrs. Pence’s educational background and understanding of military life provided her with a unique perspective, and we are proud that she and the first lady chose to be here with us today,” Esper said.
Pence thanked the soldiers and Air Force airmen for their sacrifices to the nation.
“I can say without a doubt that the strength of the nation does not just come from those of you in uniform,” she told the crowd. “And don’t get me wrong, we appreciate you and we appreciate that you fight to protect our freedoms. But the spouses and families who serve alongside also make tremendous sacrifices to the great benefit of our country.”
While introducing Trump, Pence said the first lady is compassionate and dedicated to the nation’s children. She also said they had assembled comfort kits for service members who were deployed overseas during the holiday season.
Trump said visits to military installations remind her of the “costs of freedom.”
“On behalf of this country, the president and I stand with each man and woman in uniform serving to defend all of us,” she said.
She said her heart goes out to military spouses.
“I’m sure there is nothing more difficult to bear than to watch a loved one leave the safety and comfort of home to fight in dark and dangerous places around the world,” Trump said.
Orallo, whose husband also is in the Army, said Trump’s and Pence’s comments resonated with her.
“They nailed it on the head when they talked about having to say goodbye to loved ones when they leave — that struck home,” Orallo said. “My husband and I are both active duty, multiple overseas tours between both of us.”
Staff writer Rachael Riley