By Henry Cuningham
Taps sounded Friday afternoon for retired Command Sgt. Maj. William McBride Jr., who spent the most consecutive years as the 82nd Airborne Division's top noncommissioned officer.
Retired Lt. Gen. James H. Johnson Jr. eulogized his former division command sergeant major as "a one-of-a-kind paratrooper."
"There won't be another Bill McBride," Johnson said.
Johnson and McBride were at the division's helm during the 1989 Panama invasion. Eight months later, McBride put off retirement to stay with the division during the deployment to Saudi Arabia in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. His funeral came 20 years after the 82nd was participating in the first Persian Gulf War, dubbed Operation Desert Storm by the military.
McBride was "my right arm ... my jump buddy," Johnson said. McBride never hesitated to tell an officer what he needed to know, Johnson said.
His flag-draped casket was rolled into the chapel of Rogers and Breece Funeral Home. The music for the ceremony was a recording of Frank Sinatra's "My Way." At the end of the service, the doors opened and paratroopers outside fired rifle volleys in McBride's honor.
Inside the chapel was a who's who of the leadership of the 82nd Airborne Division in recent decades. Mourners at the funeral included retired Gens. James J. Lindsay and Dan K. McNeill and retired Command Sgts. Maj. Steve Slocum, Charlie Thorpe, Steve England and Felix Acosta.
McBride died Sunday morning at Fort Bragg's Womack Army Medical Center. He was 72 years old.
Interment will be at Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery at 2 p.m. Monday.
His tenure as the 82nd division command sergeant major spanned from 1984 to 1991. He spent more consecutive years as the 82nd's command sergeant major than any other person, but he is second in the amount of time to John Pearce, who held the position twice, from 1968 to 1971 and 1973 to 1978. Pearce died last year.
Johnson said McBride spent 27 years in the 82nd Airborne Division, more than 34 years in the Army, 15 years as a command sergeant major and eight years as a division command sergeant major.
The Philadelphia native was the 82nd's top NCO under five commanding generals, including three years with Johnson. He also served under Edward L. Trobaugh, Bobby B. Porter, John W. Foss and Carl W. Stiner.
"No one is likely to ever do that again," Johnson said.
In a 1991 interview upon his retirement as the 82nd Airborne command sergeant major, McBride said: "We ask our soldiers to look better, salute better, to be more physically fit and to be ready to go in 18 hours. They have to run farther, shoot better and meet higher standards."
McBride also was command sergeant major of the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea.
The 2nd Infantry Division sends combat patrols with live ammunition into Korea's Demilitarized Zone but "nobody knows anything about them," McBride said. "Everybody knows about the 82nd Airborne Division."
During his Army career, McBride went with the 82nd to the revolt-torn Dominican Republic in 1965 and on riot-control duty in U.S. cities during the 1960s. He was in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in 1966-67 and a Military Assistance Command-Vietnam adviser team in 1968-69.
"Job well done, be thou at peace, airborne!" Johnson said