During peacetime, our soldiers train for the worst situations of war and hope for the best outcomes of their safe return when war threatens on the horizon. With everything going on in the Middle East, the tensions are flaring between America and Iran.
Iraq has added additional tension because they want American troops to leave. Fort Bragg, North Carolina’s 82nd Airborne Infantry, is the most recent soldiers to deploy to the Middle East as 600 more troops are added to the 3,500 soldiers deployed.
All made their last calls to their loved ones, packed up their rifles, ammunition, and gear while handing over their cell phones. Others gave blood in preparation for the worst. All soldiers head to Kuwait for their first stop, then sent to undisclosed locations afterward.
As they departed, one soldier cheered, “We’re going to war, bro!” For many of these brave young men, it will be their first experience to put forth what their training has taught them.
Just a few days after President Trump ordered the strike and the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, the ideas of fresh conflict have set excitement, fears, and anticipation of what the outcomes could be. The last time the United States Army’s 82nd Airborne Division was deployed was right after the Hati 2010 earthquake to give assistance.
U.S. Army Major General James Mingus, the 82nd Airborne’s commander, went through the wave of camouflage shaking hands with all the men and women departing and wished them all good luck.
Many of the soldiers were not surprised when they got the news the Commander in Chief ordered the division to deploy. One soldier said, “I was just watching the news, seeing how things were going over there. Then I got a text message from my sergeant saying, ‘Don’t go anywhere.’ And that was it.”
Before departing, the reality of the risk set in after breakfast. The soldiers were fed with oatmeal, sausages, eggs, waffles, and 1,000 doughnuts. Then the base chapel was filled with soldiers who wished to get their souls right for a possible war.
President Trump stated he ordered the killing of the Iranian general to stop a war and stop any further acts of terrorism, which the general was notorious. The intention was never to start a war with Iran, but all expectations happened when Iran retaliated Tuesday evening, American time. Iran attacked two of Iraq’s military bases, which housed American troops. The anticipation of what would happen next grew even more for the American people and the soldiers.
The older soldiers in their 30s and 40s were calmer as they were well aware of what was to come should a war break out. They have seen their friends and comrades come home with limbs missing or the ultimate sacrifice of coming home in a flag-draped coffin. A retired Army veteran, Brian Knight, stated, “This is the mission, man. They’re answering America’s 911 call. They’re stoked to go. The president called for the 82nd.”
Lieutenant Colonel Mike Burns, an Army spokesman told reporters, “While members of the unit considered the most mobile in the U.S. Army are used to quick deployments, this was different. The guys are excited to go, but none of us know how long they’ll be gone. That’s the toughest part.” Burns added, “We’re an infantry brigade. Our primary mission is ground fighting. This is as real as it gets.”
According to Reuters, “For every fighter, there were seven support crew members shipping out: cooks, aviators, mechanics, medics, chaplains, and transportation and supply managers. All but the chaplains would carry guns to fight.”
A 34-year-old senior master sergeant was heard in the background, calling out names as the responses from the crowd of soldiers yelled out, “yups, heres, and yos.” The sergeant continued to speak, “The Army is an all-volunteer force. We want to do this. You pay your taxes, and we get to do this.” He added, “The reality of deployment won’t sink in until you walk out that door.” As he said it, he pointed to the exit to where the C-17 and C-5 transport planes along with two commercial contract jets were waiting for boarding.
The sergeant explained to reporters he was headed with his family to Walt Disney World when he got the call. He said, “We just got there, and I got the call to turn right around and head back to base. My wife knows the drill. I had to go. We drove right back.”