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More Fort Bragg soldiers headed for Europe

Another 3,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division are deploying amid a growing Russian presence along the Ukraine border.


Frank Schronce, who is a third-generation service member in his family, spent more than two decades in the military after starting out in the early 1970s.

 “It takes you back – memories like this. I’ve been around it all my life,” he said Monday once a long line of soldiers passed by for a troop deployment from Fort Bragg to Europe.

 A commercial airliner, parked on the airfield, waited for the soldiers to board.

The Department of Defense has reported that 3,000 additional troops from Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division have been deploying to Europe over the last few days. Overall, 5,000 soldiers from the installation have been deployed overseas for this engagement.

The most recent group joins 1,700 paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division who previously deployed for Poland and another 300 soldiers with Fort Bragg's 18th Airborne Corps who deployed to Germany.

These 3,000 additional troops have been activated to support NATO allies and partners and respond as needed as U.S. officials warn of ongoing Russian escalation on its borders with Ukraine.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III also is temporarily repositioning 160 troops training Ukraine’s military out of the country, the Department of Defense said Saturday.

Schronce was among a group of 10 people, largely members of the Patriot Guard Riders, who stood just outside Green Ramp on Fort Bragg in two split formations holding U.S. flags for the soldiers who were leaving.

Wearing improved outer tactical vests, the service members toted backpacks, headgear and their weapons.

Schronce said the group he was with would be standing as a celebratory salute to the soldiers through the end of Monday’s deployment. While much of the nation had watched the Super Bowl on Sunday, he said, he spent 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. doing this very same thing.

“It’s giving back,” the 67-year-old Gray’s Creek resident said while standing outside the hangar. “I spent 22 years in the military and came back all safe and sound. This is my way to give back."

On Monday, soldiers awaited their departure from the cavernous Green Ramp. Some of them slept or at least tried to sleep, with aqua-colored blankets wrapped tightly around them. Mostly, the soldiers stood around and talked with each other.

Three men played cards on an overturned cardboard box at one end of the room.

Sgt. Brennan Latham sat on one of the long wooden benches and read a paperback book, “On War,” by Carl von Clausewitz.

"It’s a very intellectual look at war,” said Latham, a 23-year-old Houston native.

This is Latham’s first deployment.

“We’re excited,” he said. “A little bit tired. I’ve been up a bit. I’ve got some books, trying to maintain focus.”

And though there’s a chance that Russia could initiate a war with a possible invasion on Ukraine, Latham said, “Not so worried. It is what it is. I don’t really worry about things beyond my control.”

His family gave him some parting advice when they told him to be careful, to keep his head down. “And not to do anything stupid and make sure I come home," he said.

Spec. Josh Geer, 22, and originally from the small town of Eclectic, Alabama, called it heartbreaking when he had to say goodbye to his wife and four children. He said he will be thinking of them throughout the deployment.

“I signed the dotted line,” he said. “It’s what I signed up for.”

Also experiencing his first deployment, Geer said he wasn’t really nervous or scared. “It really doesn't matter to me. When they say it’s time to go, it’s time to go.”

Geer spent 2 ½ years in the Army National Guard before joining the active-duty Army in February 2021.

“Overall, I like it,” he said. “I can’t see myself doing anything else. It’s not really just a job; it’s more like a career for me.”

First Lt. Haley Brummett, who is 24 and from Greenville, South Carolina, was also among those waiting inside the terminal area.

“I’m real excited to go over there and see what I do,” she said. “I’m with a new team working together. I think this will be a good experience. I should get a lot of knowledge. I’ve never been deployed before. I’m interested in seeing how it all goes."

She said that personally, she’s a little worried should the end game for Russia result in conflict. Her family, too, worries for her but at the same time, she said they are excited for her.

“I think anything’s possible,” Brummett said. “Just have to wait and see.”

She’s the youngest in her family. She has a brother in the Navy, and he gave her some advice on what to expect.

"The USO and other organizations have been nice, giving us food and pillows," she said. "I’m happy to see that kind of support. Just anxious, just excited to see what the deployment is all about.”

That kind of support is what Schronce, the Patriot Guard Rider, would have liked to have seen when he and his father returned home from Vietnam. Instead, many of the soldiers from that controversial conflict drew indifference, even rage, over the fact that they fought for the United States in the Vietnam War.

That’s why Schronce said he would be standing out in the cold -- holding a U.S. flag for those who were leaving their homes, wives, husbands, family and friends -- for the military task ahead.

“This is my way,” Schronce said, “to give back.”

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Fort Bragg, 82nd Airborne Division, Europe, deployment, Green Ramp, Russia, Ukraine