Fort Bragg will be sending an additional 2,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division and the 18th Airborne Corps to Europe over the next few days, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby announced Wednesday.
Roughly 1,700 of those troops will deploy from the 82nd Airborne Division and another 300 will deploy from the 18th Airborne Corps, Kirby said.
The 82nd Airborne Division is deploying "components of an infantry brigade combat team and key enablers'' to Poland; the 18th Airborne Corps is moving a "joint-task-force-capable headquarters'' to Germany, Kirby said during a news conference.
Though the overall mission involves the United States and its NATO allies, the Fort Bragg-based soldiers will be going under U.S. command, he said. Gen. Tod D. Wolters, who is NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, will be the top of the chain of command for those troops.
“As the secretary said, the United States stands shoulder to shoulder with our NATO allies,” Kirby said of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. “The situation demands that we reinforce the deterrent and defensive posture on NATO’s eastern flank. President (Joe) Biden has been clear that the United States will respond to the growing threat to Europe's security stability.''
Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops along the border of Ukraine, fueling fears of an invasion. It has denied any intention to attack.
Messages left with the public affairs offices of the 82nd Airborne Division and 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg were not immediately returned Wednesday.
The moves announced Wednesday are in addition to the 8,500 military troops who last week were placed on a heightened preparedness to deploy to Ukraine should Russia invade that nation, Kirby said.
Those troops have not been activated, he said.
In addition to those 8,500 U.S. forces already placed on prepared-to-deploy orders, he said, the secretary is prepared to deploy additional troops as a U.S. decision.
“I’m not prepared to go into detail about that today,” he said. “When, and if, we are able to speak to future movements, we will speak to future movements. We will be as transparent with you as we possibly can. We also need to be a little careful with the amount of detail we put out there ahead of time.”
Soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division and the 18th Airborne Corps out of Fort Bragg are among the 8,500 military troops who were placed on high readiness for possible deployment.
Although Kirby said the Fort Bragg soldiers are expected to start leaving for Europe in the next few days, he did not have a specific timeline.
He was asked if any of the troops, specifically from the 82nd Airborne Division, might be brought into Ukraine to help with a non-combat evacuation.
“As I think you heard the secretary say on Friday, our troops are multi-mission capable and they will be prepared for a range of contingencies. And I won’t go any further than that," Kirby replied.
He also was asked if that capability was one of the reasons the 82nd Airborne Division was identified as one of the units to go forward early.
“They are, as you know, already a ready force,” Kirby said. “They are already at a heightened state of alert. That’s the reason for that force. They are multi-mission capable. They can do a lot of things. They are a very versatile force, and I think their versatility, their ability to move quickly and to conduct a range of missions across a range of contingencies which is well proven. That’s the reason why the secretary has ordered them to go.”
As part of its commitment to NATO and to be prepared for a range of contingencies, the United States is moving additional troops to Romania, Poland and Germany.
“I want to be very clear about something: These are not permanent moves,” Kirby said. “They are moves designed to respond to the current security environment. Moreover, these forces are not going to fight in Ukraine. They’re going to ensure the robust defense of our NATO allies.”
Kirby said 1,000 troops currently based in Germany will reposition to Romania in the coming days. This is a Stryker Squadron, a mounted cavalry unit that’s designed to deploy in short order and to move quickly once in place. “They will augment the sum of 900 U.S. forces that are currently in Romania,” he said.
“This force is designed to deter aggression and enhance our defense capabilities in allied states,” Kirby said, “We expect them to move in coming days.”
He said the move is coming at the expressed invitation of the Romanian government.
France also intends to deploy forces to Romania under NATO command, he said.
“The U.S. will continue to consult and coordinate with France and all its allies to ensure they complement each other in their respective deployments,” he said. “And, of course, we’re going to continue to work through NATO to make appropriate defensive and non-escalatory-force posture alignments.”
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.