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82nd Airborne Soldiers Begin Haiti Deployment

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2010 – An initial contingent of 100 82nd Airborne Division troops deployed to Haiti around noon today, and another 800 soldiers will follow tomorrow to support disaster relief and humanitarian support.

A lead element from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 73rd Infantry, left Fort Bragg today, and the entire battalion, along with a command and control element from the division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, will join them tomorrow, said Army Col. Billy Buckner, 18th Airborne Corps public affairs officer.

Meanwhile, the 82nd Airborne Division’s entire 2nd Brigade Combat Team – on tap as the U.S. global response force – “has been told to be prepared to deploy as needed or required,” Buckner said.

“So they are prepped and ready to deploy. They have done all the things they need to do to get ready,” Buckner said. “And should they be directed to deploy, based on the situation on the ground and additional resources, they are ready to do so.”

As the global response force, the 2nd BCT is on 24/7 standby, ready to deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours. In that capacity, it trains for the full spectrum of missions – from forcible entry scenarios and follow-on stability operations to humanitarian aid and disaster response, Buckner said.

So when the first verbal order to prepare a brigade to deploy came at 4 a.m. yesterday, he added, most of the groundwork already was laid.

The initial elements are deploying with their own individual equipment and force-protection capability, but few vehicles, Buckner said. “A lot of logistics planning is being done, based on what’s in the theater,” he said. “But right now, the big push is the soldiers, going in relatively light without a lot of rolling stock.”

Once in Haiti, their mission will center on humanitarian support and disaster relief, but Buckner said the soldiers also could provide security, if needed.

“They bring an ability to provide people to go out and assist immediately, to get on the ground very rapidly and to be able to assist the [joint task force] commander in whatever tasks and requirements he needs them to perform,” he said.

Many of the deploying soldiers have served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, giving them experience Buckner said will prove invaluable supporting the Haiti mission. “They are used to deploying, and they are used to operating under very difficult and challenging circumstances,” he said.

Ironically, the Fort Bragg military community, home of the 18th Airborne Corps and 82nd Airborne Division, is preparing for a major exercise later this month that will test, among other capabilities, its readiness to rapidly deploy its forces.

As part of the preparation, Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmlick, the corps commander, and his staff visited various sites around the installation that support deployments to get briefed about their operations.

The general made the comment, “Although we have been focused on Afghanistan and Iraq, we, as the 18th Airborne Corps, have to be prepared for the unknown.”

“It’s pretty ironic,” Buckner said. “Twenty-four hours later, we get a call, ‘Be prepared to deploy.’”

Related Sites:
18th Airborne Corps
82nd Airborne Division
Special Report: Devastation in Haiti

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