FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The 82nd Airborne Division plans to send hundreds of soldiers to Iraq. That news comes as the division makes major changes to its structure. Commanders say it will make the Division stronger and better equipped to handle its high demand.
Commanders at Fort Bragg just announced another 300 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne will deploy to Iraq late this year or early next year.
"I can collectively, confidentially, say for all my guys were excited," Staff Sgt. Eric Stewart said.
Stewart said most of their nerves are calmed by experience. It will be the 1st Battalion 17th Calvary Regiment's third rotation into Iraq. Some of the soldiers going this time also spent time in Afghanistan.
"Of course, family members want me to stay home and sit behind a typewriter, but that's not the job I signed up for," Stewart said.
A new restructuring plan could soon help soldiers get more down time in war time. The 82nd Airborne plans to add a fourth brigade. That unit will be made up of about 3,000 paratroopers who will come from already established units on base.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, 82nd commandering general, said the paratroopers will be trained, certified and ready to deploy by next spring.
"Clearly, now when the Department of the Army comes back to us and ask us for a Brigade combat team, we now have the flexibility to pick from four different elements," he said.
The new brigade means, in the near future, units like Stewart's should get a longer break from combat.
"The 4th Brigade is going to help out tremendously with the stress on the families and soldiers and give everyone a fair amount of rest time prior to their next deployment," he said.
The Army plans to add several thousand more paratroopers to the division in 2006.
Commanders also announced the 82nd Airborne is getting new air support. It is adding a regiment of 21 Apache helicopters. Soldiers said those aircraft played a key role in efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq.