POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — About 250 Fort Bragg soldiers deployed to Iraq on Sunday with the mission of keeping the peace during January's elections. By week's end, 1200 more troops will join them.
Members of the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment and members of the 82nd Paratroopers Support Battalion are expected to be gone for a year.
Pfc. Phederme Mathurin joined the 82nd Paratroopers Support Battalion following Sept. 11, 2001. For the first time, he is off to Iraq.
"I'm really happy about going there. I want to go. I volunteered to," he said.
Mathurin may be excited, but his family does not share the excitement.
"They're scared for me. They're frightened. They worry a lot. I'm with a lot of good people around here, so I believe I'm going to be alright, be safe," he said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Nauck is one of the men in charge of the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment.
"I've been in the Army 24 years. This is my second deployment to Iraq," he said. "My wife has been married to me for 20 years. I'm leaving behind my wife, my 20-year-old daughter and two grandkids."
Over the years, Nauck has missed two Christmases. As for deployments, no matter the number, for some it will always be brand new.
"The reality didn't actually hit until this morning. This rush to get everything done, it's like whoa, this is for real now," Pfc. Rudy Radva said.
There is a good possibility others will join these soldiers shortly. Fort Bragg is one of the nation's strategic response force, which means units are ready to deploy within 18 hours if a call comes.