TIRANA, ALBANIA — The much awaited Apache attack helicopters arrived in Tirana, and with them a mission has arrived for Fort Bragg's 82nd Airborne Division.
Hundreds of members of the 505th parachute infantry regiment are digging in at the airport. No one knows yet if a ground war with the Serbs will push them north into Kosovo.
A steady stream of Humvees, Fort Bragg troops and their gear flowed in Wednesday. Their job is to secure the airfield, a job many are well qualified for.
"I'm a forward observer. We spot for artillery," says Sgt. Barren Goode with the 82nd Airborne. "We go out with the infantry, and call for fire and adjust fire."
They are guarding the airfield for now, but if NATO goes in on the ground, the 82nd will almost certainly be the driving force. What drives many of the Fort Bragg troops are the stories from the refugees of torture and killing by the army of Slobodan Milosevic.
"I think we are getting ready to make history out here," says Sgt. Dean Orcholski. "What Milosevic is doing is the wrong thing. He needs to be stopped, the killing needs to be stopped."
It's unbelievable how a human being can do that to another," says Sgt. Charles Houglin. "It's just not right."
Members of the 82nd got off a transport airplane, checked in, and set up shop in an old gymnasium. Now, they wait for orders.
"The morale is very high because it is a real mission. We are ready to go to work," says Staff Sgt. Eddie Crocker. "We're not training anymore."
The Air Force commander of the airfield lives in Fayetteville, and has done two tours providing airlift support for Fort Bragg troops. He can think of no better security force than the 82nd Airborne.
"You can never have enough force protection, and that's what they'll bring to this fight here," says Airfield Commander Col. Cliff Bray. "They will bring a presence that I think is known worldwide, and it'll get out that we are very well protected here, and that's extremely important."
Most of Fort Bragg troops say they expect to be in the region for several months, but no one knows if it will be at the airport or in a ground war to the north.