Local News

Possible Showdown With Saddam Could Have Distinct Tar Heel Connection

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The United States has more troops around the world than at any other time in history, and a lot of those troops are based in North Carolina.

With an Army post, two Air Force bases and three Marine facilities in the state, war-time affects dozens of local communities.

Throw in the National Guard and Reserves, and a possible showdown with Saddam Hussein could have a distinct and overwhelming Tar Heel connection.

About 1,000 soldiers from Fort Bragg, including units from the 18th Airborne Corps and First Corps Support Command, got their deployment orders Friday and were told to leave in the next two weeks. That's on top of the 8,000 soldiers from Bragg already in the Afghan region, taking part in the war on terror.

At Pope Air Force Base, 500 of the base's 5,000 airmen are deployed in the Afghan region.

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base has 4,500 members of the Fourth Fighter Wing on standby. The F-15-E Strike Eagle offers a formidable first-strike capability.

Camp LeJeune will deploy 7,000 Marines Saturday morning. LeJuene also has 150 Marines taking part in the hunt for terrorists in the Horn of Africa.

Additionally, members of a National Guard attack helicopter unit based at Raleigh-Durham International Airport started arriving Friday to prepare for their mission. The unit is composed of 328 troops and 24 Apache helicopters. It wasn't clear Friday how many of each will be used, or where they will go.

In summary, a regional breakdown looks like this: North Carolina already has sent 30,000 troops into six countries within striking distance of Iraq, plus an unknown number of airmen in Oman and Turkey patrolling the northern and southern no-fly zones.

The Pentagon has said it wants 100,000 troops in the Gulf region by Jan. 31. To put that into perspective as far as build-up, there were half a million troops in the area at the height of the Gulf War.

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