Local News

82nd Airborne Gets Marching Orders

Posted May 7, 2002 2:09 a.m. EDT

— Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne have recieved their marching orders.

The Public Affairs Office confirms soldiers will be sent to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Fort Bragg said there is no timetable for when troops will be leaving, which groups will go or how long they will be gone.

Members of Fort Bragg's 18th Airborne Corps have already begun their deployment to Afghanistan.

Military officials say the headquarters elements, under the command of Lt. Gen Dan K. McNeill, 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg commander, left for Afghanistan Monday afternoon.

The three-star general of the 18th Airborne Corps will lead a contingent of 300 corps command staff members going overseas to support operations in Afghanistan.

"We will provide the command and control for a number of different elements that have a number of tasks in this particular area of operations," said McNeill.

Col. Roger King, a corps spokesman, said McNeill would report directly to Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander in the war on terror in Afghanistan.

"There are a lot of forces there. I think we're getting to the point where they want consolidate command and control to have a single headquarters in charge of the fight," King said.

King said McNeill would be only the second three-star Army general in the region; the other one commands U.S. Army forces based in Kuwait.

McNeill will lead a joint task force in Afghanistan. Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division and the 10th Mountain Division, both under the 18th Airborne Corps, already are in Afghanistan.

"The country is going to fight it for a number of years," McNeill said Thursday. "I can't tell you specifically that I saw this very thing coming, but since Sept. 11, I knew eventually we would be doing something."

McNeill said the Fort Bragg soldiers will be entering a harsh natural environment.

"It's a very austere environment," McNeill said. "I see that as our biggest challenge. I think we've got the training we need. I think we've got the equipment we need. It's a tough, tough environment."

Defense Department officials say the United States and coalition forces are sweeping areas of the country to ensure the al-Qaida and Taliban have not returned. U.S. forces also are searching areas in which members of the groups may be living.

Maj. Gen. Zannie O. Smith, deputy commander of Fort Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps, will be acting commander of the corps and installation while McNeill is away.

During the Gulf War, the general in charge of Fort Bragg commanded the corps' troops in Saudi Arabia and most of the command staff was sent to the region.

The corps, which has a staff of between 500 and 700, oversees four divisions: the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg; the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y.; the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky.; and the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga.

During the Gulf War, more than 30,000 personnel from Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base were deployed.

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command, headquartered at Fort Bragg, has sent more than 2,000 soldiers overseas since October, and about one-third have come from Fort Bragg, said Carol Dabry, a USASOC spokeswoman.