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More N.C. Troops Head to the Middle East

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FAYETTEVILLE — More North Carolina troops received their marching orders to the Middle East Thursday. Soldiers from the Fort Bragg Special Operations Support Command and the 4th Psychological Operations group received orders around 12:30 p.m. that they were going to deploy.

Up to 100 soldiers from Special Ops. will be leaving for the Persian Gulf region within the next 72 hours. Soldiers received vaccinations, filled out paperwork and loaded equipment on aircraft Friday morning.

The Special Ops. Support group is expected to help provide logistics, transportation and ammunition to Special Operations soldiers already in the gulf.

Ltc. Thomas Rheinlander with Special Ops. says the Psychological Operation group will provide support where needed, "such as the distribution of leaflets from airplanes indicating to the civilians actions that will occur, and warning them of safe routes out of the city."

The group will join the 250 Fort Bragg soldiers and 382 Pope airmen that are already in the Persian Gulf on various operations. There is no word on how long this latest group of Fort Bragg soldiers will remain in the Gulf, but it appears that they will be there for Christmas in support of Operation Desert Fox.

The soldiers have been preparing to leave for several days, but they say nothing prepares you to be away from your family on Christmas. Specialist Nicole Denson is deploying for the first time and leaving her son behind.

"This is the first Christmas being away from him," she said. "It's sad, but as long as I'm making a difference, that's a good thing."

All of the troops hope their efforts will make a difference for the nation.

Airmen at Seymour Johnson Air Force base are watching and waiting for their call to arms. The need for fire power over Iraq has not reached the base.

The only visible difference between Thursday and any other day was the increased security and long lines at the front gate. The guards were leaving nothing to chance.

"All of our folks are just doing their jobs, listening to the news and waiting to see what the next word is," says Lt. Gail Schwartz, Seymour Johnson base spokesperson. "I would say there is a little excitement in the air, but we are basically just doing our jobs and training like we always do."

Seymour Johnson already has 102 airmen in the Middle East as part of a routine support mission. The remaining airmen may avoid the conflict altogether if Operation Desert Fox last only days instead of weeks.

If the base is drawn in, pilots say their F-15E Strike Eagles will be carrying weaponry that is miles ahead of what they carried just seven years ago in Desert Storm.

"We've made some significant advances in the weapons themselves solving a lot of the problems that the technology we possessed at the time couldn't cope with," says Lt. Col. Rick McGivern.

McGivern flew extensive attacks in the Gulf War. While it appears he and his airmen are staying home this round, he is thinking of the pilots who are in the hostile theater and hoping for their safe return.

"Theodore Roosevelt said, 'There is nothing more exhilarating than being shot at and missed,'" McGivern said. "I don't think I will ever forget that."

Even though Seymour Johnson has not been called to action yet, the men and women at the base say they are always ready for that to happen.


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