Local News

82nd Airborne Reaches Highest Deployment Level Since WWII

Posted June 10, 2007 10:46 p.m. EDT

— Another round of Fort Bragg soldiers headed overseas Sunday night. It’s the highest deployment level for the 82nd Airborne since World War II.

As part of the division’s policy, no families were allowed at Sunday night’s send off at Pope Air Force Base. When the 100 soldiers boarded the plane to Iraq, they made history.

All told, the 82nd has an all-time record of nearly 17,000 troops deployed.

“I was here the last time the division was completely gone for Desert Shield-Desert Storm,” said Col. Charles Flynn.

Now, Flynn will lead the last of the 82nd Airborne back to the desert for operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Half the division in Afghanistan and half in Iraq,” he said. “At such a demanding and challenging time in our nation’s history, the 82nd is part of that, a very important part of that.”

It has been a difficult year when it comes to casualties for the 82nd airborne. They have already lost more than twice as many soldiers this year than any previous year of the two wars in the Middle East.

This latest mission will last 15 months. It's the first combat trip for Specialist Juan Dominguez.

“It hasn’t hit yet – nervous, anxious, sacredness - not yet,” he said. “It’ll probably happen once they open those doors and that 140 degrees hits you in the face.”

He and Private First Class Travis Freitag have trained together for the last year.

“Having your buddy here, training with him, it’s just like having your left leg right on you. It’s like a missing piece,” Freitag said.

For many of the soldiers, it’s their first deployment. Others have been through it several times. All say it’s unique and never easy for the families they leave behind.

“You see the news, you see what’s going on, so you have an idea,” Dominguez said. “Having a wife, a newborn baby, two boys, it’s a lot on one person.”

Freitag said leaving family is just part of the job.

“Yes, it’s sad leaving your family, but it’s your job, it's your responsibility,” he said.