FORT BRAGG, N.C. — About 100 soldiers involved in intelligence analysis in Iraq arrived home at their North Carolina post on Tuesday.
Members of the 18th Airborne Corps Analysis and Control Element arrived Tuesday morning ending a 15-month deployment that began in September 2007.
The military said the unit was the first at its level to be involved in major intelligence sharing with Iraqi military and government officials. The soldiers also provided intelligence briefings to high-level officers in the American command in Iraq.
The group’s return comes after news Monday that 2,800 members of the Army’s 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade will deploy to Afghanistan in the spring.
The 82nd's aviation brigade flies several different helicopters to support ground combat troops, including the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. The unit will perform attack, medical evacuation and air assault missions, Col. Paul Bricker, the commander of the Army's 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade.
The unit alerted soldiers and their families of the deployment over the weekend. Bricker said the brigade had planned to deploy to Afghanistan in the fall and will continue to train for the deployment. It is unclear where the unit will be based, but Bricker said his unit will support NATO's International Security Assistance Force, which has most of its units based in southern and western Afghanistan.
On Saturday, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. could double its troops in Afghanistan by next summer to 60,000. Officials say there will likely be one more Army brigade and one Marine regimental combat team ordered to Afghanistan by the summer and at least one of those will be announced shortly after the first of the year.
Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces, has asked for four combat brigades and thousands of support troops which could total between 25,000-30,000 troops in addition to the roughly 32,000 there now.
Ramping up the U.S. contingent in Afghanistan will likely take much of next year, as combat brigades and support units gradually move in. The first unit to go will be the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, which will deploy to Afghanistan in the coming weeks.