Local News

Troops, families expect more deployments

Posted February 27, 2009 5:33 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

— President Barack Obama's announcement Friday that he plans to pull most U.S. troops out of Iraq in 18 months brought mixed reactions from troops and military families across North Carolina.

Soldiers at Fort Bragg and Marines at Camp Lejeune and their families said the president's plan to end the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010, doesn't mean they and their loved ones will be deployed any less.

"What's going to happen is going to happen," said Julie Hammack, whose husband is headed to Iraq next week for his second deployment. "I think there's always going to be something with the military. If it's not Iraq, it's going to be somewhere else."

About 2,000 Marines heard Obama's speech at Camp Lejeune, and several said afterward that they would follow the orders of their commander-in-chief, regardless of whether they supported the decision.

"I'm happy to serve. Whatever the commander-in-chief decides, that's where I'll go and what I'll do," Marine Cpl. Nathan O'Hara said.

"He's our commander-in-chief, so you have to respect that whether you like him or not. He is the boss," Lance Cpl. Tiffany Johnson said.

Often dubbed the "Tip of the Spear," Fort Bragg soldiers are historically among the first to deploy. Thousands of 82nd Airborne Division troops and their families have gone through several deployments since the war in Iraq began almost six years ago – and they likely will face more deployments to Afghanistan in the future.

"We pray for [an end to combat in Iraq], not only for our community but for our country," Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne said. "At the same time, ... we're prepared and recognize that it's very likely we'll continue to see deployments even were we to pull out of Iraq.

"Hopefully, the numbers will be lower, (and) they'll be more predictable and shorter (deployments). All of those are good things, but we also recognize the unique role we have here," Chavonne said.

About 6,200 soldiers in the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army officials said Friday.

As of Dec. 31, the Army had 161,721 troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 14,874 reservists and 26,709 members of the National Guard.

Army officials said they plan to make an announcement Monday that many expect will outline upcoming deployments.

"That is the harsh reality of it, and unless some miracle occurs, they're still going to deploy," said Audry Washington, whose husband is in Afghanistan.

Since the war began, 189 soldiers from Fort Bragg and 290 Marines from Camp Lejeune have died.

"It would be ideal to have them home and families back together the way they should be, but unfortunately, the reality is the world we live in," said Erica Licardo, owner of Beef O'Brady's restaurant. "Somebody's got to protect [the country], and thank goodness that's what they do."