State News

82nd Airborne Brigade To Deploy to Kuwait

Posted December 26, 2006 7:42 p.m. EST
Updated December 27, 2006 6:02 p.m. EST

— Defense Secretary Robert Gates has signed orders that will send the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade to Kuwait shortly after the new year, senior defense officials said Tuesday.

The decision to send the unit was first reported earlier this month. The soldiers, who are based at Fort Bragg, N.C., are expected to be deployed into Iraq early next year, and the move could be part of a short-term surge of troops to the battlefront to quell the ongoing violence.

The 82nd Airborne's Second Brigade Combat Team, which would include as many as 3,300 soldiers, will replace the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which had served as the reserve force based in Kuwait but has been deployed into Iraq.

Army officials said Tuesday that they were not aware a final decision had been made on sending the unit to Kuwait. But two senior defense officials, who requested anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made public, said Gates had signed the order Tuesday—the first of his week-old tenure as Pentagon chief.

"It pretty much came out of the blue," said Jennifer Taylor, whose husband, Jarred Taylor, is a  Joint Terminal Attack Controller for the Air Force who works with the 82nd Airborne. "It was expected later. Then (Wednesday), we just found out it was way sooner."

One Army official said the Fort Bragg troops' tour could last about six months. Some in the brigade returned from Iraq this month.

About 10,300 Fort Bragg troops are already deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another brigade from the 82nd Airborne is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in early 2007.

Gates, who replaced former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Dec. 18, was in Iraq last week meeting with U.S. military commanders and Iraqi officials.

He met with President Bush on Saturday to relay what he saw and learned during his three days in Iraq. He is scheduled to travel to Crawford, Texas, to meet with Bush on Thursday to discuss options for changes in the Iraq strategy. He and other military leaders have said that all options are on the table. Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will also meet with Bush on Thursday.

Some of the options for a new strategy in Iraq that have been under discussion by U.S. officials include an increase in troops, to help tamp down the violence, particularly in Baghdad, and to beef up the training of Iraq soldiers.

There are 134,000 troops in Iraq. The U.S. military has consistently kept a reserve force in Kuwait that can easily and quickly be deployed into Iraq, or other places in the region, as needed.