When the president calls 911, the phone rings at Fort Bragg. It is an expression some version of which we've all heard. We take pride in it and understandably so.
But answering that call comes with grave responsibility, and potential danger and separation.
When the vast majority of Americans were ringing in the New Year, soldiers from Bragg were preparing to deploy to the Middle East in response to the New Year's Eve attack on the United States Embassy in Baghdad. Activated were 650 troops in the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. They had about 18 hours notice. An additional 100 troops from elsewhere will join them.
"This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today," wrote Mark Esper, U.S. defense secretary, in a tweet on Tuesday.
That is not all.
Friday afternoon, news broke that thousands of additional troops from the 82nd Airborne would deploy after U.S. airstrikes on Thursday killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
The 82nd is often called upon. Back here on the home front, it means families will see their loved ones whisked off at the end of the holidays and right at the start of a new year. In the near future, uncertainty will define their days.
The Trump administration has blamed Iran for the embassy attacks.
Defense Secretary Mike Pompeo said Thursday's airstrike at the Baghdad airport was launched to head off an imminent attack on U.S. interests coordinated by Soleimani.
What role the 82nd paratroopers will play in the tense Middle East region is not publicly known.
After the initial deployment of 650 troops was announced, Task & Purpose, a military-focused website, reported: "It was unclear whether the soldiers will eventually go to Iraq, but during the lead-up to the first surge, it was common for Army and Marine Corps units to deploy to Kuwait before being sent to Iraq."
Amid a busy news cycle, the news of the embassy attack did not get the attention it otherwise might have. Neither did the initial deployment from Fort Bragg.
The death of Soleimani and Iran's fierce rhetoric of revenge has received much more media attention, as it appears open war may now be on the table.
But either way, we here in Fayetteville and the Bragg community stay tuned in — whether the rest of the nation does or not.
We wish the soldiers godspeed and hope for their safe return.
This guest editorial was originally published by the Fayetteville Observer.
REPRINTED FROM THE NEW BERN SUN JOURNAL
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