U.S. sol­ders fly to Mideast

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Second Front -

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — Hun­dreds of U.S. sol­diers de­ployed Satur­day from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Kuwait to serve as re­in­force­ments in the Mid­dle East amid ris­ing ten­sions fol­low­ing the U.S. killing of a top Ira­nian gen­eral.

Lt. Col. Mike Burns, a spokesman for the 82nd Air­borne Divi­sion, told The As­so­ci­ated Press 3,500 mem­bers of the divi­sion’s quick-de­ploy­ment bri­gade, known of­fi­cially as its Im­me­di­ate Re­sponse Force, will have de­ployed within a few days. The most re­cent group of ser­vice mem­bers to de­ploy will join about 700 who left ear­lier in the week, Burns said.

A load­ing ramp at Fort Bragg was filled Satur­day morn­ing with com­bat gear and rest­less sol­diers. Some tried to grab a last-minute nap on wooden benches. Re­porters saw oth­ers fil­ing onto buses.

The ad­di­tional troop de­ploy­ments re­flect con­cerns about po­ten­tial Ira­nian re­tal­ia­tory ac­tion in the volatile af­ter­math of Fri­day’s drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force who has been blamed for at­tacks on U.S. troops and Amer­i­can al­lies go­ing back decades.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump or­dered the airstrike near Bagh­dad’s in­ter­na­tional air­port. Iran has vowed ret­ri­bu­tion, rais­ing fears of an all-out war, but it’s un­clear how or when a re­sponse might come.

Re­porters weren’t able to in­ter­view the sol­diers leav­ing Fort Bragg on Satur­day, but an air­man load­ing one of the cargo planes told an Army cam­era­man he was mak­ing New Year’s plans when he got a call to help load up the sol­diers, ac­cord­ing to video footage re­leased by the mil­i­tary.

“We’re re­spon­si­ble for load­ing the cargo. Al­most our whole squadron got alerted. Like a bunch of planes are com­ing over here,” the un­named air­man said. “I was get­ting ready to go out for New Year’s when they called me.”

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