SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Israeli-occupied Sinai -- Paratroopers of the American 82nd Airborne Division arrived at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula today to patrol the new Egyptian-Israeli frontier.
Marching behind a crossed rifle standard, the 450 troops carried M-16 rifles and wore orange berets and camouflage fatigues on descending from the El Al special plane that brought them from Fort Bragg, N.C.
Leading the 505th Battallion of the famed combat outfit was Lt.Col. William Garrison, who only three weeks ago broke a leg in four places.
The first contingent of Americans will be followed by about 650 other U.S. soldiers and will form part of the 11-nation, 3,000-man Multinational Force and Observers who will patrol the border to be established between Egypt and Israel.
Norwegian Gen. Frederik Bull-Hansen, commander of the observer force, reviewed the American unit on the tarmac of the Sharm el-Sheikh airstrip.
In Tel Aviv, Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, a hero of the 1973 Yom Kippur war on the Sinai front, welcomed the Americans.
'We welcome these troops and I am sure they will contribute to the peace,' Sharon said.
The Airborne unit also is part of the special task force that was set up under Jimmy Carter's presidency, but battallion commander Garrisson said he did not foresee his men being recalled.
'We do not anticipate any change in our mission. We are assigned to the multinational force and we will follow the orders of the multinational force,' Garrisson said.
Israel took the Sinai from Egypt in the 1967 Six Day War and agreed to give it back under terms of the 1978 Camp David accords, basis for the 1979 treaty.
Israel will lower its flag over the last third of the Sinai on April 25 and the Egyptian standard will be raised the next day. The mulinational force will patrol the border after the handover.
Israel insisted that the European contingents in the force, including Britain, divorce any link between contributing to the multinational force and the Venice Declaration that supports PLO participation in Middle East negotiations.
Besides their monitoring duties, the American paratroopers will also train in the desert peninsula.