U.S. sends elite force back to Mideast

Dec. 28, 2006 at 2:46 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army is sending 3,300 paratroopers back to the Middle East only weeks after bringing some of them home.

The move appears to be a response to increasing pressures for ground forces capable of operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"More than 3,000 paratroopers -- some of whom returned from Iraq only two weeks ago -- will be in Kuwait by mid-January in an "on-call" capacity for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan," the Army Times reported Wednesday.

The newspaper said that 2nd Brigade Combat Team, or BCT, of the elite 82nd Airborne Division's "has been in strategic response force status at its Fort Bragg, N.C., home base and will move into Kuwait to replace the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which moved north to Iraq in November."

"This is General [John] Abizaid's way of putting flexibility back into Multi-National Corps-Iraq's operational window," the Army Times quoted division spokesman Maj. Tom Earnhardt as saying. Abizaid is the head of U.S. Central Command.

Another unit, the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, known as the "Red Falcons" that returned to the United States only two weeks ago following a five-month tour of duty in Iraq is going back there next month too, the Army Times said.

"Obviously we're concerned about this rapid turnaround facing these paratroopers and their families, but the soldiers are going to be committed to the mission first, and their morale is high and we don't expect that to change," Earnhardt told the paper. "We are grateful they were able to enjoy Christmas with their families and we're mindful that many families affected by the hardships of deployment may not understand the requirements facing the division."

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