FORT BRAGG — As the war in Ukraine escalates, soldiers from the world’s largest military base, Fort Bragg near Fayetteville, are being sent to Europe, both as a deterrent to further Russian aggression and to help Americans fleeing the fighting.
“On Feb. 2, approximately 2,000 were deployed from Fort Bragg; Feb. 11, we deployed another 3,000 from the 82nd (Airborne); and then Feb. 24, it was another 7,000, but those aren’t from Fort Bragg, those are from across the Corps, primarily Fort Stewart, Georgia,” Capt. Perianne Duffy, public affairs officer for the 18th Airborne Corps, told Carolina Journal on Wednesday, March 2.
The 18th Airborne Corps is the larger group under which major divisions like the 82nd Airborne, based out of Fort Bragg, and the 101st Airborne, based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, are organized. The 18th Airborne itself, like many of its divisions, is based out of Fort Bragg.
Duffy said that together all the deployments to Europe in response to Russia’s invasion add up to “12,000 total from the 18th Airborne Corps, approximately,” but she wasn’t sure if there were deployments from other branches of the military.
About 300 of those deployed were sent to the 18th Airborne Corps headquarters in Germany, while everyone else was sent to Poland. These soldiers are acting as a deterrent, but are also working to assure the safety of any Americans in the area.
“We initially went over there to assure and deter, and we’ve been conducting joint training with Poland,” Duffy said. “At this time, we’ve not been asked to assist with evacuations of American citizens at the border-control point, but they’ve established temporary safe havens in Poland and Romania to assist American-citizen evacuees by providing a temporary refuge for them.”
About 4,700 troops in Poland are from the 82nd Airborne Division and are led by Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue. The 5,000 service members are augmenting the 80,000 U.S. forces already stationed in Europe, according to Duffy. She said they have not currently been asked to provide any support to help evacuees from other nations.
“I can’t predict the future; I don’t know if or when we’re going to get that call,” Duffy said on if larger deployments might be coming for the base. “But as part of 18th Airborne Corps, we’re known as
America’s contingency corps, so we’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. We can be anywhere in the world in 18 hours if called upon. So we are always ready, and that’s part of our job.”
But on the current mission, Duffy said, “The president has been very clear that we are not going into Ukraine. We are here to support our allies and deter Russian aggression, and we’re in a defensive stance in Poland to support our allies.”
Shari Wells, a public affairs officer for Fort Bragg, told CJ the base has a “population over 270,500 — including military, civilians and retirees,” as of late 2021, and the population is used to deployments.
“Fort Bragg is literally a little city that continues to move forward during deployments,” Wells said. “There are family members, civilian workers and soldiers here that need support through deployments and during normal day-to-day activities.”
Duffy agreed, saying, “The spouses that I’ve talked to are very optimistic. They are resilient. They have faith in their soldier and in the leadership, too.”
Fort Bragg Paraglide, a military-run newsletter for residents of the base, recently posted a list of resources for any families on base struggling as their solider has been deployed into the tense and uncertain crisis.
The message began by saying, “Shoutout to all of the Families being impacted by the current deployment. We know that these times can be very difficult and stressful. It’s important to know the resources that are available to you and your Family to help you navigate through a deployment.”
The list of resources can be found on their social media page.
Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8th District, who represents Fort Bragg in the U.S. House, released a statement on the early deployments, saying that it “underscores the vital role America’s Immediate Response Force plays in the defense of our nation,” and that “Renee [Hudson’s wife] and I are praying for these soldiers and their safe return home. We also pray for the families they leave behind and honor the sacrifices they too make every day.”