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On short notice, US fast-response force flies to Mideast

Being a US soldier in a fast-response force sometimes means being sent halfway across the world within a day, leaving no time to say goodbye to those staying behind.

That’s what happened to April Shumard when her husband, a member of the 82 Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, got the call. He was at home, minding the couple’s five children while Shumard was at work at Healing Hands day spa, when he sent her a text. He had to rush to base. He wasn’t sure if it was a drill or a deployment. Then she got another text: “We’re leaving tomorrow.”

She said her husband has been in the military since 2010 and has already deployed twice to Afghanistan. But with those prior instances, the family had much more time to prepare and say goodbye.

“The kids kept going, ‘When’s Dad going to be home?’” said Shumard, 42.

This photo provided by the US Army, paratroopers assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division walk as they prepare equipment and load aircraft bound for the US Central Command area of operations from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, January 4, 2020. (Spc. Hubert Delany III/U.S. Army via AP)

Her husband was among hundreds of US soldiers deployed Saturday from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Kuwait to serve as reinforcements in the Middle East amid rising tensions following the US 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.

US Army soldiers with their gear head to a waiting bus, January 4, 2020 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, as troops from the 82nd Airborne are deployed to the Middle East as reinforcements in the volatile aftermath of the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

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 US 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.

— AP

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