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82nd Airborne troops to provide force rotation security

Army News Service

Release Date: 1/20/2004

By Joe Burlas

POPE AFB, N.C. (Army News Service, Jan. 20, 2004) -- Deploying in harm's way for the second time in two years, the first contingent of the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade departed for Iraq from Pope Air Force Base, N.C., Jan. 15.

The brigade had been deployed to Afghanistan for seven months between 2002 and 2003.

The latest deployment is scheduled to last between three and four months in order to provide security for the transition of Operation Iraqi Freedom forces, officials said.

The majority of the division's other two brigades are prepping to come home after spending about a year in Iraq. Some Soldiers from those brigades recently returned to Fort Bragg, N.C.

Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee visited the Iraq-bound 82nd Soldiers for two hours just prior to their departure via two C-17 aircraft. Four additional flights took the remainder of the brigade Jan. 16.

"Over the next two months, 250,000 Soldiers will be on the move in and out of Iraq -- the biggest Army movement since World War II," Brownlee said. "To minimize the danger, we need somebody who already has combat experience. Sorry you got picked on again. When you are really good, you get picked on."

Brig. Gen., Richard Rowe, 82nd assistant division commander, told the departing troops to heed what Brownlee had to say as with two Vietnam combat tours, a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts, the secretary also has vast experience going into harm's way as a combat Soldier.

Brownlee warned that the War on Terrorism will test Soldiers' souls. He added that he and the American people appreciate the service and sacrifice Soldiers and their families make in keeping this nation safe.

"Not only are you bringing hope, freedom and democracy to millions of people in Iraq, you are also safeguarding your country from those who would do it harm," Brownlee said.

Sgt. George Stultz, an artillery forward observer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2/504th Infantry Battalion, is one of the 1st Brigade Soldiers who made the deployment to Afghanistan and now to Iraq.

Married, with four children, Stultz said his wife is just as anxious as the deploying Soldiers because they know their Iraq experience is going to be different than those they had in Afghanistan. "But she understands that this is the job we do -- it is what we are trained for and we are well prepared," he said.

For Spc. Jason Wheeler, an infantryman with the brigade's Company C, 2/505th Infantry Battalion and who is also making his second deployment in two years with the 82nd, going to Iraq is what he enlisted for.

"What better people than us to go over and provide security for the force rotation," Wheeler said. "I like seeing new places and experiencing other cultures. The Army gives me a chance to do that."

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