(TMU) — Images of members of the U.S. military filling airports are making the rounds on social media while many Americans are left wondering whether we’re about to enter into World War III, or if it’s already begun.
While the U.S. is currently engaged in multiple conflicts around the world, many young soldiers have yet to see their first missions. Such is the case for many of the 600 mostly young soldiers being deployed to the Middle East from Fort Bragg, North Carolina as part of the 3,500 or so being deployed first to Kuwait and then onto classified locations.
Reuters has revealed the uneasy calm before what will seemingly be quite the storm, as those 600 soldiers and additional support crew prepared to hit the tarmac. The experience will be life changing and is something most people could do without, in what is the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division’s largest “fast deployment” since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
For each fighter, seven support crew are also headed to the Middle East including cooks, aviators, mechanics, medics, chaplains, as well as transportation and supply managers. Each one, save the chaplains, will carry a weapon.
“We’re going to war, bro,” cheered one soldier from the Army’s celebrated 82nd Airborne Division while grinning and flashing two thumbs up. He and others were loading trucks outside an unassuming building.
Another soldier told Reuters he wasn’t surprised by the order following the assassination of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani. The 27-year-old explained:
“I was just watching the news, seeing how things were going over there. Then I got a text message from my sergeant saying ‘Don’t go anywhere.’ And that was it.”
Older soldiers exhibited a far more somber tone, according to Reuters. Servicemen and women in their 30s and 40s have seen combat and fellow soldiers come home in coffins or with missing limbs.
A 34-year-old senior master sergeant got the call while on leave in his hometown of Daytona Beach. He was ready to take his daughters to visit Disney World.
“We just got there and I got the call to turn right around and head back to base,” he said. “My wife knows the drill. I had to go. We drove right back.”
Lieutenant Colonel Mike Burns, an Army spokesman, said:
“The guys are excited to go, but none of us know how long they’ll be gone.
That’s the toughest part.”
The most mobile unit in the U.S. Army whose “primary mission is ground fighting,” is used for quick deployments. “We’re an infantry brigade,” Burns said. “This is as real as it gets.”
Brian Knight, director of a chapter of the United Service Organizations military support charity and retired Army veteran who has seen five combat deployments to the Middle East, told Reuters:
“This is the mission, man.
They’re answering America’s 911 call. They’re stoked to go. The president called for the 82nd.”
Before flying halfway across the globe, soldiers with Type O blood, the universal donor type, were each requested to give a little less than a pint. “The medics need you now. Move,” a sergeant shouted into the crowd.
Following the assassination of Soleimani, Trump said the U.S. “took action to stop a war,” not start one. And U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that “the world is a much safer place.”
However, troops are now deploying and, at virtually the same time, the U.S. state department has issued a security alert urging U.S. citizens to “depart Iraq immediately.”
#Iraq: Due to heightened tensions in Iraq and the region, we urge U.S. citizens to depart Iraq immediately. Due to Iranian-backed militia attacks at the U.S. Embassy compound, all consular operations are suspended. U.S. citizens should not approach the Embassy. pic.twitter.com/rdRce3Qr4a
— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) January 3, 2020
Major U.S. cities are also taking steps to increase security in case of retaliatory attacks by Iran or its allies.
Have spoken with Commissioner Shea + Dep Commissioner Miller about immediate steps NYPD will take to protect key NYC locations from any attempt by Iran or its terrorist allies to retaliate against America. We will have to be vigilant against this threat for a long time to come.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) January 3, 2020
The Secret Service has also reportedly beefed up security at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Largo resort after an organizer for General Qassem Soleimani’s funeral procession called for $80 million bounty on Trump’s head and an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted what could be a warning of a revenge attack on a Trump property.
The United States and Iran remain caught in a sort of potentially deadly limbo. It remains to be seen if fully fledged conflict is on the horizon as tensions continue to increase.