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    More US Troops With 82nd Airborne Heading To Iraq

    U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, deploy from Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, Jan. 1, 2020. (U.S. Army photo/Robyn J. Haake)
    FORT BRAGG - An American embassy in Baghdad is closed due to unrest, while troops in Fort Bragg continue to line up for deployment at Pope Army Airfield to provide support. The 750 soldiers comprised of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and loved ones are answering the call from the commander-in-chief, to provide back-up as U.S. personnel and facilities deal with increased "threat levels." Staci Yanta, a mother from Texas, says her son, Colton was supposed to be home for Christmas.

    "We knew something was going to happen when he told us those plans changed," Yanta said. Yanta's son was always adamant about joining the military and decided to enlist in December 2018, eventually being stationed at Fort Bragg in November 2019. When Yanta heard the news on New Year's Eve morning, it was tough to process. "I wanted to cry like I'm about to right now because that's my baby," Yanta added. The mother of two says Colton had just recently gotten engaged. She's hoping the mission is a success and her son comes back unscathed.

    "It is a major sacrifice that my child, along with a lot of other men and women are making for us to live in the country that we live in," Yanta said. Yanta, along with other families in Cumberland County, are asking for prayers and support. "Please pray for the safety of all of those young people, because they're doing an amazing thing for our freedom," Yanta added. Fort Bragg officials, as of 6:30 p.m., said deployments will continue for the next 24 hours.

    US Army deploying over 1,700 paratroopers from 82nd Airborne Division to Iraq.
    About 100 paratroopers from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were wheels up early Wednesday as the first elements of a battalion being sent to the Middle East amid an escalating confrontation with Iran. "This is why we exist," officials with the 82nd said in the unit's Twitter feed.

    The rapid response mission to U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility was ordered following Iran-backed militia members storming the perimeter of the Baghdad U.S. Embassy's heavily fortified "Green Zone." "Paratroopers have trained and prepared for events like these," the division said. "They are on the way." The initial contingent of about 100 division troops from what was expected to be a total deployment of about 750 boarded C-17 Globemaster aircraft in early morning darkness Wednesday.  The destination of the first elements, from 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, was closely held. But Defense Secretary Mark Esper, in a statement Tuesday night, said the deployment on President Donald Trump's order was "in response to recent events in Iraq."

    82nd Airborne Sending 1,700 Troops To Iraq: Photo US military.com
    Earlier Tuesday, about 100 Marines in Kuwait from the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command boarded MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and flew to Baghdad's Green Zone to bolster embassy security. A U.S. official, speaking on background, said that the total deployment of Marines to embassy security would be "less than 200." In a flurry of tweets, and in remarks at the New Year's Eve party at his Mar-a-Lago Florida estate, Trump put the blame for the attacks on the Baghdad embassy on Iran and vowed that the developing situation on the ground "will not be a Benghazi. Benghazi should never have happened." He referred to Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and another U.S. facility in which Ambassador J. Christoper Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

    "It's been handled very well," Trump told reporters as he walked into New Year's Eve celebrations. "The Marines came in. We had some great warriors come in. They did a fantastic job. They were there instantaneously, as soon as we heard." "Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost or damage incurred at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE," Trump said in the following Twitter post. "This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!" In response, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, Iran's supreme leader, used his English-language Twitter account to dismiss Trump's charges and taunt him. "You can't do anything," Khameini said. "If you were logical -- which you're not -- you'd see that your crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan" and elsewhere "have made nations hate you."

    He said Iran does not seek war, but "If the Islamic Republic decides to challenge & fight, it will do so unequivocally." The U.S. has blamed Iranian-backed militias in Iraq who are aligned with the Iraqi military under the umbrella of the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF) for a series of rocket attacks on U.S. bases in recent months. The latest rocket attack on a U.S. base near north-central Kirkuk Dec. 27 killed an American contractor and wounded four U.S. troops. In response, the U.S. launched airstrikes Dec. 29 on three locations in Iraq and two in Syria of the Kataib Hezbollah (KH) militia, which is part of the PMF.

    Following funerals in Baghdad Tuesday for those killed in the airstrikes, demonstrators chanting "Death to America" marched on the embassy, threw gasoline bombs and sought to scale the outer walls. There were no injuries to U.S. personnel and all were accounted for, said a U.S. official, speaking on background. In a "show of force," U.S. Apache attack helicopters flew over the embassy compound on Tuesday and dropped flares to deter the demonstrators. The demonstrators had pitched tents and vowed to remain, but withdrew Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

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