Fort Bragg saw its first group of soldiers board C-17s on Thursday and leave from Green Ramp for Europe.
Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division are deploying to Poland, and soldiers with the 18th Airborne Corps are headed to Germany.
The soldiers started leaving around noon.
“Today, we had elements of the 82nd and the 18th Airborne Corps deploying to support this operation where we assure NATO allies and partners and deter Russian aggression,” Capt. Matt Visser, a spokesman for the 18th Airborne Corps, said Thursday evening.
"We're sending a message to our adversaries that we're committed to our partners and allies," he said.
Because soldiers were still in the process of leaving Fort Bragg at 6 p.m., Visser said, he could not disclose overall numbers of how many were deploying Thursday.
These troops are among the overall 2,000 from Fort Bragg that Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby announced Wednesday during a news conference. Roughly 1,700 of those forces will deploy from the 82nd Airborne Division and another 300 will deploy from the 18th Airborne Corps, he said.
The 18th Airborne Corps is moving a joint task force-capable headquarters to Germany. The 82nd Airborne Division is deploying "components of an infantry brigade combat team and key enablers'' to Poland, Kirby said.
Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops along the border of Ukraine, fueling fears of an invasion. It has denied any intention to attack.
Though the overall mission involves the United States and its NATO allies, these Fort Bragg-based soldiers will be going under U.S. command, Kirby said.
The separate 8,500 troops announced last week by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III – which also includes soldiers from Fort Bragg – remain on heightened alert, Visser said. They are not among the service members who deployed Thursday.
“They are prepared to deploy but they have not received an order to deploy,” he said. “We always are on heightened alert here in the 18th Airborne Corps, so this is why it’s somewhat routine. We do this quite frequently.
“So when you look at the sentiment of most of the soldiers,” Visser said, “they were motivated, they were excited, and they knew that their families would be taken care of while they are gone. Because the community that’s here and the greater Fort Bragg area has been welcoming of our soldiers and incredibly supportive to all our families while we move forward.”
He did not provide a timeline for the length of the deployments.
“I know that whatever the secretary puts out, whatever the elected officials determine, we are there,” Visser said. “The primary purpose is to accomplish our mission. Whatever time period that will be, you can be assured our soldiers are ready to be there as long as necessary.”
He did not identify specific units that are providing soldiers for deployment.
On Wednesday, Austin said he is prepared to deploy additional troops as a U.S. decision, separate from the 8,500 on high readiness.
“We haven't received additional guidance regarding putting additional people on alert,” Visser said. “But our corps is the America's contingency corps. We're always ready to deploy. And we can do so within 18 hours, which you're seeing right now we're in the midst of doing. ... Regardless of whether we're on heightened alert right now, we'll remain on heightened alert based off what our mission is to our nation. In the event our country needs more soldiers, we will have more soldiers ready.”
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.