- Thousands of US Army paratroopers assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, are deploying to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran, and these soldiers have been instructed to leave their cellphones behind.
- “This is not a standard deployment,” a division spokesman told Insider, adding that these measures were being implemented to ensure operational security.
- The paratroopers are deploying as part of the new Immediate Response Force, a kind of quick-reaction force equipped with higher-end capabilities.
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The US is sending 3,500 Army paratroopers to the Middle East on a snap deployment as tensions with Iran soar, and they have been told to leave their cellphones and other personal electronic devices behind.
“This is not a standard deployment,” Lt. Col. Mike Burns, a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, said, telling Insider that the decision was made to protect operational security as troops with the division deploy for the first time as part of the new Immediate Response Force.
Burns told CNN the division would keep families in the loop and that call centers would at some point be set up for soldier phone calls.
“This is not the normal kind of deployment,” Maj. Gen. James Mingus, the 82nd Airborne Division’s commanding general, told the outlet. “The decision 100% an operational-security and force-protection measure.”
Burns told Insider that the purpose was not only to protect sensitive information, like the troops’ locations and identities, from getting out but also to guard soldiers from other threats, such as cyberattacks. “All of that falls under operational security. All the threats,” he said. “All the threats fall under operational-security concerns.”
The spokesman said that while the order was unusual, soldiers were understanding because they do not want to bring anything with them that could put them at risk or get them killed.
Troops with the 82nd Airborne Division deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait. Their final destination, however, is classified.
Paratroopers began deploying to the region amid a rise in tensions after Iranian-backed Iraqi militias attacked the US Embassy in Baghdad, a response to airstrikes on militia positions after a rocket attack that killed a US civilian contractor and wounded several American service members.
Seven hundred and fifty soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, deployed to Kuwait as Marines with a special crisis-response unit rushed in to reinforce the embassy.
Tensions have spiked in the wake of a drone strike last week on Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who commanded the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force. The US decided in the wake of that strike to send in the rest of the 1st Brigade Combat Team amid Iran’s threats and warnings after the attack.
The US military has sent more than 15,000 troops to the Middle East in response to concerns about malign Iranian activities since May.