Vice President to Visit Fort Bragg, Welcome Home 18th Airborne Corps
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 7, 2009 Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Fort Bragg, N.C., tomorrow to welcome home Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III and his 18th Airborne Corps soldiers during a ceremony marking the end of their 15-month deployment to Iraq.
Biden and Austin are expected to speak at the Main Post Parade Field on Fort Bragg.
About 200 soldiers from 18th Airborne Corps headquarters flew into Green Ramp on Pope Air Force Base, N.C., on April 4. Austin and 40 more soldiers flew in the following day after officially relinquishing command of Multinational Corps Iraq to 1st Corps from Fort Lewis, Wash.
The 18th Airborne Corps was the operational headquarters in charge of the Iraq military theater from February 2005 to January 2006 and then again from February 2007 until April 4. The corps was responsible for nearly 160,000 coalition troops within three Army divisions, one Marine expeditionary force, three coalition divisions and numerous separate brigades.
Their mission was to manage and oversee full-spectrum operations to counter extremist groups, provide security for the Iraqi people, and to develop Iraqi security forces as well as the government’s capacity.
Under 18th Airborne Corps’ watch, security and violence drastically improved throughout the country. Following redeployment of the “surge” brigades in June and July 2008, insurgent attack levels fell by 400 percent and remained increasingly low, Austin said in a Pentagon news conference last month.
Austin said he knew going in that his corps’ main responsibility would be to build on the success of the surge. The trend continues today with little violence and steadily decreasing attack levels throughout the country, which has allowed U.S. forces to shift focus to Afghanistan -- including more Fort Bragg soldiers.
The Fort Bragg-Fayetteville, N.C., community has been a revolving door of deployments and continuous combat training since 9/11. The community is home to more than 60,000 soldiers, airmen and their families from Pope Air Force Base, the 82nd Airborne Division, 18th Airborne Corps and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division headquarters, 82nd Aviation Brigade and 4th Brigade Combat Team are all scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan this spring and summer. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team is deployed to Baghdad.
Airmen from Pope Air Force Base and Special Forces soldiers from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command as well as 3rd and 7th Special Forces Groups have been rotating back and forth to Afghanistan since 9/11.