Army Sky Soldiers Prep for Middle East Deployment as US Buildup Continues

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173rd Airborne paratroopers
U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, prepare to execute an airborne operation from Nuremberg Airport onto Bunker Drop Zone in Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, on Nov. 21, 2019. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army’s Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapid forces to the United States European, Africa and Central Command’s areas of responsibilities. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Henry Villarama)

U.S. Army paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade are preparing to deploy to the Middle East to beef up U.S. military ground forces in the region amid threats of military action by Iran, an Army official has confirmed to Military.com.

The Pentagon continues to tap available ground forces to send to the U.S. Central Command region in the wake of escalating tensions with Iran. The Iranian government has made bold threats against the U.S., promising to retaliate after President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike Thursday that killed Iran's Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.

Maj. Chris Bradley, a spokesman for the Italy-based 173rd, told Stars and Stripes on Monday that 173rd soldiers "are deploying to posture to defend U.S. personnel and property as directed" but did not discuss the size of the deployment.

The 173rd Airborne is the Army's rapid-response unit for Europe and, like the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is capable of deploying the first of its two infantry battalions and support units in 18 hours.

Related: Emergency Paratrooper Deployment Is First for New Army Response Force

On Friday, the Pentagon ordered about 3,000 paratroopers from the 82nd's 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment to deploy to the Middle East, three days after the emergency alert and deployment of the 504th's 2nd Battalion as part of the joint Immediate Response Force (IRF).

The short-notice deployment of the IRF came in response to hundreds of Iranian-backed militia members breaching the U.S. Embassy compound last week.

In addition to conventional Army forces, the entire Bataan Amphibious Ready Group has been ordered to the region. The group includes the amphibious assault ship Bataan, amphibious transport dock ship New York, dock landing ship Oak Hill and about 4,500 Marines and sailors.

Army Special Operations Command is also deploying a contingent of forces to the area that includes a company-sized element from the 75th Ranger Regiment, Politico recently reported.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

-- Military.com's Gina Harkins contributed to this report.

Read More: Army Rangers Deploy to Join US Force Buildup in Middle East

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