82nd Airborne Division paratroopers forward deployed near Washington D.C., sources say

82nd training
Photo credit Photo by Senior Airman Christopher Callaway

The 82nd Airborne Division's Immediate Response Force (IRF) is deploying in response to riots in Washington D.C., three sources confirmed to Connecting Vets. 

Connecting Vets was the first to report that the IRF has been placed on alert to respond to civil unrest over the weekend. The Department of Defense denied that report. 

"Off-the-record: This is inaccurate ... Not true," officials said in an email. No off-record agreement was negotiated with Connecting Vets. 

Now, a defense official with knowledge of troop movement is providing details of the IRF deployment to Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facility Washington in Maryland last night. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and provided the information on condition of anonymity.

The IRF is broken down into three separate packages called Immediate Response Battalions (IRB) which are numbered IRB 1, IRB 2, and IRB 3. Yesterday, IRB 1 drew weapons and ammunition, to include crew-served M240 machine guns, at Fort Bragg, the source said. 

The paratroopers were transported from Pope Army Air Field at Fort Bragg to Joint Base Andrews on three C-17 transport aircraft, sources said. Nine UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and three CH-47 Chinook helicopters were also transported to Joint Base Andrews. The helicopters were flown into Andrews by pilots and flight crew.

IRB 2 and IRB 3 remain at Fort Bragg and are on one-hour standby for rapid deployment, sources said. The 82nd Airborne Division consists of airborne infantrymen. The paratroopers are not trained for riot control duties. Joint Base Andrews is just minutes away from Washington D.C. by helicopter.

Three additional C-17 aircraft were flown this morning to ferry the remaining 300 paratroopers of IRB 1 from Pope to Andrews, sources said. Open-source flight data also recorded a flight carrying the designation "Department of the Army, priority air transport" from Rome, New York to Joint Base Andrews. The highly secretive Army intelligence unit known as Task Force Orange is known to fly planes out of Rome. Connecting Vets reached out to Special Operations Command for comment but had not heard back by the time of publication.

A spokesperson at Fort Bragg declined to comment and referred Connecting Vets to the Pentagon. A senior defense official at the Pentagon declined to comment on the size, strength or disposition of active-duty military deployments but said, "we can confirm active-duty soldiers are in the national capital region and that they are on a shortened alert status and available for deployment if necessary."

At any given moment, the 82nd Airborne Division's IRF is prepared to rapidly deploy in response to orders from the national command authorities. The IRF was last deployed on New Year's Eve as tensions mounted between the United States and Iran.

Protestors have marched and demonstrated across the country in response to a police officer kneeling on an unarmed black man George Floyd's neck and his death in police custody. Some of those protests have turned violent, with rioters clashing with riot control police and prompting national guard deployments.

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Reach Jack Murphy: jack@connectingvets.com or @JackMurphyRGR.