The Pentagon confirmed on Thursday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed thousands of United States troops on “heightened preparedness to deploy.”
“The secretary did place a range of units in the United States on a heightened preparedness to deploy. I can say today that these units include elements of the 82nd Airborne Division based in Fort Bragg, which regularly, I think you all know, maintains high readiness, as well as elements of the 18th Airborne Corps, also based at Fort Bragg, and some elements at Fort Campbell, Kentucky,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters during a briefing.
Kirby said the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell and the 4th Infantry at Fort Carson, Colo., were also among the units placed on heightened alert, adding that the Pentagon would not “provide an exhaustive list of every unit that’s being placed on ‘prepare to deploy orders.’”
Other units include elements from Fort Davis-Monthan, Ariz.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Lewis McChord, Wash.; Fort Polk, La.; Robins Air Force Base, Ga.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; and “select additional locations in the U.S.”
“These units all told include medical support, aviation support, logistics support, and of course, combat formations,” Kirby said. “I want to just underscore one other note, and that is, as I said many times earlier this week, these forces are on a heightened preparedness to deploy, they have not been activated.”
The Pentagon first announced on Monday that Austin had placed 8,500 U.S. troops on “heightened preparedness to deploy” as a Russian invasion of Ukraine appeared imminent.
On Thursday, Kirby declined to reveal how many of the 8,500 troops were combat troops.
“Secretary Austin has placed a range of units in the United States on a heightened preparedness to deploy, which increases our readiness to provide forces if NATO should activate the NRF, or if other situations develop. All told, the number of forces that the secretary has placed on heightened alert comes up to about 8,500 personnel,” Kirby said on Monday.
Kirby said no decisions had been made to deploy and that the U.S. takes its responsibilities to NATO “seriously,” adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin will face “severe consequences” if he invades Ukraine.
“Largely those are economic consequences,” Kirby said, later adding that officials “obviously don’t want to see another incursion in Ukraine.”
“We are using lots of levers to try to communicate why that would be a bad thing for Russia to do,” Kirby continued. “But number two, and it’s not an insignificant number two, is to make sure that NATO stays unified, and that our allies are able to defend themselves. That is what this decision is all about.”