82nd Airborne paratroopers who rapidly deployed to the Middle East in January are finally coming home

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The paratroopers that rapidly deployed to the Middle East at the beginning of the year, in response to growing tensions with Iran, have gotten the green light to come back home.

Maj. Gen. James Mingus, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, said in a message posted on Twitter last week that the 1st Brigade Combat Team's redeployment "has been approved and they will begin their journey home in the next several weeks." 

"The paratroopers and our families have had a historic deployment," Col. Andrew Saslav, the brigade commander, said in a Facebook video on Thursday. "And now we can’t wait to be back in your arms again.” 

Around 750 soldiers with the Immediate Response Force (IRF) started deploying the night of New Year's Eve, with 18 hours notice, in response to an attack on the American embassy in Baghdad. In total, around 3,500 paratroopers deployed at the beginning of the year.

Near the end of February, 800 of them had come back. But because of continued tensions in the region, along with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the rest of the brigade have been unable to return

Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said earlier this month that the situation was being monitored "almost daily...to determine exactly when to bring them home." 

Lt. Col. Doug Massey, rear detachment commander, said in a Facebook town hall on Friday that the redeployment dates wouldn't be discussed publicly. 

Mingus' message said that soldiers would need to quarantine for 14 days upon returning home, though Massey said that no paratroopers have yet to test positive for COVID-19. He added that soldiers will be able to quarantine at home.

Rear detachment Command Sgt. Maj. Cory Bell also said on Friday that in lieu of a typical welcome ceremony for the paratroopers, because of COVID-19 distancing guidelines, family members are being encouraged to participate in a parade on the installation (while maintaining social distancing, of course).

"Pike Field is about a four-acre field, and we have the entire field to line, so there's no need to be within anybody's social bubble," Bell said of where the families should gather for the parade. "I highly encourage any family member within the Devil Brigade to go out and line the road there, with flags, banners, streamers, whatever it is, to welcome home our Devil Brigade paratroopers."