Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is scheduled to meet today with soldiers from the Army’s 18th Airborne Corps who returned home yesterday to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after a nine-month deployment to Europe.

The corps deployed 300 service members to Germany in February to reinforce NATO’s eastern member states and to help deter Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The return of the full corps followed service members from 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment, who arrived back in the U.S. last month.

During his time at Bragg, Austin will participate in briefings, troop engagements and a military spouse roundtable, according to a Pentagon news release. Among his other assignments, Austin previously served as the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps, including during a deployment to Iraq in 2008.

“Our [s]oldiers answered the nation’s call by supporting our European Allies and partners during a historic period. We thank them and their [f]amilies for their sacrifice and welcome them back home to the place that is the beacon of liberty,” Lt. Gen. Christopher T. Donahue, commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, said in a press release.

Donahue took command of the 18th Airborne Corps in March after notably becoming the last American soldier to leave Afghanistan last year, marking the end of America’s longest war.

In response to Russia’s assault on Ukraine, close to NATO members like Poland, the U.S. deployed an additional 20,000 forces to the region. There are now approximately 100,000 service members throughout Europe, the press release added.

During their time overseas, the 18th Airborne Corps helped train and equip Ukrainians to defend their nation, providing a headquarters to manage American troops in Wiesbaden, Germany.

“This was a historic mission for America’s Contingency Corps,” Command Sgt. Maj. T.J. Holland, senior enlisted advisor for the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, said in the press release.

“This was the first time the Corps has deployed to the European continent since World War II, and the commander and I are proud of every one of our [s]oldiers who rapidly deployed to reassure our Allies and partners, and showing the American people the Army’s standards of readiness and perseverance this organization embodies.”

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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