Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the number of troops that have arrived in Poland thus far, and to include a quote from Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue.
RZESZOW-JASIONKA, Poland — A few dozen elite U.S troops and equipment were seen landing Sunday in southeastern Poland near the border with Ukraine on President Joe Biden’s orders to deploy 1,700 soldiers there amid fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Hundreds more infantry troops of the 82nd Airborne Division are still expected to arrive at the Rzeszow-Jasionka airport, 90 kilometers (56 miles) from Poland’s border with Ukraine. A U.S. Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster plane brought a few dozen troops and vehicles.
Their commander is Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, who on Aug. 30 was the last American soldier to leave Afghanistan.
“Our national contribution here in Poland shows our solidarity with all of our allies here in Europe and, obviously, during this period of uncertainty, we know that we are stronger together,” Donahue said at the airport.
Biden ordered additional U.S. troops deployed to Poland, Romania and Germany to demonstrate to both allies and foes America’s commitment to NATO’s eastern flank amid rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine. NATO’s eastern member Poland borders both Russia and Ukraine. Romania borders Ukraine.
The division can rapidly deploy within 18 hours and conduct parachute assaults to secure key objectives. Based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the division’s history goes back to 1917.
Earlier in the week, U.S. planes brought equipment and logistics troops in preparation for the arrival of elements of the division to the airport, located 90 kilometers (56 miles) from Poland’s border with Ukraine.
Polish soldiers have previously worked together with the U.S. division on missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Maj. Przemyslaw Lipczynski, a spokesman for the Polish Army’s 18th Mechanized Division.
Some 4,000 U.S. troops have been stationed in Poland since 2017 on a rotating basis.