War games taking place at Bragg

FORT BRAGG It started Wednesday night with a dramatic drop under a moonlit sky, amid the sounds of machine gun and cannon fire.

More than 1,000 82nd soldiers jumped into action in Fort Bragg's Sicily Drop Zone.

The scenario for the war game is two fictitious countries about to go to war. The 82nd parachutes have to keep one country from invading the other.

The troops know how to go to war, but they say the training helps make them better at doing it.

"It helps to prepare for when we are actually jumping into combat," 82nd soldier Spec. Karl Cardena said.

That's exactly what 82nd soldiers did 20 years ago. In December 1989, Fort Bragg troops invaded Panama, taking out Panamanian strong-man Manuel Noriega in Operation Just Cause.

Now every jump begins with reviewing safety procedures, practicing going out the door and hitting the ground.

The hardest part the soldiers say is carrying 150 pounds of gear with them.

"The hardest part is just to make it to the airplane," 82nd soldier Sgt. William Barton said. "It's not an easy walk once you get in the airplane you get to sit down."

For some the joint training exercise that helps commanders co-ordinate their lines of combat and troops hone their combat skills, is as close to combat as they will come.

"You know I haven't deployed, but I would like to get down there and give them a hand do my time and help the country out," 82nd soldier Spec. Karl Cardena said.

But as the fighting and violence escalates in Afghanistan, the soldiers say they know that could easily be their next call to duty.

"Yeah I expect if you are going to go over there I expect casualties," 82nd soldier Spec. Daniel Manring said.

With most of the 82nd deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, the 82nd Brigade Combat Team remains at Fort Bragg as part of a Global Reaction Force.

"We are the 82nd, we are the tip of the spear we have to be on call and ready to go on a moment's notice," 82nd soldier Maj. Richard Ojeda said.

Soldiers say its training that helps them guarantee that motto.

The war games will continue over the next three days.

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