U.S. Troops In Poland Preparing to Support Americans Leaving Ukraine
The State Department has the lead, but soldiers are building facilities and standing ready to give other assistance.
U.S. paratroopers in Poland are setting up “processing facilities” to help Americans who flee Ukraine, an Army spokesman confirmed.
Set up in buildings and tents in various Polish locations, the facilities will be used by teams of U.S. officials led by the State Department, the lead agency for helping civilian U.S. citizens leaving Ukraine as Russian forces advance.
The soldiers are from Joint Task Force Dragon, composed of the 5,000 troops recently deployed to Europe and led by the XVIII Airborne Corps. Most of them belong to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but others are from the 16th Military Police Brigade, the 525th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, and the 101st Airborne Division.
They are establishing these facilities with the Polish government to support State Department officials, Col. Joe Buccino, a spokesman for the Corps, said in an email.
“Our mission here in Europe is to assure our Allies of the American commitment to NATO. As the Secretary of Defense stated, the XVIII Airborne Corps is capable of a variety of mission sets, including assistance to American citizens in Poland if requested by the Department of State. We continue to prepare for that as well as training opportunities with our Polish Allies,” Buccino said in a statement.
The State Department has already established a 24-hour “welcome center” for U.S. citizens in a Polish hotel. State also has support teams on the border in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Moldova to help U.S. citizens, a State Department spokesman said in an email.
The construction of these processing centers was first reported by the New York Times.
On Wednesday, a senior defense official told reporters that soldiers from the 82nd Airborne are prepared to offer evacuation assistance.
“They're postured to do that at several locations in Poland, not right up on the border, but near the border and working in lockstep with Polish authorities in the State Department,” the official said. “We have not seen any significant numbers of American citizens crossing that border to date. Now, that could change; we don't know. Hopefully, they all took the advice of the State Department and the president and left Ukraine. So as of today we’re not seeing numbers of any significance. But they are postured and ready to assist if needed.”
If asked by the State Department, the military can also step in to process Americans and provide them aid and resources, another defense official said. This support could include organizing lodging arrangements, travel tickets, and passport support to help Americans quickly move on to their final destination.