American troops have touched ground in Poland on Saturday, becoming the first United States reinforcement to NATO allies in Eastern Europe amid a Russia military build-up on Ukraine's border.
A small plane carrying what a Polish military source said were U.S. chain of command personnel landed at Rzeszow-Jasionka airport, part of a military base in southeastern Poland. as preparations continued at the base, which is near Poland's border with Ukraine.
TV footage showed temporary accommodation being prepared at the G2A Arena in the nearby town of Jasionka, while workers could be seen building a fence around the venue.
"As announced, the first elements of the brigade battle group from the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army have arrived in Poland," a Polish military spokesperson said.
The U.S. army confirmed that the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army Major General Christopher Donahue, had arrived in Poland.
On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered nearly 3,000 extra troops to Poland and Romania to shield Eastern Europe from potential spillover from the Ukraine crisis.
About 1,700 service members, mainly paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division, will deploy from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Poland in coming days, U.S. Army sources have said.
According to the Pentagon, a squadron of around 1,000 U.S. service members based in the German town of Vilseck will be sent to Romania.
The first additional U.S. troops from the 18th Airborne Corps arrived in Germany on Friday.
"Our Corps' presence serves to bolster existing U.S. forces in Europe and demonstrates our commitment to our NATO allies and partners," spokesperson for the 18th Airborne Corps, Captain Matt Visser, was quoted saying in a statement on Saturday.
Russia has denied planning to invade Ukraine but has deployed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine's borders and says it could take unspecified military measures if its demands are not met, including a promise by NATO never to admit Kyiv.
The latest U.S. deployment goes beyond the 8,500 troops the Pentagon put on alert last month to deploy to Europe if needed. NATO defense ministers are expected to discuss further reinforcements at their next meeting on Feb. 16-17.