(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

The 82nd Airborne Division has a long and storied history. It also has a very significant mission for the United States: It's America's fire brigade — sent to a hot spots around the world to draw a line in the sand whenever needed. It did just that in 1990, at the start of Operation Desert Shield, but a lot of time has passed since then.

During Saber Strike 2018, an international exercise held annually in partnership with the Baltic States and Poland to rehearse the deployment of troops in defense of those nations, the 82nd Airborne Division was used to send a pointed reminder. The world needed to know that this division remains ready to act.

With the help of nine U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport planes, roughly 700 paratroopers from the famed division, as well as some from the British Army's Parachute Regiment, dropped into Latvia, simulating a no-notice deployment.


A paratrooper gathers his equipment after making a landing during Saber Strike 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

It took ten hours for the planes to take the troops to their drop zone in Latvia. In addition to the paratroopers, they also dropped vehicles, like the High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), and equipment, including FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank guided missiles and .50-caliber sniper rifles.

The message was clear: In less than half a day, the United States and its allies can have troops on the ground, equipped and ready to fight.

But here's something you may not know about the 82nd Airborne Division: There is always a brigade ready move anywhere in the world with just 24 hours' notice. This is known as the Division Ready Brigade. Inside that brigade, one battalion can arrive anywhere in the world within 18 hours or less.

Not only did paratroopers from the 82nd make a jump into Latvia, they brought vehicles like HMMWVs, too!

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)

In 1990, the deployment of those forces to Saudi Arabia stopped Saddam Hussein at the Kuwaiti border with Saudi Arabia. It was a clear message that said crossing the border would lead to war with America.

Their rapid deployment as part of Saber Strike 2018 sends a similar message to Putin: The United States of America can and will rapidly respond if you try to attack the Baltic States. Hopefully, as it did in 1990, such a deployment will give a hungry, aggressive nation pause.