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The 82nd -- ready 'in hours' if needed in Iran

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Paratroopers of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division and "Green Berets" of the Special Services could be on their way to Iran in hours if President Carter ever gave the order.

These and other seasoned units of the XVIII Airborne Corps were prepared, says the corps commander, Lt. Gen. Thomas H. Tackaberry, to try a rescue of the US hostages immediately after their capture in Tehran last November.

Despite the obvious risk, "that is when many of us expected to move," General Tackaberry said in an interview with the Monitor at his headquarters here. In those early hours of the crisis, the situation was confused in Tehran, providing the opportunity for a quick response. "Of course, as time went on" and the administration's policy of restraint became clear, "the difficulties grew more and more," said the general, a combat veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Though seen as too little and much too late, President Carter's April 7 measures against Iran were applauded in this sprawling military reservation near Fayetteville, N.C.

US Defense Secretary Harold Brown's follow-up promise before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council April 7 that the US would respond "promptly and successfully" if Iran moved to choke off US oil from the Persian Gulf was not yet known here when General Tackaberry was interviewed.

"We've got the power" to respond forcibly to Iran, General Tackaberry said. "The problem would be in confronting any Soviet opposition and is basically getting to the right place quickly enough. For operations in the Middle East or Africa, you've got to get the people there in time -- and be able to land somewhere nearby."

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