Rapid deployments are a fact of life for soldiers at Fort Bragg. Once notice is given, paratroopers have just 18 hours to prepare to go anywhere in the world.
Bill Wadford was working as an operating room nurse with the 5th MASH unit on the evening December 17th, 1989, when he got the call to deploy as part of the Panama Invasion.
"We were in the process of doing an emergency C-section," Wadford recalled. "The baby was out, the mom was stable, and we were closing. I answered the phone and it was the executive officer of the 5th MASH. His voice was quite tense, and he said, 'Captain Wadford, you are ordered to immediately report to the warehouse in case we have to move out.'"
"I said, 'Billy, we're right in the middle of the operation right now, I can't leave.' He goes, 'I repeat the order.'"
At home, Wadford had just enough time to pack his rucksack and say good-bye to his wife.
"Her eyes got big as saucers," said Wadford. "I said, 'I can't tell you, trust me, I’ll be fine, watch the news. I don't think I'll be able to call you, but I love you, I love the kids, and I'll see you when I can see you.'"
Hours later Wadford was in the air, headed to Panama as part of a forward surgical team designed to respond quickly to battlefield injuries.
Wadford landed back at Green Ramp two weeks later, just in time to wish his wife Happy New Years.
The Ft. Bragg Stories series is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear other stories in the series here. If you'd like to share your Fort Bragg story, you can send it here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.