The 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team received orders today to deploy to Kuwait in early January to become the theater command's "call forward" force, Defense Department officials announced today.Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates approved the request from Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, yesterday, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told Pentagon reporters.About 3,500 members of the "Falcon Brigade" headquarters will replace the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit as CENTCOM's forward-deployed on-call force, ready to respond quickly to a full range of contingencies, he said.The Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 15th MEU moved forward into Iraq's Anbar province in November, Whitman said, and Abizaid requested that the on-call force be reconstituted to provide additional capability and flexibility within the theater.The 82nd Division served as the U.S. strategic response force and is always on a high state of alert, Army Maj. Tom Earnhardt, the division's public affairs officer, told American Forces Press Service. "Within 18 hours, we can have the first elements out the door," he said.The troops were recalled to Fort Bragg today, cutting their holiday leave short to prepare for the deployment. "Everybody left with the understanding that something like this could happen," Earnhardt said.The Falcon Brigade is slated to leave Fort Bragg early in the new year for a deployment expected to last up to 240 days, through September, Whitman said. Once in Kuwait, they will be prepared to respond to contingencies, not just in Iraq, but throughout the CENTCOM area of responsibility.Officials emphasized that the deployment announcement does not indicate a surge and is not tied to any particular event.Fifteen combat brigades are currently serving in Iraq. Officials said those numbers, like those throughout the CENTCOM region, will be adjusted as necessary depending on conditions on the ground.