1st Battalion 22nd Infantry

 

BREAKING NEWS

 

April - 2003

 

 

Danger, Tedium In New Digs
Infantry combs for arms in Mosul

By Dionne Searcey
STAFF CORRESPONDENT

April 24, 2003

Mosul, Iraq - There is danger everywhere here. Unexploded rockets, missiles and mines lie in the middle of the road, in ditches and underneath staircases. One group of infantrymen found more than 5,000 stockpiled tank missiles. Others found dozens of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft ammunition and artillery rounds.

"Hey sergeant, you might want to move," Spc. Matthew Larocque shouted to a soldier eating dinner as he dangled his legs into a foxhole. "There's an unexploded 50-caliber round right under your feet."

"I'll be all right," said Sgt. Dana Alexander, who carried on, spreading soft cheese on a cracker.

In the background, high-pitched gunshots could be heard, probably from an AK-47, the soldiers said, aware that Mosul is now among the most hostile environments in Iraq for U.S. soldiers.

Moving into a new home is always a long, difficult process, but for the U.S. Army setting up digs in enemy territory, it's downright grueling.

Fourth Infantry Division soldiers yesterday began the tedious task of taking over the Republican Guard's 5th Corps headquarters complex. Armor, artillery and infantry units plan to run their operations from the grounds of the sprawling military post, abandoned weeks ago after coalition air strikes.

But first, soldiers must sweep through each of the hundreds of buildings here, some of them bombed-out shells and many of them housing ammunition stockpiles. And they must drive out the hundreds of looters who are roaming the area in search of scrap metal, wood and anything they can find. The entire process will take several days.

"The threat here is high," said Sgt. Carl Lawrence, an Army medic hoping he wouldn't be needed yesterday. "This place has been abandoned for a while. There could be ammunitions caches for one of the rogue factions here. The whole room could be booby-trapped. There are too many unknowns. This area is not stable."

"It ain't fun for my feet," said Corp. Wesley Barton, who took a quick break on the grass after spending the day clearing out dozens of rooms in about 20 of the squat, tan buildings.

The Army units started their invasion at 7:30 a.m., rolling through downtown Mosul and into the gates of the complex. Looters inside scattered out of the way of the armored tanks and Bradleys.

The weed-covered complex contained firing ranges, a medical facility littered with syringes, several junkyards full of rusting tanks and a warehouse of new tanks. Pieces of gas masks were strewn about the camp and one set of soldiers discovered a training area for donning them.

All day long, soldiers stopped and searched Iraqis and their vehicles. They were suspicious of everyone, even the young boys who clamored around them asking for food and water or, in some cases, handing them bright orange and pink flowers.

A psychological operations unit truck roamed the roads as an officer shouted in Arabic for everyone to stop looting and go home.

Eventually, military officials decided to permit the looters to keep looting, as long as they weren't armed or stealing ammunition. So men toting large boards, tearing down metal siding and hauling books went about their work as the soldiers went about theirs.

The U.S. soldiers did some looting of their own, despite warnings from their commanders to leave things be. Discreetly, they took Iraqi flags, military medals and books labeled with the Republican Guard insignia.

At the end of the day, teams gathered all the unexploded artillery they'd come across and burned it. It crackled and popped and occasionally boomed as black smoke poured from the burning pile.

A group of ground troops from the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, rested on the side of the road nearby, reflecting on their day.

"At first we were nervous but when we got a good routine down it was easier," said Pfc. Matthew Shaw, a member of Alpha Company.

Spc. Orlando Garcia interrupted: "Then the monotony set in. And monotony," he said, "makes you tired and not expecting things."

Copyright 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission
www.newsday.com

 

**********************

 


U.S. Soldiers' Snap Decisions In Conflicts

By Dionne Searcey
STAFF CORRESPONDENT

April 23, 2003

Tikrit, Iraq -- In the broader scheme of the war with Iraq, it was a minor battle. After all, most of the fighting here is finished, and the U.S. military is preparing to shift into peacekeeping mode.

But military scouts of the Army's First Battalion, 22nd Infantry, described an encounter on Sunday between them and a group of Tikriti men that offers a glimpse into the awkward no-man's land between war and peace.

In the end, at least 16 Iraqis found at a former military compound were dead, the military said, and 12 may have been civilians. No U.S. soldiers were injured, though one's helmet had been blown off his head.

This type of scenario is repeating itself throughout Iraq as U.S. soldiers are confronted with Iraqis who may be Fedayeen fighters or Republican Guard members out of uniform - or who may be civilians caught in the wrong place amid anxious American fighters.

"We're in between being a soldier and a cop," said Capt. Mark Stouffer, whose infantry unit is patrolling unstable pockets of northern Iraq. "We have to make quick judgment calls on our own. It's difficult."

On Sunday, the scouts of Headquarters Company said they received their first mission of the war: Soldiers were to secure a former Republican Guard military base north of Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. Air Force units had bombed the area weeks ago, scaring off enemy soldiers.

But when the infantry arrived, a sniper greeted them from the two-story headquarters building in the complex. Army units returned fire with a Mark 19, high-explosive grenade weapon, blasting bricks and plaster from the east wall into the elaborate courtyard.

The scouts then went from building to building, searching for enemy fighters and booby traps. They saw a pickup truck and 12 men leaving an ammunition bunker - civilian looters, they figured, as their grips tightened on their machine guns.

Suddenly, according to the scouts, the Iraqis shot at them, and the soldiers returned fire with M-16s, gunning down four of the men. The other eight fled, and the scouts lost track of them and went about their mission, securing the rest of the complex.

Several hours later, in the still darkness, the scouts returned to the bunker, this time with Bradley fighting vehicles and night vision goggles. They found more men, some of whom they said they had spotted at the first fight. The Iraqis were picking up the bodies of their dead. But they had AK-47 weapons, so the scouts opened fire. Twelve more Iraqis were killed, according to the military account.

"All you could see was them falling down," said Sgt. Jesus Bocanegra, whose helmet was blown off. "We thought everything was over by now. I thought we'd come out here [to Tikrit] and chill."

Instead, army commanders say, U.S. soldiers throughout the country are deciding whom to shoot, whom to detain and whom to set free based on a set of rules that can't possibly cover every situation as the military moves into cities and gets closer to civilians. They are told to shoot if fired upon and to seize all weapons. They must use their own judgment for perceived threats.

"This type of conflict is where you get the Mogadishus and the Bosnias. It's dangerous, random stuff. Not stuff you expect. Like Vietnam and the booby traps along the trail," said Army Lt. Douglas Franklin. "That's the stuff that drove those guys nuts."

One frail, elderly man captured Saturday shivered as soldiers shone a flashlight on his face. He had walked too close to their vehicles, they said, so they used plastic zip ties to bind his hands behind his back. They didn't have an interpreter so they fetched their colonel, and the group tried in vain for 20 minutes to communicate. Finally, the man pointed to his mangled foot. Apparently, he wanted a doctor. He was released after medics determined they did not have the facilities to treat him.

Army officials said they felt judgment calls by the Marines during several recent perceived threats in Mosul nearly turned the city against U.S. forces. Two days in a row last week, Marines opened fire in the city's main square, killing 17 Iraqis and injuring 39. Among the injured were a 12-year-old boy and a 61-year-old man shot when an Iraqi policeman fired a round to disperse looters at a bank. Marines mistakenly thought they themselves were under attack and shot into the crowd. The city has quickly become the most unstable area in Iraq.

Yesterday, Marines were pulling out of Mosul, turning over operations to the Army's 101st Airborne and elements of the Army's Fourth Infantry Division. The replacements complained that the Marines had left behind a hostile population and even had failed to secure a perimeter around their temporary camp. Monday night, a soldier patrolling the camp's border was shot in the arm.

All day yesterday, armored tanks and Bradleys roamed the perimeter and rolled through town. A show of force, said tank commander Lt. Col. Ryan Gonsalves, should help calm things down.

Copyright 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission
www.newsday.com

**********************

 

Ammo Looters Killed

April 22, 2003

By Ed Timms
The Dallas Morning News

    TIKRIT, Iraq -- At least 12 Iraqis looting ammunition from a military complex in northern Tikrit were killed late Sunday and early Monday in a confrontation with soldiers of Fort Hood's 4th Infantry Division. No U.S. casualties were reported.
    The incident in northern Tikrit began late Sunday when a scout platoon with the 1st Brigade's
1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, spotted Iraqis loading munitions onto trucks inside the military complex, which is located in an area once under the control of the Republican Guard 5th Corps. Marines who had entered Tikrit more than a week ago began handing over responsibility for the city to the 4th Infantry Division over the Easter weekend.
    The scouts, who were manning an observation post in the area, approached the vehicles, which reportedly were filled with ammunition for AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades.
    "They saw the scouts and fired," said Maj. Brian Reed, the infantry battalion's executive officer. "The scouts returned fire and killed four." Reed said the Iraqis initially were not executing a military mission but simply looting. However, once the shooting began, "they started swarming" towards the U.S. scouts.
    Lt. Col. Gian Gentile, the 1st Brigade's executive officer, said the Iraqis launched "what we believe was a coordinated military action, in that they separated themselves and they actually tried to envelop the scout platoon And we know that they were led by former Republican Guards, people with military experience."

   
   

**********************

 

Fighting Far From Over In Some Areas

By Dionne Searcey
STAFF CORRESPONDENT

April 20, 2003

Near Tikrit, Iraq - Army infantrymen heading through Iraq this week ignored the large words someone had carved into the sand along a hillside: "The war is over."

Certainly signs along their route indicated as much. Toppled radio antennas outside Basra. A bombed-out airplane hangar northwest of the capital. Blackened Iraqi tanks destroyed before they could leave their trenches. And the shredded billboards of Saddam Hussein.

But for these members of the 4th Infantry Division, peace is a distant concept. Despite a sentiment back home that the fighting is finished, they are facing dangerous - albeit smaller - battles as they move north through unstable areas in Iraq.

"We heard shots in the distance, so I need a heightened sense of awareness," Capt. Mitch Carlisle called over the radio late last night to troops securing a large field they've turned into a staging area for future missions in and around Tikrit.

As he spoke, Blackhawk helicopters thumped in the distance and officers plotted grid coordinates of a building said to house Hussein loyalists just miles away.

For troops from the
1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, tensions have increased the farther north they travel from Kuwait. The waving civilians are mostly gone, replaced by stares and sometimes scowls. The posters of Hussein here are intact. Along a suburban Tikrit road, the dozens of lightposts all were decorated with pristine portraits of Hussein.

"Anybody who thinks this war is over is misinformed," said Lt. Douglas Franklin, who leads a mortar platoon. "These guys are going to pull back and regroup and figure out how to plan an attack again. This could be a long ordeal."

To prove his point, he said that in the first 36 hours he'd spent in Iraq, he'd seen mortar flares and freshly fired AK-47 shells. Last night, Franklin briefed his soldiers on the numerous threats the unit had come across in the first hour of arriving at the staging field.

A red sedan had driven into the perimeter and flipped a quick U-turn, coughing up dust and spreading fear of guerrillas scouting the area for future attacks. The car should have been stopped and its occupants questioned, Franklin told his platoon.

Earlier that evening, two Iraqis, one of them toting an AK-47, approached U.S. soldiers fixing a broken-down Bradley fighting vehicle. The soldiers took their weapon, but because they were out of radio contact with their unit and unsure of what to do, they let the men go.

"I was concerned for the safety of my guys, so I sent them walking," said Lt. Osbaldo Orozco, leader of a Charlie Company platoon.

That incident earned Orozco kudos for bravery but a quick scolding from his commander, Lt. Col. Mark Woempner.

"Next time, zip-tie them and put them in the back of your Bradley," Woempner said.

Also last night, three Iraqi civilians with bloodied heads approached a team of scouts at the entrance to the staging area. They'd been beaten by Hussein loyalists nearby, they said, and they wanted revenge. As the infantry unit figured out what to do, they sent medics to help the men.

And then, no more than two hours after the vehicles engines' had shut down for the night, soldiers captured what they thought to be an enemy soldier. The barefoot man had come too close to troops guarding a road so they handcuffed him and brought him to the field.

He sat in a nylon camping chair hugging himself and shivering as Woempner and the others tried in vain to communicate with him. He pointed to his badly swollen left foot.

"This guy is looking for some help, he's hurt," Woempner said. "It's all right. We'll take care of you." The man pulled out a cigarette and Woempner gave him a light and a ride back to the road.

Copyright 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission
www.newsday.com

**********************

 

Shots fired outside 4th Infantry Division command post

Posted on San Jose Mercury News, Sat, Apr. 19, 2003
DAVE RISING
Associated Press


TIKRIT, Iraq -Three shots were fired outside of one of Saddam Hussein's palaces that was occupied by elements of the 4th Infantry Division on Saturday, hitting nobody but reminding soldiers that they are still in a war zone.

Spc. Frank Sullivan was manning a sandbagged guard post outside the west gate of the building compound, used by Saddam to house VIPs, when the short burst of small arms fire rang out from the north.The 21-year-old with the division's 1st Brigade's headquarters company saw movement in the ruins of a large nearby, but then nothing else.

The 4th Infantry is based at Fort Hood, Texas. "I've got my eyes on it just waiting, but I think it was just someone messing around," said the Pine Grove, Pennsylvania native without turning his head as he stared along the barrel of his machine gun at the building. "If it were a sniper, one of us would be hurt right now or dead."

A Bradley fighting vehicle was sent from within the walls of the compound in support of a patrol of a half dozen soldiers to secure the area, but nobody was found.

The 1st Brigade set up its tactical command post at the abandoned palace earlier in the day, a location that is one of several being contemplated for more permanent headquarters as the division continues moving greater numbers into northern Iraq, said brigade commander Col. Don Campbell.

On arrival, a patrol of seven soldiers secured the building, which had already been captured by the Marines but then vacated, going into room after room opening closets and looking behind doors, their desert boots breaking the still silence with their clomp on the shined marble floors.

Spc. Chiriga Moore, a combat camerawoman attached to the division, could barely believe her eyes as she looked along a 10-meter long dining table with four chandeliers overhead and a colorful floral oil painting at one end.

"Gosh, he was doing his people wrong big here," said the 22-year-old from San Jose, California, looking around the room that was dusty but otherwise in good condition. She shook her head again. "My gosh."

Maj. Steve Pitt, 37, sat in another dining room at one of 42 gilded chairs around a massive rectangular table looking up at still more crystal chandeliers and a finely detailed ceiling.  "It's pretty nice," said the Springfield, Virginia native with the 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery. "The man was an idiot giving up all this."

**********************

 

Battlefield Internet helps 4th Division see through fog of war

April 19, 2003
By DAVID RISING
Associated Press Writer


NORTH OF BAGHDAD, Iraq

-It's not the earth-grinding Paladin howitzers and Abrams tanks that give the Army's 4th Infantry Division its moniker -- the "digitized division.

"The heavy hardware is guided by a sophisticated computer network that, in its first use in battle, tracked the division's 1st Brigade during a skirmish Wednesday for the Taji air base north of Baghdad.  The system is known as Force 21 Battle Command Brigade and Below, or FBCB2, and works as a battlefield Internet that keeps track of fast-moving combat vehicles.It gives a videogame-like view of friendly and enemy forces on the battlefield that "provides a level of situational awareness that is second to none," said 1st Brigade commander Col. Don Campbell.

Ensconced in a command post at the rear, Campbell and his staff used the battlefield networking system Wednesday to direct his troops -- represented by blue icons -- toward the positions of "red" Iraqi paramilitaries identified by spotters in helicopters.

Soldiers of 1st Brigade took control of the Taji base, killing four combatants and taking at least two dozen prisoners. There were no American casualties.The FBCB2's key component is a rugged touch-screen computer mounted in vehicles that, proponents say, could have prevented the March 23 ambush deaths of nine soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Company after their convoy took a wrong turn.

The FBCB2's global positioning satellite navigation system warns whenever a vehicle strays from its planned path. Knowing exact vehicle positions also can prevent friendly fire deaths. On the system's networked screens, blue icons denote friendly forces and are constantly updated. Red icons show the enemy, which are added as they're spotted -- in this case by helicopter. The 4th Infantry also has unmanned aircraft that can handle surveillance tasks.

Hazards like minefields, areas where poison gas has been reported or other pitfalls can be added so units can steer clear. The FBCB2 transmits by bouncing data from vehicle to vehicle until it hits the brigade or division command centers. This "mesh network" lets the 4th Infantry update its positions faster than the rest of the Army, which must cope with the five-minute delay inherent in its satellite communications systems.

By touching a screen icon, anyone from a commander in the rear to a tank crewman can get specific data about a vehicle -- what it is, how fast it is moving and in which direction.  Another touch allows soldiers to send text messages between vehicles or back to the command post. 

By cutting down on radio chatter, commanders can use voice communications for more detailed reports, said Maj. Mike Silverman, operations officer for the 1st Brigade. "If you want to get a no-kidding assessment of what's going on in an area of operations typically it's voice," Silverman said. "What a commander doesn't have to do is spend half of the time saying `Alpha company is here, Bravo is here.'"

For Chief Warrant Officer II John Hanks, a maintenance technician for the 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery, the text messaging means troops can send quick assessments of problems without miscommunication through radio garble. "The faster the vehicles can get to me saying, `We need a part,' the faster I can come up with it and get them back into the fight," Hanks said.

Like any computer system, the FBCB2 needs maintenance. Capt. Anthony Whitfield, the 4th Battalion signals officer, spent a day in Kuwait recently repairing hard drives, processors and cables that sat unused for months as the division's vehicles were shipped from Fort Hood, Texas, where the 4th is based."This is like a car. You've got to drive it. If you don't she's due for repairs," he said as he worked on a system in a Paladin howitzer.

FBCB2 computers sit in shock-resistant ribbed cases that help dissipate the heat. Developed by Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman, they were first fielded in 1995, said Mike Iacobacci, a Northrop technician traveling with the 1st Brigade. The computers carry no cooling fan that could suck in sand or water. They run Sun Microsystems' Solaris operating system, which allows the scale of maps to be changed or overlaid with satellite imagery or terrain features.

If a vehicle is captured, FBCB2 has a self-destruct mechanism that can be triggered remotely.

Younger soldiers quickly take to the FBCB2, Iacobacci said."Some of these kids grew up on Nintendo and Play Stations, so once they get on it's easy," he said.

The 4th is considered the Army's most lethal heavy division, boasting the latest tanks, troop carriers and Apache attack helicopters. But it missed out on nearly all the fighting in Iraq after Turkey refused to let the United States use that country as a staging ground.Wednesday's skirmish was the first combat the division has seen since the Vietnam War.------

taken from The Kansas City Star, April 19, 2003

**********************

 

Army's `digitized division' wages first combat

BAGHDAD, Iraq (Army News Service, April 17, 2003)

by Gary Sheftick

 

-- Elements of the 4th Infantry Division battled Iraqi paramilitary fighters yesterday at al Taji airfield, north of Baghdad, in the division's first combat since it became the Army's "experimental force" in 1995.

Now known as the "digitized division" because of its tactical Internet and high-tech systems in each armored vehicle, the 4th ID crossed into Iraq Sunday from Kuwait. After 40 hours rolling north, the division passed through Baghdad Tuesday night and its leading elements stopped near al Taji airfield.

Wednesday morning soldiers of the division's 1st Brigade spotted paramilitary troops loading ammunition into a civilian vehicle on the air base. In a firefight that ensued, 4th ID soldiers killed and wounded a number of Iraqis and captured more than 100 enemy fighters, according to a U.S. Central Command report.

"The enemy force also had unmanned artillery pieces, armored personnel carriers and loaded multiple rocket launcher systems, a surface-to-air-missile warehouse and some computers," said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, CENTCOM deputy chief of operations at a news conference this morning in Qatar. "Coalition experts are examining the site and materials."

The 4th ID soldiers also destroyed some T-72 tanks at the airfield, Brooks said.

The 4th ID from Fort Hood, Texas, deployed to the CENTCOM theater earlier this month. It's M1 tanks and advanced Bradleys were reportedly in ships off the coast of Turkey for about a month, but in the end the equipment was offloaded in Kuwait.

That equipment included new digitized systems such as the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below. The FBCB2 is designed to facilitate communications between multi-vehicle platforms, officials said. They said it allows a soldier to know where he is, where his buddy is, and know where the enemy is.

When the 4th ID became the Army's Experimental Force in 1995, its 1st Brigade became Task Force XXI, and was outfitted with digital communications systems, new equipment and new weapons systems.

In March 1997, after training on the new equipment and new tactics, the 1st Brigade was tested in an advanced warfighting experiment at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. It's success against NTC's world-class Opposing Force was largely attributed to increased situational awareness made possible by digital communications.

In the largest rotation ever at NTC, The 4th Infantry Division demonstrated its most recent digitized systems beginning March 31 to April 14, 2001. The Division Capstone Exercise at NTC was the Army's first look at the 4th ID's elite mechanized and aviation war-fighting capability, including its FBCB2, under realistic battlefield conditions, officials said.

Battles during the DCX demonstrated that Army Battle Command Systems -- commonly referred to as digital information systems or ABCS -- were able to empower soldiers to "move more quickly over the extended battlespace," said Brig. Gen. James D. Thurman, who then commanded NTC.

Now the division is employing those digital information systems in an actual combat zone.

(Editor's note: A report from Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service contributed to the first portion of this article.)

**********************

 

 

4th Infantry sees first combat action since Vietnam



By David Rising, Associated Press, 4/16/2003 04:46 
NORTH OF BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP)

 

Members of the U.S. Army's vaunted 4th Infantry Division engaged in combat Wednesday for the first time since the Vietnam War, fighting Iraqi paramilitaries and armed men in civilian clothes near an airfield north of the capital.

Additional support about 20 tanks and 35 Bradley fighting vehicles was en route to the airstrip after the Iraqis began shooting at Americans clearing the field. No American casualties were reported in the skirmishes.

''Mostly we're just destroying their equipment as we secure the airfield,'' said Col. Don Campbell, commander of the 4th Infantry's 1st Brigade. As of midday, he said, U.S. forces had destroyed a truck, three anti-aircraft guns and two surface-to-air missile systems near the airfield. ''We've encountered six to eight paramilitaries, but we think there will be more when we get to the airfield,'' Campbell said.

The fighting came after elements of the 4th pushed through Baghdad overnight and set up near the airfield after 40 straight hours on the road from southern Iraq.

The 4th Infantry is considered the Army's most lethal heavy division, boasting the latest tanks, Bradleys and Apache attack helicopters, along with a sophisticated computer system linking all vehicles. But it has missed out on nearly all the fighting in Iraq. The division originally was supposed to invade Iraq from the north through Turkey. But the Turkish Parliament refused to let the United States use Turkey as a staging ground. Instead, the division's 14,000 pieces of equipment and 30,000 troops were shipped to Kuwait.  They arrived too late to be part of the initial attack.

The 4th Infantry is based in Fort Hood, Texas.

 

Mighty 4th Infantry Enters Southern Iraq


Monday April 14, 2003 3:30pm


The U.S. Army's much-heralded 4th Infantry Division - which all but missed the campaign to oust Saddam - rumbled into southern Iraq on Monday to reinforce the war effort.

About 500 vehicles in two convoys snaked their way along a sandy road, following advance units that had scouted the way under cover of darkness late Sunday up through Kuwait.

Hundreds of men, women and children lined the access road to the main highway inside Iraq, waving Iraqi dinars and running up to the vehicles whenever they would slow, offering the currency to American soldiers, presumably for dollars, though nobody stopped long enough to find out.

One little girl in a blue frock yelled out "Americans" and smiled and waved, while another with a white dress and black head scarf alternated between giving "thumbs up" signs and blowing kisses.

"Don't you just feel good about being here?" said Chief Warrant Officer II Tom Fisk, alternating between waving to the people and snapping photographs from the driver's side of a Humvee. "Did you see the happy people back there?" said Fisk, a 36-year-old Houston native with the 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery Regiment.

With the last vestiges of Iraqi resistance crumbling in the northern city of Tikrit, it was not clear whether the 4th Infantry Division would see any action or take more of a stabilization role.

The 4th Infantry is considered the Army's most lethal heavy division, equipped with a sophisticated computer system linking all vehicles. The division boasts the latest tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and Apache attack helicopters.

The division had initially been a key part of the war plan, to invade Iraq from the north through Turkey as the 3rd Infantry invaded from the south.

But the plan had to be abandoned after the Turkish parliament voted against letting the United States use Turkey as a staging area. Instead, the division's 14,000 pieces of equipment and 30,000 troops were shipped to Kuwait but arrived too late to be part of the initial attack.

As the convoy moved along the artillery-pocked highway Monday, burned-out tanks and abandoned infantry positions could be seen on either side of the road. Even on the main highway, children ran from their small mud-brick homes to the side of the road, waving and smiling. One young boy rode by on a brand new blue bicycle with a long shovel strapped to the back, giving the thumbs up as he pedaled alongside the convoy.

Even though the reception was welcoming, Maj. Steve Pitt, also with the 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery Regiment, said it pays to remain wary and remember Iraq is still a combat zone.

"There's still a lot of danger ahead. You've got to stay focused - one of those kids could run over and blow themselves up," said the 37-year-old native of Springfield, Va. "It's a great day for the division but we've got many tough days ahead."

Pitt was shocked to see the poor living conditions in Iraq after passing through affluent Kuwait.

"It's like when I was back in Germany for the fall of the Berlin Wall," he said. "You stepped into the East and it was like going back 40 years.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

 


FROM MIAMI HERALD

Posted on Sun, Apr. 13, 2003

4th Infantry Division heads north

BY JOHN SULLIVAN

Knight Ridder Newspapers



CAMP UDARI, Northern Kuwait - The first elements of the 4th Infantry Division will begin to move north early Monday with orders to engage the last desperate forces of the Iraqi army.

Military planners are hoping the massive offensive show of hundreds of vehicles and thousands of troops coming in support of battle weary units of the 3rd Infantry Division will overwhelm the remaining enemy forces and bring a close to the fighting. The remaining 4th Infantry Division troops still arriving from Fort Hood, Texas, will follow close behind.

Throughout the night Saturday and early Sunday a constant stream of headlights cut the dark as hundreds of armored personnel carriers, engineering teams and supply trucks lumbered into to the staging area for the 24-hour trek north.

The convoy is under the protection of the heavily armed 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry, out of Fort Hood, which includes several infantry units, attack helicopters bolstered by artillery from Fort Sill, Okla., and rocket launchers from the 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery.

In the past few days, mechanics from those units scrambled to find parts for broken vehicles while technicians clamored in and out of other vehicles to adjust their computer-controlled weapons.

The 4th Infantry Division is the most advanced division in the U.S. Army, using sophisticated computers to track each other and the enemy on the battlefield. This will be the first time such equipment will be used in combat conditions on such a wide scale. The division also has the latest M1-A2 Abrams main battle tank.

"The old M1-A1 wouldn't stand a chance against this thing," said Lt. Lance Leonard, 25, from Silverdale, Wash. Leonard is the executive officer for Bravo Troop in the 10th Cavalry. He said the mechanics in his troop have been working 24 hours straight to prepare the vehicles.

"To get all this equipment to the right place at the right time and to have all the right stuff, down to bullets, is mind boggling," he said Sunday.

The unit's Bradley fighting vehicles are being loaded onto large trucks because tracked vehicles can't maintain high speeds for too long. Many soldiers here, including Leonard, anticipate only light resistance on the journey north, but expect to engage larger forces as they push past the 3rd Infantry Division
.

**********************


FROM SAN JOSE MERCURY
Posted on Sun, Apr. 13, 2003

4th Infantry Division Units Enter Iraq
DAVID RISING

Associated Press

 


IN THE KUWAITI DESERT - Meeting no resistance, advance elements of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division entered southern Iraq late Sunday to reinforce the American war effort.

The advance units were scouting the way for a convoy expected to roll in early Monday and continue throughout the day, said Maj. Mike Silverman. He said no resistance had been met.

With the advance of American troops into Tikrit on Sunday and the last vestiges of Iraqi resistance crumbling, it was not clear whether the division would see any action or take more of a stabilization role.The division had initially been a key part of the American war plan, to invade Iraq from the north through Turkey as the 3rd Infantry Division invaded south from Kuwait.

But the plan had to be abandoned after the Turkish parliament voted against allowing the United States to use Turkey as a staging area. Instead, the division's 14,000 pieces of equipment and some 30,000 troops were sent to Kuwait but arrived too late to be part of the initial attack.

Using the cover of darkness, elements of the 1st Brigade made their way across sandy roads in Humvees and into Iraq. (1st Brigade has 1-22 Infantry, 1-8 Infantry, 1-66 Armor, 3-66 Armor, 4-42 Artillery, 299th Engineers plus support elements).

The 4th Infantry Division is considered the Army's most deployable heavy division, equipped with a sophisticated computer system linking all vehicles and boasting the latest tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and Apache attack helicopters.


**********************

 

4th Infantry members yet to see battle

By Dionne Searcey
STAFF CORRESPONDENT

April 13, 2003

Northern Kuwait - It was a weekend night in the desert and the First Annual Kuwaiti Redneck Rodeo was under way at the Bravo Company tent.

Soldiers lassoed their sergeant, wrestled him to the ground and hog-tied him. And then they did it again.

"When we're bored we start acting like idiots," said Pfc. Kurt Wagner, one of the ropers.

It's been three months since military brass told the soldiers in the Army's most lethal mechanized division that they were heading for Iraq. They finally made it to Kuwait last week to find that the war may have peaked without them.

"The president can't declare victory 'til we're there. He just can't," one officer said on a recent night as scenes of looting in Baghdad flashed across the sole television in camp.

While they waited to cross the Iraqi border, many soldiers in the Army's 4th Infantry Division practiced urban combat drills at a high-tech obstacle course where technicians can pump in the smell of rotting flesh and sounds of screaming women.

No one dares to mention that it could be the closest they get to urban combat.

Commanders know that with every day that passes, their chances of engaging in battle decrease. Still, they focus on fighting tactics. Around here, talk of peacekeeping is taboo.

Col. Gian Gentile, the second-highest ranking officer at the camp, said his troops would be happy to carry out whatever mission they're handed.

"Now, deep down inside, there's probably a certain sense of relief among the soldiers," that most of the fighting is done, Gentile said of the 1st Combat Brigade.

Under the tents where the ground troops live, frustration, not relief, appeared to be the most obvious sentiment. Still hoping to get involved in a piece of the fight, they've spent the past week prepping some of the Army's most high-tech equipment. But there are backlogs and shortages and electrical failures to overcome.

Waiting has been difficult for soldiers who already have made sacrifices to get this far. Spc. Stephen Alejandro of Flushing, Queens, missed the birth of his firstborn, Keira Alejandro, in March. The Army had told his unit that deployment was imminent, so officials refused to let him leave Texas to witness her birth. As it turns out, he didn't leave for Kuwait until April 5.

"All this stuff they've put us through ...," Alejandro said, trailing off. "They brought us down here so we might as well do our job."

Until then, there are human rodeos to organize, music magazines to leaf through and football games to play.

Wagner, 22, figured that by this time he'd be in the middle of Baghdad fighting off Republican Guard units. He was so sure of it, in fact, that three months ago when he received his deployment orders, he tattooed on his arm a portrait of Saddam Hussein with a bloodied bayonet through his head.

"I joined the infantry to fight my country's wars," Wagner said. "Peacekeeping is a policeman's job."

He stared at the picture on his arm.

A buddy reassured him: "It's still a good tattoo."

Copyright 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission
www.newsday.com

**********************

 

The Star-Ledger April 07, 2003

Army makes foray into digital battlefield

Storied 4th Infantry Division eager to put high-tech gear to the test in Iraq

By Kevin Coughlin

 

Its troops were the first to hit the beach on D-Day, and the first Americans to liberate Paris from the Nazis.

Now, the Army's 4th Infantry Division is itching to make more history by mixing bits and bytes with bombs and bullets in Iraq.

Dubbed the "Digital Division," the 4th has a unique ability to see the battlefield via a "tactical Internet."

M1A2 tanks, Apache Longbow helicopters, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and artillery units can share their locations, targeting information, and real-time text messages with commanders and each other.

Friends (blue icons) and foes (red) appear on rugged touch-screen displays that give combatants the big picture as it unfolds.

The idea is to cut through the fog of war and minimize "friendly-fire" accidents, which accounted for nearly one in four U.S. deaths in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and continue in the current conflict.

Allied forces now fighting in Iraq have pieces of this command and control system, known in Army-speak as FBCB2 for "Force 21 Battle Command Brigade and Below." Tanks can share data with tanks, choppers with choppers, and so on.

"What makes the 4th unique is it's the first division in which everybody has this stuff," said Philip Coyle of the Center for Defense Information, a research organization.

Tanks can send text messages -- more reliable than voice communications in the heat of battle -- to troop transports. Choppers can relay target coordinates to artillery batteries.

Each vehicle has a cyber-address to identify it; locations are updated constantly via Global Positioning Satellites. Data are encrypted and shuttled among vehicles by radio. Frequencies hopscotch so enemies cannot home in on the signals.

All this happens almost automatically, said Peter Keating of General Dynamics Land Systems, prime contractor for 250 M1A2-SEP tanks that the 4th Infantry is poised to debut.

Sealed and pressurized against biochemical attacks, shielded against circuit-crippling nuclear shock waves, and "cooled" to a toasty 95 degrees, these $5.5 million tanks contain about $1 million of electronics, Keating said.

There are two infrared targeting systems -- one for the tank commander, one for the gunner. The commander can swing the turret to his target with a push-button, then start hunting for more prey.

All tank functions are controlled by a computer roughly equivalent to a Pentium III machine. A backup system kicks in if the main one fails.

"It's like having a redundant PC on your desk, so if one crashes, you still get the same critical data," Keating said.

If the computer systems fails, manual controls are a last resort.

If the tank crew faces capture, they can quickly delete sensitive data, Keating said. It's harder to destroy the detachable keyboards and touch-screens, designed to absorb rebooting from GI footwear.

The polarized screens are viewable in bright sun but cast no tell-tale glow at night, Keating said, and they can be activated by gloved soldiers in chem-bio suits.

While the 4th Infantry's high-tech gear is untested in battle, the division's biggest challenge simply may be joining the fight before it ends in Iraq.

The 4th's gear is just arriving in Kuwait, after more than two months on ships while officials unsuccessfully sought Turkey's permission to roll into northern Iraq. By some accounts, it may take another two weeks for the 4th's 16,000 troops to enter the fray.

"This isn't going to be the (digital) proving ground the Army was hoping for," said defense analyst Patrick Garrett of GlobalSecurity.org.

Based in Fort Hood, Texas, the 4th trains to defend South Korea; the division rushed to repaint vehicles in desert hues after getting late marching orders from the Army, Garrett said.

The analyst asserted the division's high-tech assets are not meant for the urban warfare that may lie ahead.

"The tank battles are pretty much over," Garrett said. So he expects the 4th's contribution to be more traditional: "Fresh people," to spell weary coalition forces.

Copyright 2003, The Star

**********************

 

April 10, 2003

Below is an excerpt from a story by Kevin Dwyer, staff writer for the Killeen Daily Herald

(1st "Raider" Brigade is made up of 1-22 Infantry, 1-66 Armor, 3-66 Armor, 4-42 Artillery and 299th Engineer Battalion (plus support units):

====================================


Around the clock at Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait, the 4th Infantry Division's tanks, howitzers and other vehicles are being hauled into the camp near the Iraq border to make sure they are ready to roll within a week, a commander said Wednesday.

"We'll have 80 percent of the brigade here today, and we expect to be going into Iraq in a week," said Col. Don Campbell, 1st "Raider" Brigade commander.

The 1st Brigade's most important equipment is now fully off-loaded, and all 5,000 of its soldiers are now in Kuwait.

The brigade will be the first part of Task Force Ironhorse to move north across the border and, if it does see action, it will be the first time since Vietnam that 4th ID troops have been in combat.

Though resistance in Baghdad is crumbling, Campbell said he still expects his soldiers to see combat. "We'll make a contribution,'' he said.

The camp, about 25 miles from Iraq, was nearly empty a week ago. Now armored fighting vehicles, Humvees and trucks pack wind-swept motor pool areas around the inside perimeter. Bradley fighting vehicles test-fired their guns at a nearby range Wednesday, and tanks and howitzers are scheduled to calibrate guns there within the next few days.

The starter on Staff Sgt. Ollie Estell's Paladin howitzer, which arrived Tuesday night, was acting quirky during a test. He decided to replace it there, where parts are readily available.

"They came in and we got straight to work," said Estell, 30, of Birmingham, Ala., with the 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery Regiment. "It felt good to finally get our pieces after them being two months on the ship."

In addition to making sure equipment is prepped, Campbell plans to review rules of engagement to help prepare troops for combat. "Soldiers in the battlefield need to make split-second decisions, so it's important they understand,'' he said.

**********************

 

More than just a Set of Wheels


For 4th Infantry, months-long separation from gear finally over

By Dionne Searcey
STAFF CORRESPONDENT

April 7, 2003


Northern Kuwait - Lt. Brent Harrington clutched the wheel of a dusty green Humvee and bolted for the looming gray ship in the distance.

"I just want to find my truck," said Harrington, executive officer of Alpha company, an infantry unit.

His Bradley fighting vehicle was missing, and this was troubling news for the commander of a three-member team that runs the machine.

For most soldiers, it had been a day of reunification, as members of the Army's 4th Infantry Division gathered to greet arriving ships that carried the equipment the heavily mechanized unit had been without for three months. They had sent their gear to the Mediterranean Sea at the end of January, hoping to get permission from Turkey to unload there. But the Turks balked, and the ships headed here instead. Troops are unloading them and heading to join the war in Iraq.

For weeks, the soldiers had fretted about their vehicles, worried that the sea air and idleness would damage them by the time they arrived in Kuwait. In fact, troops were able to drive much of the equipment off the ships yesterday, and only a few Bradleys needed a tow.

But, as Harrington learned, with 40,000 pieces of equipment loaded onto a few dozen ships, some machines were bound to get lost.

"It's not lost," said Harrington, a member of the
1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment. "It's misplaced."

He came to the port in northern Kuwait on Saturday night and busied himself with inventorying vehicles as they were unloaded. Yesterday morning, Harrington, the executive officer of Alpha Company, was presented with a list of four unaccounted-for vehicles. One was "Six-Five," his own Bradley. He quickly accounted for three of them, which were lost in a paperwork shuffle. But Six-Five was nowhere to be found.

A former light infantryman who was accustomed to ground forces that walk rather than ride in a giant Bradley, Harrington had grown fond of Six-Five since he arrived at Fort Hood, Texas, where his unit is based, at the start of the year.

"When I was in the Bradley for the first time, when I got up there in the turret and put on the helmet and started talking into the radio, it seemed just like these books I'd been reading on World War II," said Harrington, of Elkton, Md. "I think we're going to be participating in something that people will read about in history books. And my Bradley is the vehicle that lets me participate in history."

He chose the name Six-Five because it is part of the number 1165 stenciled on the Bradley's flank. He knows the title fails to further the image of a fighting machine that's equipped with a TOW missile system and high-tech tracking devices and can travel up to 38 mph.

"Why do we need to glorify the name of our Bradley when its actions speak for itself?" Harrington said.

He grabbed his gunner, Cpl. Josh Chapman, and the two went on a mission to find Six-Five. They boarded the gray ship whose manifest listed Six-Five, combing through equipment jammed into all five decks of the giant steamer. Nothing. Someone mentioned a special sub-basement deck, but it was locked up until the rest of the ship was unloaded. Harrington and Chapman found a tiny crawl space and squeezed through, searching every machine down there. Still nothing.

They returned to the Humvee to devise a plan. They might as well check the ship one more time, they figured. They neared the ship again, it's gray mouth yawning as other vehicles disembarked.

"There it is right there," Harrington said, pointing at the ship. "The eater of my Bradley."

Then they saw it, parked in front of the ship in a line of other Bradleys, it's missing armored shingle unmistakable. Six-Five was right where it should be. It had been in the basement of the ship, wedged behind a large door, and had gone unnoticed for a day until someone finally unloaded it.

"Oh my goodness, there it is," Harrington said. "I was in such a bad mood, but now this story has a happy ending."

He patted the vehicle, running his hand along its tiny rust spots and the bubble wrap protecting its radio antennas.

"This," he said, "is my truck."

Copyright 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission
www.newsday.com

**********************

 

From Dionne Searcey, the embedded reporter with 1-22 - her first report after deployment.

The Long Goodbye
Army soldiers head for the war, leave their families behind


By Dionne Searcey
Staff Correspondent

April 5, 2003


Kuwait -- The last goodbyes came under the fluorescent lights of an Army gymnasium in Fort Hood, Texas. Soldiers clutched puffy-eyed wives and children who they might not see until Christmas. Outside, in the parking lot, men pressed girlfriends up against cars for one last squeeze.

And then, 271 members of the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment heaved their packs onto their backs and filed onto buses that were pointed toward war. They'd been waiting impatiently for this since receiving their deployment orders in January. Now that they were finally going, some seemed to have mixed emotions.

An uncomfortable silence filled the bus on a recent night; the only sound was the humming engine as the driver waited for everyone to get settled. From the sidewalk a young girl squeaked: "I want to go with Daddy! I want to go with Daddy!”

One soldier on board whispered, "That's why I'm glad I don't have a family.”

The vehicle crawled along Hell on Wheels Avenue, and from somewhere near the front of the darkened hull another soldier made an announcement.

"When I get back from this, I'm going to get a number for a tattoo. And when I go swimming someone will see it and say, ‘What's that number mean?' And I'll say, ‘That's the number of Iraqis I killed.'

"And if I don't kill any I'll get a big zero tattoo. And they'll ask what it means, and I'll say, ‘Nothing. Absolutely nothing.'”

Twenty minutes later, the bus arrived at another larger gym. Everyone stepped inside and onto scales that registered them and their gear at about 280 kilograms, more than 600 pounds. Afterward, they could eat corn dogs and pizza or pick through paperbacks. Last minute small pox vaccines were offered as well as five-minutes of telephone time. A loudspeaker played "Sweet Home Alabama.”

Medics gave everyone Atropine, the nerve gas antidote, and Red Cross workers handed out goodie bags -- baby wipes, a deck of cards, a wallet-sized picture of Jesus, a stick powder fresh deodorant and a sparkly pink tube of Sun Smackers calypso punch lip balm.

"Why did it have to be pink?” asked Pfc. Dieter Cameron.

The final departure was dragging.

A chaplain gave a prayer. A colonel gave a speech.

"I don't want to lose anybody because of stupidity,” said Lt. Col. Mark Woempner, the infantrymen's commander. "Stay disciplined. Keep your eyes open. Let's rock!”

And then, five hours after they began the journey to war, it was finally time to leave. The soldiers boarded a Northwest Airlines 747, struggling to fit their machine guns into the overhead compartment.

"Where are the women?” one flight attendant asked.

"This is an infantry battalion ma'am. No women,” Woempner said.

Nine hours later, the plane landed in Amsterdam for a layover. The soldiers filed into a holding area where some smoked and played cards. Some struck up a conversation with the Dutch policemen guarding the area and traded Euros for dollars. One of the local officers, Christian Wolski, was a former infantryman in his country's military.

"This is strange,” Wolski said. "Today you are here and tomorrow you are laying in the field in the desert.”

Seven hours later the soldiers landed at a military airport outside of Kuwait City. As they waited inside the air-conditioned plane, Lt. Col. Todd Megill prepped some of the officers for the heat.

"It's like a big hairy dog breathing on you all day,” he said.

When they finally arrived Friday morning, the heat turned the camp into a hazy blur of tan tents and bunkers. Some of the soldiers had to struggle to keep their eyes open for a briefing.

"We're going to build your combat power as quickly as possible so we can get you into the fight,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Lautenschlager. "For now, welcome to Kuwait.”

Copyright 2003 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission
www.newsday.com

**********************

Killeen Daily Herald April 4, 2003

4th ID 'ahead of schedule,' may be ready to join fighting within days
From wire and staff reports


IN THE KUWAITI DESERT — The soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division have been unloading helicopters, tanks and other fighting vehicles from ships off Kuwait much more quickly than expected and could start preparing for combat within days, a commander said Thursday.

The news reached this camp in coastal Kuwait late Wednesday night when Brig. Gen. Stephen Speakes, the 4th Infantry Division's assistant commander for support, burst into a command tent and told his officers the ships that had been expected to take two to three days to offload were being processed in 11 hours.

"We're moving along and we're more than on our schedule," said Col. Dennis Rogers, 2nd Brigade Combat Team commander. "We believe that we will be able to get our equipment off and start preparing to continue operations as quickly as possible. We are ahead of schedule."

Rogers spoke from his office at Fort Hood, but in the coming days he and the rest of the "Warhorse" Brigade will be headed to Kuwait.

"The big thing is to get all of our soldiers deployed and married up with our equipment, get the equipment ready to go, and then get our next mission," Rogers said.

The frantic pace is expected to continue, meaning the first "force package" from Task Force Ironhorse — led by the 4th ID — should be ready to start preparing its equipment for combat very soon, said Lt. Col. Mike Dixon, in charge of coordinating the offloading of ships and arrival of the division's soldiers.

"If we keep to 11 hours, it's going to be days," said Dixon.

Four ships have now been completely offloaded, another three were being worked on at a port in Kuwait on Thursday, while four more were expected in port in the next two days. More ships could be brought in if there is space in the port, which can handle five ships at a time.

Once a unit's equipment has been offloaded, commanders have three-, five- and seven-day plans for getting their vehicles ready for combat, and they expect to be asked to do it in the shortest time. That means the first force package could be ready to move into Iraq as early as sometime late next week if all continues going well.

"It's not just 'drive off of the boat and get right on a piece of equipment and go north,'" Rogers said. "You've got to get the equipment and get prepared and then get the mission. We don't have a mission other than to get our equipment prepared right now."

In total, Task Force Ironhorse will bring 30,000 troops, 500 armored vehicles and 18 attack helicopters to the fight. The equipment is the most sophisticated the U.S. military has, with each fighting vehicle carrying a computer system that allows commanders to track exactly where their units and enemy forces are.

The equipment — more than 14,000 pieces in total — sat on ships off the coast of Turkey for more than a month until Washington decided to reroute it to Kuwait after Turkey voted against allowing American troops passage to attack Iraq from the north.

Following that two-month delay, Rogers said, he and the other soldiers of Task Force Ironhorse are eager to get overseas and join up with the 3rd Infantry Division, which is reported to be on the outskirts of Baghdad. Before taking command of the 2nd BCT, Rogers said, he commanded the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, in the 3rd ID.

"The wingmen from the 3rd Infantry Division, we're seeing what they're doing, and we want to go. I am an old 'Marne' man myself," Rogers said, refering to the 3rd ID's nickname: "Rock of the Marne."

"All of us are very happy with what we're seeing; we're happy to be going to join our wingmen," Rogers said. "Whatever mission we get, we're ready to execute it."

Since the task force began deploying March 28, some 8,500 troops have now made stops at this camp and been moved out to camps near the Iraq border, Dixon said. Planes are now flying in around the clock with the camp receiving 10 planes of between 180 to 300 people per day.

Soldiers are crammed into 17 200-person tents and sleep on plywood floors as they wait for their orders to move out.

Some soldiers get stuck in the camp for days, which leads to complaining but no serious problems, said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Lautenschlager, who looks after issues with the soldiers in the camp.

"The soldiers want to get forward and we want to push them forward and they're being as patient as possible, but if they're here for more than 24 hours they start to get anxious," Lautenschlager said.


Staff writer Kevin J. Dwyer contributed to this report.

 

 

April 3, 2003

Fort Hood center gears up for more families

BY LESLIE M. HERNANDEZ
Herald Staff Writer

FORT HOOD — As deployments continue, the Family Assistance Center and Family Readiness Group Association are geared up and ready to help military families and soldiers.

Fort Hood spokesman Cecil Green said another 1,000 4th Infantry Division soldiers left Fort Hood Wednesday on the way to Kuwait to take part in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Mobilization and Deployment Program coordinator Dave Gretsch said the 24-hour center has received up to 100 calls per day since opening March 27.

"We are expecting 300 calls per day and 100 walk-ins per day once deployments are complete," Gretsch said.

Gretsch said about 50 family members stopped by the FAC on 37th Street on Wednesday, though by the afternoon the various aid stations were idle, waiting for more people to come in.

Help is available for anyone needing assistance for anything from getting an emergency message to a family member, legal problems, housing questions, even spiritual assistance.

Gary Trotter, senior manager for the American Red Cross office on Fort Hood, said several family members stopped by Thursday morning to send emergency messages to deployed soldiers.

"Most of the messages are births, deaths or illness," Trotter said. "We can also check on the status of a message that has already be sent."

Trotter said another service offered by the Red Cross at the FAC and their office is helping family members through the process of requesting a soldier come home on emergency leave.

Chaplains are also available at the FAC for counseling, Chaplain Lance Sneath said.

"We've helped with a child who was angry over the deployment of a parent and a couple who was experiencing predeployment stress," Sneath said.

Sneath said chaplains are available at the FAC for 12 hours a day.

"During the overnight hours there are only about three people here," Sneath said. "If someone comes in they are directed to 24-hour phone numbers like the chaplains' line."

Sneath said any military family member, from spouses to parents or grandparents, can call the chaplain line at 287-2427.

The FAC call center can be reached locally at 288-7570 or from outside the local area at 866-863-2751.

The Family Readiness Group Association of the Texas Military Armed Forces is looking for three specific items for deploying soldiers.

Killeen Volunteer Services director Joyce Hodson said fragrance-free, personal-size packs of wet towelettes, sunscreen and lip balm are needed.

"We've received about 228 pounds so far," Hodson said. "Which is a lot, since a Chapstick doesn't weigh very much."

Hodson said the items are being picked up by the American Red Cross daily from the donation site at the Killeen Volunteer Center at 215 W. Avenue D.

"Once the donations are picked up, the Red Cross takes them to family readiness groups who give them directly to the soldiers," Hodson said. "We do it this way because bulk donations were sent overseas and returned. This way the soldiers have them already in their packs."

**********************

 

April 2, 2003

Fort Hood troops glad the wait is over

By Kevin J. Dwyer

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD — The stream of Task Force Ironhorse troops continued unabated Tuesday, as several hundred more 4th Infantry Division soldiers deployed to Kuwait.

Among the soldiers who deployed from Fort Hood Tuesday was Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commanding general of TF Ironhorse.

Many of the 200 soldiers who left the post Tuesday said that while they were nervous about the deployment, they are happy to be moving after more than two months of delays.

"It's been long and drawn out, and at times it's been rather difficult," said Pfc. Lori Segers, of the 124th Signal Battalion. "I'm just glad we're getting it over with."

Segers said her biggest concern about the deployment was making sure her 5-year-old and 2-year-old sons were safe while she was gone. Because of the uncertainty in the world situation, both boys have been with her in-laws in Orlando, Fla., since September.

One soldier, who asked not to be identified, said the unit's morale was high now that they were finally deploying. However, he could not keep a tear from coming to his eye when he talked about his wife, who he has not seen since she went home to Seattle in January.

Spc. Bobby Valentine and his wife, Pamela, were also busy saying goodbye to each other.

"We've never really been separated before. I just want him to be safe," Pamela said.

Spc. Valentine, who grew up in Killeen, said the deployment will be a first for him.

"This is the first time I've ever left Killeen. I'm from Killeen," Spc. Valentine said. "I went to basic and (advanced individual training) and came right back."

Since the task force began deploying Thursday, about 5,100 soldiers have left the post, with the remaining scheduled to leave within the next week to 10 days.

When the soldiers from the 124th Sig and the 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, which also deployed Tuesday, arrive in Kuwait, their equipment will be there waiting for them.

The first three ships carrying TF Ironhorse's equipment — a force that will eventually encompass more than 30,000 troops, 500 armored vehicles and 18 attack helicopters — arrived Tuesday at Shuaiba Port, Kuwait, for unloading.

Thirty ships carrying the division's hardware will arrive in the coming days, but TF Ironhorse won't face immediate battle. The port can handle only five ships at a time, and each ship takes two to three days to unload. The helicopters have to be reassembled, and weapons need to be tested before being certified combat-ready.

"We could be on the battlefield in a matter of weeks,'' said Brig. Gen. Stephen Speakes, assistant division commander for support.

Speakes said parts of the division could go into battle without waiting for all its troops and equipment to arrive. Already 5,000 soldiers from the division have arrived by plane to Kuwait in recent days.

The equipment made a detour to Kuwait after Turkey's government refused to allow passage of U.S. ground troops.

Ships that had been waiting for weeks in the eastern Mediterranean Sea sailed for 10 days, passing through the Suez Canal to bring cargo that had been loaded as long as two months ago.

Soldiers who have deployed during the past week have expressed some concern about what condition their equipment will be in when it is unloaded.

One soldier with 2-4 Aviation said it is not the length of time the battalion's UH-60 Black Hawks has spent on ship, but rather how long it has been since the unit's mechanics have worked on the helicopters that concerns him. However, he did add that he expects the aircraft to be in operation soon after the battalion arrives.

Mixed in with the soldiers deploying Tuesday was a small group of civilians who work for defense contractors such as General Dynamics, L3 Communications and Northrop Grumman.

"This is the first time I've ever been in the field," said Gary Ullom, who works for General Dynamics out of Madison, Ala. "I've never been in the military, so I'm not really sure what to expect."

Bill Seyler, of Killeen, works for L3 Communications and said he does know what to expect. Seyler retired from the Army after 22 years and served in Desert Storm.

"It seems a lot easier to prep for it this time; you do it at your own pace," Seyler said with a smile.

Another of the contractors, Jim Garten of Westminster, Md., agreed but said he was not expecting the deployment after getting out of the military.

"You do your time in the military and you get out and your spouse doesn't expect you to have to do this again," Garten said.

Once the soldiers arrived at Robert Gray Army Airfield, the buses carrying them drove straight out to the ramp to the waiting American Airlines 777. After walking the 50 yards from the buses to the foot of the stairs leading to the plane, the soldiers hauled their carry-on gear up the 23 steps and disappeared into the plane, most without a backward glance.


Contact Kevin J. Dwyer at kjdwyer@kdhnews.com

**********************

 


Home | Photos | Battles & History | Current |
Rosters & Reports | Medal of Honor | Killed in Action |
Personnel Locator | Commanders | Station List | Campaigns |
Honors | Insignia & Memorabilia | 4-42 Artillery | Taps |
What's New | Editorial | Links |