View Full Version : Troops Have Pre-Combat Meal, Dance

03-20-03, 07:29 AM
Troops Have Pre-Combat Meal, Dance
Associated Press
March 19, 2003

NEAR THE IRAQI DESERT, Kuwait - Capt. Philip Wolford's men leaped into the air and waved empty rifles in an impromptu desert war dance. Troops of the 101st Airborne Division ate a special pre-combat meal of lobster and steak. Soldiers sent e-mails to loved ones and savored what could be a last good shower for a long while.

To the ever-louder drone of warplanes, American soldiers in the northern desert that will serve as a launch pad for attacking Iraq engaged Wednesday in some final rituals before a war that seemed inevitable.

"Everybody's ready to go," said Command Sgt. Maj. Iuniasolua Savusa, of the 101st Airborne's 3rd Brigade at Camp New Jersey. "Things are going according to plan."

His soldiers' typical dinner of hamburgers or fried chicken was replaced with lobster and steak. The Army often serves troops a special meal before they go into combat, or before field training exercises.

Checkpoints sealed off unauthorized movement on the desert as U.S. troops and armored vehicles rolled toward the Iraq border in the hours before President Bush's ultimatum to Saddam Hussein ran out at 4 a.m. Thursday local time.

A full moon - not optimum conditions for a force that likes to attack by night - rose in a sky without clouds but foggy with sand.

With no sign that Saddam and his sons would heed Bush's order to go into exile, the 20,000 men of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division received some of the first orders Wednesday to line up near Iraq.

With thousands of M1A1 Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, Humvees and trucks, the mechanized infantry unit known as the "Iron Fist" would be the only U.S. armored division in the fight, and would likely meet any Iraqi defenses head on.

"We will be entering Iraq as an army of liberation, not domination," said Wolford, of Marysville, Ohio, directing the men of his 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment to take down the U.S. flags fluttering from their sand-colored tanks.

After a brief prayer, Wolford leaped into an impromptu desert war dance. Camouflaged soldiers joined him, jumping up and down in the sand, chanting and brandishing rifles carefully emptied of their rounds.

Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk were advised for the first time how to administer drugs to counter chemical and biological attacks. In briefings on closed-circuit television, medical staff demonstrated the effects of chemical attacks - including breathing difficulty and convulsions - and how to treat them.

Self-injecting needles were being distributed throughout the ship. Still, senior officers say a chemical attack on a ship is highly unlikely. Ships are less vulnerable to such threats because they can be largely sealed and steam away from a chemical cloud.

About 300,000 troops - most of them from the United States, about 40,000 from Britain - were waiting Wednesday within striking distance of Iraq. Backing them were scores of attack helicopters and more than 1,000 airplanes.

"Everybody's focused on what the mission is and what their part is," said Savusa, at Camp New Jersey. "We're just waiting on the word from our highers to execute our part. The Rakkasans of the 101st are ready to go as soon as they give us the word to move out."

"Rakkasan," which can be loosely translated as "falling down umbrella" in Japanese, has been the nickname of the 187th Infantry Regiment since it was a parachute unit based in Japan during the post-World War II occupation, and endures even though the 187th is now part of the 101st, the Army's only "air assault" division that relies entirely on helicopters.

Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Smith predicted that "once we get into Baghdad, it's going to be just like we were going to your hometown trying to kick you out."

"You are going to fight for everything you are worth, that's your home, that's your town, so I imagine once we get to Baghdad we are going to get a good fight."

Spc. Chris Paxton, 23, of Dayton, Ohio, said he'd sent an e-mail to his wife, Julie, earlier in the day. "I just said I'd contact her as soon as I can," Paxton said, smoking a cigarette outside his tent.

"I'm definitely going to take an extra shower tonight and shave my head," Paxton said.

Spc. Robert Worley, 24, of Daytona Beach, Fla., said he'd spent the day packing a military vehicle. He planned to call his parents early Thursday morning and tell them "just that I'm not going to call or write for awhile."

"We're probably going to be living out of a truck for awhile, sleeping in the sand," Worley said.

Sgt. Scott Wilson, 37, of Riverside, Calif., spoke with his wife and two children via a video conference call before returning to his cot and preparing his M-4 rifle for battle. "We don't know when, but we're just getting everything together," said Wilson.

With the war yet to start, some U.S. soldiers were already trying to envision its finish.

"I'm eager," said Marine Cpl. Nicholas Breitia, 22, of Elko, Nev. "The sooner we get started, the sooner we get home."

Breitia's 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit has already spent 36 days in the desert. To break the monotony - and the silence of the vast desert - its 300 men gathered whooping and hollering for a company picture.

On the USS Theodore Roosevelt, combat pilots and others were ordered to sleep through the day so they could work through the night. Those on the USS Harry S. Truman remained on day duty - thus providing round-the-clock combat capability.

Kuwait closed its checkpoints to the northern 60 percent of the country for the first time Wednesday, blocking even farmers from reaching their wheat and date palm plots in the desert. Most Kuwaitis had fled the north months earlier, taking their families out of harm's way.

Fearful foreign farm workers who were left behind debated which would be more likely to attract Iraqi attacks - the border, with its U.S. troops, or Kuwait City.

"Maybe they will bomb us," worried one Pakistani foreman supervising 10 Indian field workers. "Do you think they will?"

High, slow-moving warplanes droned over the border, out of sight in dust-hazed skies - more and more as dark fell.

More unnerving for the few remaining was the sight of the unguarded border, abandoned since Monday by the U.N. patrols that have kept watch since shortly after the 1991 Gulf War.



03-20-03, 08:45 AM
Lobster and Steak for Chow....The US Army hasn't change at all with chow like that...Marines never get a break!!!...Hope it's a short War.:marine: :marine: