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Iraq: Desert Dispatch -- 3rd Infantry Division Preparing For Combat

  • Ron Synovitz

RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz is embedded with the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, whose troops were among the first to enter southern Iraq. Synovitz filed this report at around 8:00 a.m. Prague time today.

QUESTION: Can you tell us where you are and what has been happening on the ground in southern Iraq overnight?

SYNOVITZ: I'm with the 3rd Infantry Division, and we're in southern Iraq right now, and we are moving. We are driving. We've been driving since dawn. The troops here are zeroing their weapons. They are firing their artillery and their tanks to ensure the accuracy of their targeting systems in anticipation of possible engagement, either later today or in the coming days.

QUESTION: So the 3rd Infantry Division has not seen any military action yet?

SYNOVITZ: The only action seen by the 3rd Infantry Division's forces so far has been in the operation of crossing the demilitarized zone that separates Kuwait from Iraq. There was a heavy artillery barrage last night and also some fire from multiple-rocket launchers on the ground in order to clear border-crossing areas. We've been driving since dawn today in southern Iraq, and so far we've come across scores of Bedouin herdsmen. We've been greeted by friendly greetings of "inshallah" and "salaam aleikum." However, some of the U.S. troops are suspicious that some of the Bedouins they are seeing may have cell phones and may be using them to pass information about the 3rd Infantry Division's advance onto Saddam Hussein's regime.

QUESTION: Have you been encountering any Iraqi troops?

SYNOVITZ: The Iraqis that I've seen have been only the Bedouin Iraqis here. Many of them are following the instructions that they've been given in this incident, which is to stay inside of their homes, stay inside of their tents, keep their arms down, don't wave their arms, and look like they may be brandishing a weapon of some kind. However, we've seen both women and men waving greetings and shouting greeting to the U.S. troops. So far, we've had no direct contact with any hostile enemy forces. There were a lot of decoys, tanks and armored personnel carriers made out of wood, which U.S. troops fired on.