Our correspondent Ron Synovitz is among the more than 400 journalists currently embedded with U.S. troops. Today, Synovitz talked about the reaction to U.S. President George W. Bush's speech delivered yesterday.
QUESTION: On Monday (17 March) evening, U.S. President George W. Bush said Saddam Hussein had 48 hours to go into exile or face attack from the United States. The troops you're camped with, the Third Infantry Division, are likely to be among the first to enter Iraq if and when a ground assault is launched. Did they hear Bush's speech, and how did they react?
Synovitz: Sitting in the headquarters tent at Assembly Area Hammer with members of the Third U.S. Infantry Division, the mood was grim as a videotape replayed U.S. President Bush's speech to the nation last night. [In the tent there were] master sergeants, lieutenants, colonels, and majors. All of them were leaning forward in their chairs as the president was giving his speech, listening attentively. They all had grim expressions on their faces as President Bush warned the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Republican Guard against following any orders to use weapons of mass destruction such as biological or chemical agents against U.S. troops in the field. At one point, one of the officers in the tent offered a grim smile as President Bush called on the Iraqi troops to not fight for "a dying regime that is not worth your own life." At the end of the president's speech, a colonel in the tent summarized his feelings about the speech by saying, "All right, let's get it on."
QUESTION: Do you have any idea when your division will begin an advance?
Synovitz: Although reporters are not allowed to divulge the future plans of the U.S. military in the field, there was an on-the-record briefing this morning by Colonel Daniel Allyn, who is the commander of the Third Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division here. Colonel Allyn told reporters that he expected that we would be moving from this tactical assembly area, which is south of the Iraqi border, within the next 48 hours, to a more forward deployment point, a camp which will not even have tents raised by the soldiers. It would be from that forward camp that any ground assault into Iraq will be launched.
While the colonel said this tent camp that we're in now will be torn down some time within the next 48 hours, I also asked him whether he expected us to be sleeping under the stars tonight. And he said no, he doesn't expect himself to be sleeping under the stars, or any of the reporters, unless we let somebody else tear our tent down. This is an indication that any forward moves out of this tactical assembly area would be expected probably tomorrow.