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Iraq: Desert Dispatch -- Unit Engages Iraqi Soldiers

Ron Synovitz is embedded with the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, whose troops were among the first to enter southern Iraq. Under U.S. Army rules he is not permitted to reveal his location, but he indicated he is in Iraq and moving northward toward Baghdad.

He said his brigade has just had an engagement with some 20 Iraqi soldiers - inflicting 10 casualties (not clear if killed or wounded) and taking 10 prisoners. He also said his group expects another engagement -- possibly more serious -- later today, 21 March. Synovitz filed this report at around 5:00 p.m. Baghdad time under clear skies and mild temperatures.

QUESTION: Tell us what is happening today?

SYNOVITZ: The Third Brigade combat team of the third infantry division has just had its first engagement with Iraqi soldiers since it knocked out Iraqi border posts early today and began a rapid northward advance. Scouts from the combat team engaged about 20 Iraqi soldiers in a convoy that was mixed with civilian vehicles. Ten Iraqi casualties were reported, and at least 10 Iraqi POWs have reportedly been taken.

QUESTION: Youve been advancing to Baghdad all day -- do you expect any more resistance?

SYNOVITZ: Weve been rapidly advancing northward in Iraq since early this morning, moving all day, literally thousands of vehicles spread out in a half-dozen columns across the desert. At the moment we are stopped. We are regrouping. We are refueling. And the combat teams are checking their weapons systems to make sure they are working. In the distance we can hear gunfire of a skirmish going on by the first encounter of the scouts of the team. And it looks like the situation may be shaping up for a battle later this evening.

QUESTION: Are the troops tired -- when do they (and you) sleep?

SYNOVITZ: The convoys have to stop to refuel and regroup because each of the different vehicles has a different speed and they can stretch out. So [the convoy] stops at different intervals. Every time the vehicles stop, every chance that the soldiers have, they immediately close their eyes. They are able to sleep very quickly, even in the middle of the sun.