Skip to comments.The gathering storm
Posted on 03/19/2003 5:01:16 PM PST by MadIvan
The first line of tanks made its way past soon after dawn, helmeted figures poking out of turrets giving the thumbs-up to watching soldiers as the massed might of the American army began its slow move to the border.
The winds had come again, but there was none of the despondency that accompanied the sandstorms last week, with people marooned in their tents to escape the howling wind. Then talk was of wives, girlfriends and family back home. Now conversation focused only on the task ahead.
Tents were packed into kit bags. Fires were lit across the plain as the debris from the camps scattered across northern Kuwait was thrown on to huge pyres, the thick smoke mingling with the clouds of dust being blown across the desert.
As President George W Bush's ultimatum to Saddam Hussein counted down towards today's 1am deadline and American and British aircraft bombed 10 Iraqi artillery positions around Basra in the southern no-fly zone, the Kuwaiti desert came alive with tens of thousands of troops moving into the border area. Amid reports that they had begun entering the 200-mile-long demilitarised zone that was patrolled until last week by United Nations observers, a senior British officer said: "Where else would they be going? We are moving into position for war."
For months tens of thousands of American and British troops have been assembling in the military zone in northern Kuwait.
Yesterday evening, as columns of troops, tanks and bulldozers moved up, the convoys appeared endless.
The crews of Abrams tanks of the Third Combat Brigade had stencilled final messages to Saddam Hussein on their vehicles.
Lt Michael Burns, 25, said: "There is a time for talking and there is a time for doing. Now we put all the training into practice." Behind him the gun barrel read: "Baghdad bound. Let's bring this thing on."
The marines had advanced late the day before; now it was the turn of the Third Infantry Division to make its way to its attack positions a few miles from Iraq.
With thousands of vehicles to be moved into position, the process was expected to take up to 48 hours. Slow-moving bridging units mounted on the tracks of old Patton tanks were already causing traffic jams, bottling up the lines of Abrams and Bradley armoured personnel vehicles that followed. Batteries of Patriot missiles passed by on trailers. Medic stations were packed up and transferred to the back of lorries.
As the wind began to drop, battle units could be seen lined up in formation, the crews in their vehicles waiting for the order to join the advance.
Among them stood the men of the first battalion of the Third Brigade, one of the first expected to cross the border. Its massed Abrams and Bradleys had drawn into position just after lunch while the air was still thick with sand. By dusk, the wind was still and the sun, which had been hidden for most of the day, glowed red on the horizon.
The "chow truck" arrived with the last cooked meal the assembled men were expected to have before the order was given to invade. Not surprisingly, it was a beefburger.
Among the assembled ranks was a lifeguard from Florida who joined the army because his father told him it was time he stopped chasing the girls and became "a real man".
There was a college drop-out who signed on after getting deeply into debt but who insisted: "I don't want to kill no one."
There was a captain who intended to play the rock band Kiss through the compact disc player strapped to the ceiling of his Humvee when the time came to cross the frontier. There was a Filipino who joined the army to escape life as a member of a street gang in San Francisco.
They were commanded by a lieutenant colonel who as a teenager sold Ferraris to film stars in Los Angeles.
In one armoured personnel carrier sat an 18-year-old born in St Petersburg. He emigrated to America six years ago without a word of English. With him was "Red", a 22-year-old corporal who grew up on a farm hundreds of miles from the nearest city in the depths of Illinois. In charge was Sgt Norman Weaver whose wife told him she would leave him if he enlisted for a second term. He signed on again anyway.
On the edge of the demilitarised zone the border posts were quiet, with only one Jeep packed with American soldiers pausing briefly at the checkpoint before careering wildly up the road. "We're late for something," the driver said.
In a further testimony to the departure of the United Nations and the peace that their presence had ensured, the blue and white border posts marking the demilitarised zone have been removed.
By the roadside a red sign now gives the warning: "10km American Prohibited Zone." Past it, a convoy of bulldozers and lorries rumbled by, carrying the materials to build forward helicopter landing pads.
Farther along the road, a short distance from the Iraqi border, stood a British soldier, a member of an advanced engineering unit which will dismantle Iraqi defences.
He said: "We have been given orders to redeploy nearer Iraq where we are going to set up camp. But I don't know how much sleep I will be getting tonight."
This paragraph sums up the US Military Nicely.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.