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Newly Trained Troops Willing to Go to Persian Gulf With PM-Gulf-Iran-Iraq, Bjt

September 10, 1990

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (AP) _ When Pvt. Michael Durnell began basic Army training, the Persian Gulf was a faraway chapter from geography lessons and Iraq hadn’t invaded Kuwait.

Eight weeks later, Durnell and his buddies say they can handle fighting in the Gulf - or whatever the Army hands them.

″Nobody looks forward to going into a possible war situation, but I’m definitely ready to do the job,″ said Durnell, 21, of Kansas City, Mo.

He was among 560 new soldiers, all in their teens or early 20s, who graduated last Thursday from basic training at Fort Leonard Wood. The 64,000- acre post in the Ozarks has prepared soldiers for a half-century.

At seven other Army posts across the nation, Army recruits have the same regimen - up at 4:30 a.m., in bed by 8 p.m., six days a week.

Don Moore of Atlanta watched with other parents during the graduation ceremony as the teen-agers turned young men marched with heads held high and chests puffed out.

″I’d hate to lose him, but you take an oath to protect your country. We have to protect ourselves. Freedom is not free,″ Moore said.

The prospect of war in the Middle East was not emphasized during training. All recruits face months of specialized training before getting their first assignment.

But Lt. Col. Stephen Rasmussen, commander of the graduating battalion, acknowledged the Persian Gulf crisis in his speech. ″If I could ask an Iraqi general what these men have done, he would say they’ve worried him a lot,″ he said.

Army officials here say they won’t change training to suit the desert. That training includes three weeks of weapons training, 80 miles of marching, and millions of push-ups.

Capt. Mike Presnell watched as 150 of his recruits crawled, dodged and ran along a 400-yard tactical training course in 100-degree heat.

″My job is to prepare soldiers to serve in any type of combat, to graduate combat-ready soldiers,″ said Presnell.

Behind him, recruits in full combat gear trained to stay alive with a sensor device on the helmet and chest. The device is activated by an infrared beam fired by someone in hiding. The beam sets off a beep to denote a kill.

″They love this. They like testing their skills. You provide them exciting training and they’ll be motivated,″ Presnell said. ″It’s better they learn their lessons here when it’s only a beep.″

Gone are days of filling the ranks with high-school dropouts and those in trouble with the law back home. Now, if you don’t have a high school diploma, forget it.

″The soldier of today is a hell of a lot better than the soldier of 14 years ago. We’re getting better men to begin with,″ said Maj. Harold Von Fischer-Benzon, a brigade training officer. The failure rate in basic training is about 5 percent, he said.

Gone, too, are the screaming, shouting drill sergeants training by fear and intimidation.

″Profanity is out. Harassment is out. It’s a modern Army. They volunteered to come in. You don’t need vulgar language anymore,″ said Staff Sgt. Gregory Wolf.

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