U.S. Troops Arrive to Give Desert Shield Offensive Punch With AM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt
IN EASTERN SAUDI ARABIA (AP) _ Combat troops once at the front line of the U.S. defense against the Soviets in Europe poured into Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, the vanguard of the U.S. buildup in the gulf.
Sixteen hours after leaving snow-covered Germany, soldiers from the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment were sweating in temperatures in the high 70s and getting accustomed to walking in ankle-deep sand at an air base in eastern Saudi Arabia.
″This is one of the best trained units in the Army,″ said Lt. Andy Kilgore, 23, of Philadelphia, Miss., from the regiment’s 2nd Squadron. ″They’ve been trained to face 7-to-1 odds against the Soviets. They’re ready for the Iraqis or anybody else.″
The arriving soldiers, some looking tense and nervous, said they were well- trained for war, but hoping for peace.
Lt. Gene Lanzillo, 25, of Alexandria, Va., said the unit used to patrol the former East German border and had been ″on the cutting edge″ of East-West divisions, never envisioning ending up in Saudi Arabia.
There was at least one similarity, he said. The Iraqis use mainly Soviet equipment.
″I think they’re a competent army, a battle-tested army after eight years of fighting Iran. We’re not leary of them but I think we respect the power they represent,″ Lanzillo said.
″Certainly, we’d like it to be settled peacefully,″ he added. ″I think we have more to lose if it isn’t.″
The regiment is one of eight Army units ordered here as part of the 200,000-strong troop buildup that will give the 240,000 U.S. troops already in the gulf the capability to launch a military operation to liberate Kuwait.
Advance teams from other U.S. and German-based units have been arriving here the past week, but the 2nd Armored Cavalry, which is part of the Army’s VII Corps, is the first major combat force to reinforce Operation Desert Shield.
Brig. Gen. Steven L. Arnold, assistant chief of staff of the U.S. Armed Forces Central Command, said combat support units had arrived first, unlike the initial U.S. deployment in early August when combat troops were first on the ground.
″It’s not the same situation that it was in August,″ he said in an interview. ″In August, when the 82nd Airborne landed here, they fully expected to fight that day.″
With a lot of combat troops already here, the Army is now returning to its normal practice of bringing in support teams first so that when combat troops arrive there is already someone on the ground to take care of their food, living quarters and transportation, Arnold said.
He said the main armored and mechanized units are now on their way. ″We have some afloat coming from Europe, some moving from the States and they’ll be arriving soon,″ he said.
All reinforcements are expected to be here by Jan. 15, the deadline the United Nations has set for Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait before facing possible military action by the multinational force. It includes about 100,000 ground troops from 15 other countries.
Some Air Force reinforcements also flew in on Wednesday.
Several F-15 fighter pilots from the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Va., landed at the airbase. A team of civil engineers from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., who do rapid runway repairs, were shuttling between two airbases because of a mixup in their final destination. Several truck drivers from the Air Force’s 66th Transportation Company at Semback Air Force Base in Germany didn’t know where they were heading.
Gen. Arnold said ″the ideal″ is to give newly arriving troops at least three weeks to get used to the climate and the environment, to make sure all their equipment has arrived and been checked out, and to travel the several hundred miles to their desert camps.