Last U.S. Combat Unit Ends Role in Kuwait
DOHA, Kuwait (AP) _ With the squeak of desert boots on asphalt and a brief song, the last U.S. unit that saw combat in the Gulf War handed over its duties to fresh American troops Thursday.
The 5,300 soldiers of the 3rd Armored Division, deployed in December, will be gone by June 19, replaced by 3,700 from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment from Germany.
Col. William L. Nash formally handed over the command to Col. Andrew J. Bacevich. The fresh troops were clad in desert camouflage that had the sheen of new cotton - unlike the dull, battered cloth of the departing troops.
″I feel very confident that the force that has been here and the force that will be here now can handle anything,″ Nash said.
Kuwait’s government, still edgy about the threat from Saddam Hussein, has asked U.S. troops to stay at least through September.
The base, about 10 miles from Kuwait City, is being renamed from Thunder Rock to Black Horse, reflecting the new unit’s nickname.
The 3rd Armored Division arrived in late December, trained and then fought in the 100-hour ground war, organized the chaotic flood of refugees from southern Iraq after Iraqi forces were driven from Kuwait, and provided security for the emirate.
Many soldiers said their main memory would not be the brief exposure to combat.
″It will be the sand blowing at you all day. You couldn’t get away from it,″said Lt. John Ganino, 24 of Woodbridge, Va.
Lt. Mark Kjorness, 22, of Westbrook, Minn., said, he wished the troops could have provided more help to the Iraqi refugees.
″As we were pulling out they were putting Saddam posters back up for survival,″ he said.
In Dohuk, Iraq, meanwhile, allied officials said soldiers will begin a pullout from the provincial capital Friday, ending their three-week mission to restore vital service and help provide security for returning Kurdish refugees.
It will mark the first time the allies have drawn back from a position in northern Iraq. A total of about 22,000 troops from the United States, Britain, France and a few other countries have been involved since March in the Kurdish protection operation.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jay Garner, commander of combat troops in the allied security zone, said he was pleased with the humanitarian operation in Dohuk.