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Scout Patrols Probe for Iraqi Weaknesses

January 29, 1991

IN NORTHERN SAUDI ARABIA (AP) _ Each night at dusk, scout patrols slather their faces with camouflage paint and leave the haven of their lines to probe for Iraqi weaknesses.

Scouts of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade inch a little farther out each night. They’re now operating within three miles of the northern border.

″Every night we get a little closer and every night we get a little more of a picture of what’s out there,″ said Lt. Joseph Sacchetti of Philadelphia, a 28-year-old platoon leader of scouts from the 1st Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment.

The paratroopers’ jobs are to gather and assemble bits of information about the terrain and Iraqi positions.

To do this, they arrive at the spot where their methodical, painstaking work stopped the night before, then crawl on elbows and knees to new watch posts farther out.

″This is about as close as you can get to the border without paying taxes in the other country,″ said Capt. Clint Esarey, a public affairs officer who accompanied one patrol.

As they advance, the scouts string razor wire across the desert floor as a defensive precaution. The night masks their movements while they serve as the brigades’ eyes and ears.

They have goggles that turn night into day, thermal sights on TOW anti-tank missiles that see images of human forms, and a global positioning system that bounces signals off satellites to tell them their latitude and longitude. The system is accurate to within 35 feet of any spot on earth.

″We’re nocturnal; darkness is our friend,″ said Spec. John Rowe, 27, of Red Bank, N.J.

Before they began their night-long mission, the soldiers were reminded they were at war.

″This is no drill,″ said Maj. Ralph Delosua, 39, of Pemberton, N.J., the 1st Battalion operations officer. ″This is for real. There are bad guys out there. Shoot to kill.″

The sound of rifle bolts sliding back on the cold steel to put bullets into the chambers heightened the message.

″Did you oil your weapon up today?″ Lt. Sacchetti asked one of the men. ″Might have to use it tonight.″

Scouts are chosen from the ranks for the special duty. Their officers describe them as the best of the infantry: disciplined, smart, stealthy.

They talk with signals. Whispers are rare and they break radio silence only in extreme emergencies.

″A light is like putting cross hairs on you,″ said Spec. Hiram Sanders, 25, of New York City.

Scouts can call in artillery, air or missile strikes if they get into a jam, but prefer not to attract attention.

″We’re not supposed to get into firefights,″ Sanders said. ″Our mission is to snoop.″

Scouts return the next morning in dirty camouflage fatigues, fingers and toes numb from the frosty night.

There is an enthusiasm about them.

″We’re taking it to them now,″ said Sgt. Pana Giannakakos, 27, of Chicago, even though the ground war hasn’t started.

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