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Young U.S. GI’s Prepare for Battle

March 12, 2002

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BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) _ Spc. Phillip Creighton had cleaned his weapon and gone through his packing checklist three times. With little time left before his unit moves out to take up the fight in eastern Afghanistan, the 19-year-old said Tuesday he’s nervous _ but ready.

While hundreds of American troops have been pulled back from the fighting in the towering, frigid Shah-e-Kot mountains, the flow of troops does not go just one way. Despite a lessening of fighting, Operation Anaconda is not over, and soldiers like Creighton are preparing for a trip to the front lines.

For most, it will be their first.

``I’m very nervous. I’m a fairly new team leader and I’m worried about that,″ said Creighton of Kalispell, Mont. He has two other 10th Mountain Division soldiers under his command.

``I think about how this is going to effect me when I get out,″ he said. ``What is it going to be like if I actually kill somebody.″

Sitting near him in the mud outside a group of tents, Pfc. Trevor Richard, 23, a radio operator from Newburgh, N.Y., checked his gear once more, anxious to make sure he had not forgotten anything.

``If you are missing one sensitive item up there, it can kill you,″ he said.

Richard, whose hometown is about an hour outside New York City, said he was thinking about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as he prepared for battle. Richard said he visited ground zero in December, gazing at the twisted and smoldering wreckage that was the twin towers.

``Boy, that was really sad,″ he said. ``It feels really good to have an opportunity to get a chance to do something about it. I couldn’t be more fortunate. It’s a good opportunity to get some payback.″

Spc. Andrew Spurlock, 23, of Apopka, Fla., was also about to go into battle for the first time, but he said he was ready.

``I’m kind of looking forward to getting out there,″ he said. ``I’ve trained for four years and now I’m getting a chance.″

Some soldiers kept busy reading letters and joking around. Others sat silently, alone with their thoughts.

Cpl. Brian Miller, 23, from Newark, N.J., said he’s been ready to fight since the towers went down. He said he could once see them from his home, and that his mother’s boyfriend would have been there Sept. 11 _ except that he was late that day.

``Combat is not something I wish for,″ he said, ``But I’m ready.″

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