Troops Look to Jan. 15 with Mixed Feelings With AM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt
CAMP BASTOGNE, Northern Saudi Arabia (AP) _ Mention Jan. 15 to soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division and the responses range from anticipation to apprehension.
″I can’t wait. It may be the day you can legally kill somebody,″ said Sgt. Jerry Smith, 25, of Alva, Okla.
″It’s pay day, mid-month pay day. Nothing is going to happen,″ said Pfc. Scott Hilpert, 19, of Boise, Idaho.
Most soldiers want their long months in the desert to end. But many know that is only a hope, and they are prepared for war.
″There’s a lot of mixed emotion about it. ... Nobody really wants to go to war, but we know about when it should start,″ said Sgt. Mitchell Louviere, 25, of New Iberia, La.
The troops said letting the deadline pass for a few days would probably be a tactical advantage, especially since the soldiers from the 7th Army Corps from Germany are still arriving. They are expected to bring U.S. troop strength up to 430,000.
″The more time you have for rehearsals, the more time you have to plan a mission, the better we will execute it. But could we do an air assault tonight? You betcha,″ said Maj. Dan Grigson, 38, of Maysville, Ky., the public affairs officer for the 101st.
″If it was me I would wait a week or two, use a little psychological warfare,″ Louviere said.
″For them that would be restless nights and that would be better for us. They’ll be wide-eyed, tired, hungry, cold and staying awake at night for however long it takes. We’ll be comfortable sleeping since it’s our decision when we go on the offensive,″ he said.
Capt. Salvador Rodas, 29, of Clarksville, Tenn., said: ″You want to catch them off guard. If you let it pass for a few days and then did something it would be to our benefit. I imagine on the 15th all their forces will be watching what is going to happen on our side of the border.″
But if the situation drags on much longer than the 15th, he said, ″It would disillusion a lot of men. It was a welcome relief to have a deadline. It’s been important in keeping morale high.″
The 101st remains in the defensive posture it has kept since first deployed. Its forward base, Camp Bastogne, is named after the famous World War II battle in Belgium where a 101st commander replied ″Nuts″ to a German demand to surrender.
″Iraq still has the ability to launch a pre-emptive strike,″ said Col. Randall J. Anderson, 49, commander of artillery for the division.
But he said the soldiers who’ve been here for several months ″feel extremely confident.″