U.S. Troops in Kuwait Keep Training
CAMP DOHA, Kuwait (AP) _ Even though the threat of war has eased, the adrenaline is still pumping for U.S. troops training in the desert and waiting to see if Iraq keeps its word, the commander of U.S. ground forces said Monday.
The soldiers have their ``motors going″ because their mission has not changed since Iraq signed an agreement with the United Nations that averted a war, Lt. Gen. Tommy R. Franks said in an interview with The Associated Press.
``This may be simply a training event _ or it may be a rehearsal,″ said Franks, who commands land forces for the Army’s Central Command. ``I’m not in the saber-rattling business, but make no mistake about this: This force can defend Kuwait.″
Iraq forestalled U.S.-led military strikes by agreeing Feb. 23 in the U.N. accord to allow inspections of suspected weapons sites.
Since the agreement, President Clinton has ordered about 35,000 U.S. troops to remain in the Persian Gulf. Franks has mapped out an intensive training program for them that eventually will include all coalition forces in the region.
``I’m fired up about the opportunity to train over here,″ he said. ``You give (soldiers) the chance to see they’re soldiers _ to do what it is we ask them to do. And it’s hard to replicate that in a non-crisis sort of deployment.″
More than 4,200 frontline combat troops from the 3rd Infantry Division are already practicing maneuvers on M1A2 Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles on the Udairi Range near the Iraqi border. The range was used as an invasion route when Iraq occupied Kuwait in 1990.
Initially, Franks said, small units in the Army, Navy and Air Force will train individually for a couple of weeks. Then, the forces will join with those of the coalition, including the Kuwaitis, the British, the Australians and New Zealanders.
By late March or early April, Franks said, ``We’ll have a major command post exercise that will involve everyone over here.″
And then all the units will start retraining to correct mistakes and make improvements, he said.
Clinton has not said how long U.S. forces will remain in the Gulf, but Franks said he personally believes it will be long enough ``to get some of that really, really serious training done.″
Since the 1991 Gulf War and the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military has kept most of its forces in the United States ready for rapid deployment.
When Franks arrived in Kuwait 3 1/2 weeks ago, there were 1,500 U.S. soldiers here. Now there are between 6,000 and 7,000, he said.
It took less than seven days for 3,100 front-line combat soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade to arrive in Kuwait.
Franks said he was ``very, very pleased″ that it took units an average of under 12 hours after arriving to pick up their tanks and other heavy equipment, which was stored at Camp Doha, 10 miles west of Kuwait City.