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4th Infantry Division heads north to battle remaining Iraqi forces

CAMP UDARI, Northern Kuwait—The first elements of the 4th Infantry Division will begin to move north early Monday with orders to engage the last desperate forces of the Iraqi army.

Military planners are hoping the massive offensive show of hundreds of vehicles and thousands of troops coming in support of battle weary units of the 3rd Infantry Division will overwhelm the remaining enemy forces and bring a close to the fighting. The remaining 4th Infantry Division troops still arriving from Fort Hood, Texas, will follow close behind.

Throughout the night Saturday and early Sunday a constant stream of headlights cut the dark as hundreds of armored personnel carriers, engineering teams and supply trucks lumbered into to the staging area for the 24-hour trek north.

The convoy is under the protection of the heavily armed 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry, out of Fort Hood, which includes several infantry units, attack helicopters bolstered by artillery from Fort Sill, Okla., and rocket launchers from the 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery.

In the past few days, mechanics from those units scrambled to find parts for broken vehicles while technicians clamored in and out of other vehicles to adjust their computer-controlled weapons.

The 4th Infantry Division is the most advanced division in the U.S. Army, using sophisticated computers to track each other and the enemy on the battlefield. This will be the first time such equipment will be used in combat conditions on such a wide scale. The division also has the latest M1-A2 Abrams main battle tank.

"The old M1-A1 wouldn't stand a chance against this thing," said Lt. Lance Leonard, 25, from Silverdale, Wash. Leonard is the executive officer for Bravo Troop in the 10th Cavalry. He said the mechanics in his troop have been working 24 hours straight to prepare the vehicles.

"To get all this equipment to the right place at the right time and to have all the right stuff, down to bullets, is mind boggling," he said Sunday.

The unit's Bradley fighting vehicles are being loaded onto large trucks because tracked vehicles can't maintain high speeds for too long. Many soldiers here, including Leonard, anticipate only light resistance on the journey north, but expect to engage larger forces as they push past the 3rd Infantry Division.


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTO (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): usiraq+movingup