The Denver Post March 27, 2003
Fort Carson soldiers to deploy
By Jim Hughes
FORT CARSON - The first planeload of soldiers with the Army's 4th Infantry Division is expected to leave Fort Hood, Texas, for Kuwait today, more than nine weeks after the division received deployment orders for the war in Iraq.
Here in Colorado, approximately 4,000 soldiers with the division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team have been told they will start flying out next week.
Members of 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, also at Fort Carson, are leaving this week. Soldiers from the 10th Combat Support Hospital are scheduled to leave this weekend.
The 4th Infantry Division's tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and other equipment have spent much of the past two months afloat in the eastern Mediterranean, awaiting permission from the Turkish government to land.
But the Turkish government never gave the U.S. approval to attack Iraq from its bases. Late last week, military planners sent the division's 35 ships toward Kuwait, via the Suez Canal, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.
It will take more than two weeks for all the ships to unload in Kuwait.
Days after that, the 20,000 soldiers in the 4th Infantry Division will be ready to 'join the fight,' said Lt. Col. Paul Welsch, second in command for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team here.
Just what the division will do then is unclear. It has not been given any new orders, Welsch said.
'Will the war be over by then? Don't know,' he said. 'If so, we'll get a peace and stability mission. If not, we'll get a tactical task.' Two of the division's generals already are in Kuwait, discussing the possibilities with military commanders, he said.
Military experts said it was difficult to predict what the future might hold for these soldiers.
'We really could have used them coming out of Turkey,' said Jack Spencer, a senior defense analyst with the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. 'But the role they could play now, from the south, is probably what they would have originally played, just adding another iron fist in the battle of Baghdad.'
If the war is still going on when the 4th Infantry Division is ready for battle, it could be 'the nail in the coffin,' said Patrick Garrett, a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org. But it may be more likely that the 4th Infantry Division plays a peacekeeping role, he said.
'Some unit is going to be needed as a stabilizing force in the post-
war environment, and I guess the powers that be have decided that the 4th Infantry Division is that unit,' he said.
Many soldiers here took the news of their imminent deployment with a grain of salt Wednesday. After waiting this long, they said they will believe it when they see it.
But one, Spec. Brian Kennedy, 22, a Bradley gunner in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team's 1-12 infantry battalion, said the wait has been just long enough.
On Friday, doctors will induce labor in his pregnant wife, he said.
He just made it.
'I've been watching the 3rd (Infantry Division) on television, and I wish I was there, doing my part, doing what I was trained to do,' he said. 'But I'm thankful that I get to see my baby born.'
Although those in his company who have seen combat warn him that Iraq will not be a fun place to be, he is looking forward to deployment, he said.
"I'm ready to go," he said. "I'm not really nervous, but I'm sure it will all become a reality once I'm on the ground."
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