Report from Kuwait--Part Seven - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/16/02

Report from Kuwait--Part Seven

Major General Buford Blount Major General Buford Blount
Gen. Lloyd Austin Gen. Lloyd Austin

The news is full of stories about tensions in the Persian gulf and rumors of war with Iraq. Thousands of our neighbors are there on what could well be the front lines of any conflict. WTOC recently spent some time with the troops from Fort Stewart's Third Infantry Division on what they're still calling a regularly scheduled training mission.

It's regular training, more focused, more "real world" than the training here at home, but when you're just 20 miles from the Iraqi border, it takes on new meaning. Everybody knows it, from the top commanders to the infantrymen in the trenches.

Major General Buford Blount leads the division, shuttling back and forth between garrison life on the home front to training with the troops in the desert.

"I just wanted to emphasize the importance of our mission here, as we move forward," he told the troops on a recent visit in Kuwait.

Does moving forward include moving north, to Iraq?

Gen. Lloyd Austin told us, "Whether or not we move north, as you know, is a decision that will be made by the President. Our job as soldier, as the military, is to be prepared to answer the nation's call, whatever that may be, wherever that may take us. I feel confident at this point that whatever we're required to do in the future, we're trained and ready to do that. This is probably one of the best-trained divisions, in my opinion, in the United States Army.

The troops agree. Not long ago, Robert Williams was enjoying his home town, weekends on River Street with friends and family. Now, Pvt. Williams drives a track in the desert.

"Honestly, as a man, and as a soldier, I believe that I'm prepared, with the right training," he told us. "I'm prepared to go, but as a human, you have that natural fear in the back of your mind. You try not to worry about it, you just rely on your training, you rely on what's been taught to you and you rely on your squad and your team. Once you rely on your squad and your team and you all have that trust in each other, that confidence in your job, you just know that everything's going to be okay. You know that when it comes down to it, the guys have your back."

Robert Zuccarini grew up in Pooler, went to high school in Pembroke, and now training with the squad automatic weapon.

"Pretty much getting ready to go up north, hopefully," he told us. "As long as we've got to be out here in Kuwait already, might as well do our job.".

From the troops to the top, they're waiting.

"We're waiting to see, what the President does, we may have to bring more of the division over here," said Maj. Gen. Blount. "We just don't know that yet."

Reported by: Mike Manhatton, mmanhatton@wtoc.com

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