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U.S. 3rd Infantry Division deployed to Kuwait

Monday, January 6, 2003

The United States is sending 17,000 soldiers to Kuwait in what officials termed a significant step in the military buildup against Iraq.

U.S. officials said deployment of the the 3rd Infantry Division to Kuwait begins this week. They said the mechanized division will join other army units that have just finished a live-fire exercise near the Iraqi border.

The number of U.S. soldiers that will arrive in Kuwait over the next month is estimated at up to 17,000. The 3rd Infantry Division has four fighting brigades and officials said the Defense Department will order the deployment of additional troops later this week.

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The U.S. Army will conduct an exercise over the next few weeks to review scenarios for an Iraqi war, Middle East Newsline reported.

[The Washington Post reported on Monday that the United States plans to deploy 100,000 soldiers in any war against Iraq. This will include three to four heavy army divisions, an airborne division, a marine division and special operations forces.]

Officials said the division will train in Kuwait in an attempt to improve its combat power. They said the division will await orders amid the U.S. preparations for war against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Last month, more than 4,000 soldiers from 2nd Brigade and other elements of the 3rd Infantry Division completed their first live-fire battle in Kuwait. Officials called this the largest army exercise since the 1991 Gulf war.

"I believe this is the largest army exercise since Operation Desert Storm," said 3rd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Buford Blount said. "An entire brigade with over 70 tanks and 70 Bradleys is here, and we have division command and control over everything."

Officials said the exercise took place 13 kilometers east of Kuwait's border with Iraq and conducted a range of scenarios. One called for a brigade, armed with new command and control vehicles, to face two mock enemy battalions. The brigade was supported by attack aircraft.

Other tasks during the exercise included the movement of hundreds of kilometers while firing Paladin howitzers and the advanced Javelin anti-tank missile. The force deployed members of the 10th Engineer Battalion to clear a way for armored vehicles through mines, concertina and a trench and bunker system.

"The soldiers are more focused," Blount said. "They watch the news and know there is a possibility for war. We're building confidence in our soldiers as a team and in the leadership."

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