U.S. military commanders in Kuwait, preparing for a possible invasion of Iraq, are trying to match up tanks, helicopters, and other equipment with more than 100,000 troops as quickly as possible.
The U.S. military has drawn up a plan that calls for the display of overwhelming force within minutes of the start of a conflict with Iraq. According to the plan, the bulk of that force, consisting of U.S. Army, and Marine air and ground units, will be moving north from Kuwait.
Since early this month, tens of thousands of troops, tanks, armored personnel carriers, helicopters, trucks, and other equipment have been moved from the United States and Europe to prepare for military action. Observers say it is a feat that could not have been achieved 12 years ago, before the first Gulf War.
U.S. Army Colonel Tom Kruegler is with Germany-based Fifth Corps, which has been tapped to lead the army's charge. In 1991, 5 Corps took nearly five months to get in place in the region. Colonel Kruegler estimates it can now deploy and be ready in the field anywhere in the world in less than one month.
He says one of the most significant improvements the U.S. military has made since the Desert Storm campaign is the ability to deploy heavy equipment faster and more efficiently. "We now have many more of what we call 'ro-ro ships', roll-on, roll-off ships, which are able to discharge their material: tanks, artillery, aircraft that are packed up very quickly so that they can be reassembled quickly and move forward into theater," he explained. The U.S. military also has a fleet of high-speed supply vessels. These ships can dock at virtually any seaport, including shallow-water ports, to unload their cargo. Colonel Kruegler says the ships have dramatically changed the way the U.S. Army delivers equipment and supplies to the battlefield.
Another logistical advantage the U.S. military has, as compared to 1991, is that the military does not have to rely solely on equipment from the United States.
After the Gulf War, the United States pre-positioned heavy weapons and other supplies in the region, on ships at sea or in warehouses in Kuwait and nearby Qatar. Now, the equipment and supplies are being unloaded and sent to about a dozen U.S. bases spread throughout Kuwait.
Colonel Kruegler says this time, U.S. forces have moved with unparalleled speed to prepare for a potential showdown with Iraq. "People talk about the buildup of forces," said Colonel Krugler. "Yes, we have a significant force here. But we have the capability for a much more significant force and the ability to get that much more significant force here very rapidly."
That force could be in Kuwait very soon. Tens of thousands of additional troops, including the U.S. Army's elite 101st Airborne helicopter assault division, are due to arrive here any day now.