By First Lt. Bill Armstrong
ON THE DMZ - Underneath a high power line. Spec. Joe Farmer
moves cautiously through an enemy stone shack under the cover
of the 25mm main gun ofaBradley Scout Vehicle. He and his fellow
crewmen of"B-ll," Bravo Troop, 4th Squadron, 7th Cav.,
are busy screening a number of zones on the DMZ, looking for
enemy equipment to destroy.
As the Spearhead Division's eyes and ears, the scouts of Bravo
Troop spend days torching Iraqi vehicles and bunkers with mo-gas,
and scanning the horizon for infiltrators.
Capt. Jeff Hicks, Bravo Troop Commander, says both the Iraqi
troops and rebels are attempting to sneak into the coalition
sector to steal back the vehicles and ammunition they abandoned
on the battlefield.
"We had an OP (observation post) right on the highway.
He had been reporting all night of enemy movement into our sector.
They were trying to get armored vehicles out on HETTS (heavy
transport trucks). We reported that up through the squadron and
got a gun scout team from Charlie Troop out there," said
As the Iraqis attempted to load T-55 tanks and armored personnel
carriers on the seven flatbed trucks, the Cobra gunships of C-Troop
fired warning shots. Ignoring their warning, the Iraqis watched
as the Cobra gunners shot out their tires. After the Iraqis ran
from the vehicles, their precious cargo was also destroyed by
the cobras. Hicks and his cavalrymen then located an additional
twenty-nine transport trucks in their zone, and subsequently
set them on fire.
Not all of the Iraqis who cross into Bravo's sector arc the
enemy. 2nd Lt Chris Wilbeck, a Bravo scout platoon leader, says
some are ordinary civilians.
"Yesterday we stopped a guy, a farmer, who was stealing
a little truck to get tomatoes. Then we had to lake it away from
him and bum it We've been on 'search and destroys' and just destroy
anything that anybody can get because we dont want it eventually
to fall into the hands of somebody who can be a threat to us,"
Still, the attitude of Iraqi people seems to have changed
greatly toward American soldiers since the start of thewar, according
to 1st Lieutenant Matt Weingast, executive officer for Bravo.
"Everyone we see waves at us. (They are) very friendly,
very receptive to us, and I think they view us more as liberators
than conquerors," said Weingast.
This DMZ is nothing like the DMZ patrolled by Bravo Troop's
Sgt. Gordon Williams. The scout who shotguns a fuel truck was
stationed in Korea in 1987, and says his patrols were limited
to dismounted, with no weapons larger than an M-203. Despite
the constant testing and the threat of a strong North Korean
enemy, Williams says the stress here on the new DMZ is far greater.
"There's a tot more stress here. It's a tot more dangerous
here. In Korea, they have the minefields already wired off. Here,
you don't know. That's one big difference. They had two big guard
posts out there (Korea). Here... you don't know what's out here.
In Korea, you knew where, or most likely where, their enemy would
come through. You don't knowwhere the enemy is going to come
through out here."
Down the road, ayoung Iraqi man got out of the car and approached
the U.S. soldiers at the checkpoint just west of Basra. His weeping
father also got out, explaining in Arabic to the interpreter
that, because of his own connections with the resistance effort,
his boy would be killed by Saddam Hussein if he stayed in the
dty. His son, a former air defense soldier in the Iraqi Army,
voluntarily became an enemy prisoner of war. For that, his father
is thankful, knowing the humane treatment he will receive.
Surrender is a daily sight for soldiers of Charlie Co, 4th
Bn., 8th Cav. They are far forward on the DMZ, the demilitarized
zone, and their mission at "Checkpoint Echo" is to
interdict all travel on the east-west road leading into Basra.
"If vehicles come here, we're supposed to turn them back
and keep them out of the coalition sector," explains 2nd
Lt Tim Place, a platoon leader with the company. "If a vehicle
comes up here, we search it If it has soldiers, we're looking
for weapons or ammunition. If they have that, we take them prisoner.
If they don't have weapons or ammo, we afford them the opportunity
to surrender, which, quite frankly, a great number have been
An hour doesn't pass without a new truck or bus loaded with
civilians trying to flee west into Kuwait from Basra. Some of
the refugees haven't eaten or had water for days. One man told
checkpoint guards he had not had water in two weeks, and survived
by eating grass. Many of those trying to escape have have already
been injured in the civil war across the border.
Private John Jones, a 4/8 Cav. medic at the checkpoint, got
more than he bargained for when he offered to examine one Iraqi
civilian complaining of a heart ailment.
"When he got off the bus, I said, 'I'm a medic;' then
a whole bunch of people surrounded me with their children, and
a lot of the children looked sick and hungry," Jones said.
Two of those he examined had gunshot wounds, with one Iraqi
requiring a medevac helicopter for hospitalization. "And
this may sound a little off the wall, but I'm finally getting
to do my job - and I don't have to do it on our men, so that's
The round-the-clock vigilance of 2nd Brigade troops emphasizes
the importance of the 3rd Armored Division's newest mission on
Hicks summed up the seriousness of the mission. "It's
basically still the rules of engagement that came out with General
Order One when we first deployed down here: Hostile acts, reply