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Friday, April 11

4th Infantry Division prepares to join war

By Gina Cavallaro | Army Times

CAMP NEW JERSEY, Kuwait - Leaders of the Army's 4th Infantry Division are preparing to join the war in Iraq, planning for an undisclosed mission that could run the gamut from combat to peacekeeping.

These troops will have the advantage of a roadmap, of sorts, provided by the 3rd Infantry Division, which now sits in and around Baghdad after blazing an audacious race across the desert to open the ground war.

The lessons learned from the 3rd Infantry's push across the Iraqi desert and into the urban areas of Baghdad are contained in a thick, up-to-the-minute tome handed out to all unit leaders.

"Sometimes the lessons the 3rd ID learned were very costly," said Col. James Barclay, chief of staff for the 4th Infantry Division. "The enemy changed constantly from straight combat forces to suicide bombers to human shields."

One mission undergoing important changes is operation of car checkpoints, with revisions to where soldiers stand, at what distance from one another and the type of cars they're checking.

Another lesson listed in the book is the preservation of machine gun bolts by storing them in a can with some diesel fuel to keep them dust-free.

"Cross learning is key. We're always looking for better ways to do our business and saving soldiers' lives," Barclay said.

The Fort Hood, Texas-based mechanized division received its deployment order Jan. 20 and was set to take a northern approach to Baghdad, launching its troops from Turkey. After Turkey denied the United States port access, the division's 30 equipment-laden ships headed south to Shuaiba Port in Kuwait after languishing at sea for two months. The first ship arrived April 1, more than two weeks after the assault on Iraq began.

Still, the division is set to begin moving north from Kuwait any day now."We're expecting to do the full range; it's just based on where we are in the fight right now," Barclay said. "We don't expect to have to do as much fighting (as the 3rd Infantry Division), but we're prepared."

As a combat division, Barclay said, the 4th Infantry Division will not play a direct role in the rebuilding of Iraq, but rather clear the way to open that mission to government agencies and nongovernmental organizations.

Arriving into the desert camps here in a steady flow of troops, the 33,000-strong Task Force Ironhorse - the centerpiece of which is the 4th Infantry Division - is in the process of fine-tuning equipment and preparing soldiers.

At least two of the division's four main brigades, including the 4th Aviation Brigade, are ready to go. The aviators have been training for flying in a desert, learning such techniques as how to factor in blade erosion and engine wear caused by sand. Meanwhile, young infantrymen train with service rounds - fully charged ammunition - for the first time at Kuwait's vast Udairi Range near the Iraq border.

"For a lot of these kids this is the first time they're using service ammunition," Barclay said.