Iraqi Border: Not A Line In The Sand

The bizarre pitchers of N. lowii trap not only insects, but also detritus and animal waste. This species is widespread across Borneo. Redfern Natural History

If the U.S. military moves this week, the first minutes of a ground war could well look like a synchronized set of precise maneuvers all made in the black of night.

"It's kind of like a ballet done by big, ugly, giant things," says Col. Will Grimsley.

Still in Kuwait, combat engineers cut through a chainlink fence and three rolls of razor wire 6-feet high. Huge bulldozers then bust the berm, a 25-foot high mound of dirt. They lay a bridge then cross and repeat the berm-busting and fence-cutting on the Iraqi side. It's a job complicated by unexploded bombs and mines and possibly a petroleum pipeline under the Iraqi berm.

The 3rd Infantry's first combat brigade has practiced under simulated live fire and say they're ready.

"When we can get a berm reduced and ditch filled; an assault bridge placed (that's) ready to accept armored vehicle traffic to include tanks in under 15 minutes at night, that's pretty damn good," says Grimsley.

Combat engineer is not one of the glamour jobs in the Army. The name doesn't carry the cachet of special forces or airborne ranger, but these men are first in and last out, and no ground troops are going anywhere without them.

"There's quite a bit of competition now," says Col. Thomas Smith. "The sergeants and soldiers as to which soldier is going to get to plant his foot into Iraq before other soldiers."

A competition that may soon be settled.


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