101st Timeline Living History Society
101st counts on high-tech gear for decisive edge

By Chamtal Escoto, The (Clarksville) Leaf-Chronicle
08 March 2003


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CAMP PENNSYLVANIA, Kuwait: The sandstorms in the desert may be a hassle for soldiers, but they actually can help defy the enemy in times of war, officers here say.

The U.S. military's equipment is so advanced, they said, that Persian Gulf weather, such as sandstorms, can make troops and equipment nearly invisible.

''Aviators can fly in just about any weather, including sandstorms,'' said Capt. Gary Pool, 25, an intelligence officer in the 101st Airborne Division. ''We're an offensive force, and we're in the middle of the desert. The terrain is flat. Even though the weather would make it more difficult to see references and maneuver, the enemy cannot see you as easily or hear you.''

Because the 101st, based out of Fort Campbell, is the Army's only air assault division, its strength lies in its ability to move at night and in almost any conditions. The division played a key role in Operation Desert Storm and fired the first combat shots in the 1991 Gulf War a salvo from an Apache attack helicopter that wiped out Iraqi communications.

But while sophisticated equipment can help the Army overcome the weather, the weather can sometimes overcome the equipment.

''When we first came to the desert, some things didn't cross our minds, like sandstorms, and we packed light and didn't have things covered,'' said Spc. Sultan Pasha. I had to shovel myself out of the sand when I woke up. We just have to improvise and cover our weapons to protect them from the elements.''

Weapons and other combat equipment are important to maintain.

A malfunctioning rifle could mean the difference between life and death in combat.

Pasha knows, for instance, how difficult it is to keep his small machine gun clean. He improvises by using his sand scarf, which he would otherwise use to protect his face and upper body, to cover his weapon.

Division soldiers are still waiting for most of their vehicles and other equipment to arrive by cargo ships via the Persian Gulf, but they have computers and other sensitive electronics to use and protect.

Whatever is knocked out of commission is sent to the 426th Forward Support Battalion to take care of it.

Night-vision goggles, global positioning systems and other high-tech gear clearly help give the 101st and other American forces the advantage in combat.

''Our equipment is better than our enemies','' Pool said.

''We train a lot at night, and there's a psychological effect at night on the enemy, because they're fighting someone they can't see.''

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