Bob Franken: U.S. forces secure Iraqi airstrip
CNN's Bob Franken
SOUTHEAST IRAQ (CNN) -- South of Baghdad, U.S. forces are restoring an abandoned airstrip that the U.S. Air Force plans to use. CNN's Bob Franken is traveling with Air Force personnel. Friday morning, he talked to CNN anchor Bill Hemmer.
HEMMER: The A-10s are going to come out right there, Bob. And those are tank killers.
FRANKEN: Good evening...."It's going to become what they call a forward base. It's in southeast Iraq. That's the best description we're allowed to give.
Behind me, you see pretty much a desolate field, except for the U.S. Jolly helicopters. Those are rescue helicopters, converted Black Hawks. But the field is starting to fill up with U.S. people. This is desolate, because it hasn't been used since the first Gulf War. It is an Iraqi air base, but there was very little protection here. Pretty much all the equipment here, they discovered, was wiped out.
Troops discovered the base which had the required picture of Saddam Hussein at the entrance. The key to setting up this operation is what they had in the convoy. The convoy was carrying trucks of jet fuel. And, of course, that is jet fuel that is going to be so important as the A-10s come here to fly. And, of course, the advantage of that is, they'll be so much closer to the action and closer to so much of the ground troop maneuvering that's going on, not just in this area, but further to the north.
Now, there's quite a bit of hostility. There are red zones, as they call them, hot spots in a variety of places. But this base is now considered very secure. There were tunnels at the base, Bill. And they were able to search through all those and say that they found nothing. But, of course, there is very heavy security at those tunnels, very heavy security around this entire base to try and keep the battle away, so the operation can go on. I mentioned earlier on the air that anybody who searched some of the buildings came up with Iraqi gas masks. ...The gas mask as compared to the U.S. gas mask ... look quite similar. Actually, the one that I have from Iraq has English lettering.
What's important to know here is that before the first Gulf War, of course, Iraq was considered an ally of the United States in the 1980s. And, as a matter of fact, the canister here has English lettering with an expiration date of June 1990. So you can how old some of this stuff is and how things have changed. And, of course, they're now changing. This is no longer an Iraq base. It has now become a U.S. and coalition base.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was written in accordance with Pentagon ground rules allowing so-called embedded reporting, in which journalists join deployed troops. Among the rules accepted by all participating news organizations is an agreement not to disclose sensitive operational details.