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7th Cavalry Marching Across Desert

Aired March 21, 2003 - 03:11   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: What you are looking at on the side of your screen is a picture, a live picture with the 7th Cavalry. Walt Rodgers riding in a Humvee embedded with the 7th Cavalry, moving very quickly through the Iraq desert. Target: Baghdad.
Walt, what is the latest? Looks like you are on the move again.

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, that is the case. Most of the tanks, nearly all of the tanks and armored vehicles in the 3rd Squadron, U.S. Army 7th Cavalry, have been refueled. You can see them starting to move across the desert. The pattern of movement here is a great fan-shaped movement. There are several advantages to that, of course. They cover more ground, take more territory, clear more way for the 3rd Infantry division, which will follow on in their path.

Another reason, of course, is that the more widely spread out these vehicles are, the smaller the target they would be for a potential hostile force.

As you look out over the horizon now, you can see the Bradley armored vehicles out there, probably 150 to 200 yards apart. There is another Bradley rolling closer to us there. That particular Bradley is a battlefield coordinator -- not so much a scouting vehicle. Look at the all the aerials on it. The do a lot of the coordination of the battle between the tanks and the -- and the fighting vehicles. There you can see other units racing forward. We -- the 7th Cavalry, with CNN in tow is about to begin -- or resume its sprint toward Baghdad. Of course, it is going to be a ways yet, because every 8 hours or so, these cavalry columns have to refuel. But the ground is a little better now. The road is better now.

Or -- at least I spoke too soon. Now it is a washboard.

But you can see the armored tracked vehicles moving through the desert, kicking up those huge plumes of smoke, and -- as I say, they are proceeded to their first objective -- Anderson.

COOPER: Walt, one of the fears I guess every soldier has, fratricide, the dangers of friendly fire. I am imagining when you are out in front, that danger increases. How -- I don't know if you can say -- are there ways that the 7th Cavalry are protecting themselves, or do they have a distinctive signature of some sort. I mean -- how big a concern is friendly fire at this point, when you are that far out in front?

RODGERS: Well, in the military, that is called blue on blue, and yes, they are always concerned about it, but they practice and they rehearse, and there is a vehicle over there, I think perhaps you can see it in the distance. It has got four or five antennas sticking up, and it is -- although a cavalry vehicle, it has an all Air Force crew on board, and those are the Air Force ground coordinators travelling with the 7th Cavalry.

Their goal, their mission, is to stay in contact with any Air Force units which may be in the skies overhead, to make sure that none of those Air Force units strike at their own troops in the 7th Cavalry.

There are even more basic precautions taken. In the distance, for example, I can see the Bradleys sitting out on the horizon. You will see like a small orange tarpaulin over the back of them, and that is to illumine the vehicles, including the one we are travelling in. Illumine those vehicles to pilots in the sky, so that if they see that orange banner on top of them, they know not to fire or unload bombs or other weaponry on those vehicles because they are vehicles travelling with the U.S. military at this point.

There are other -- also somewhat more secret elements on some of these Bradley fighting vehicles. That Bradley over there has -- you see like louver panels on them, almost like a Venetian blind on the side. That is a panel which makes the tank identifiable to friendly aircraft in the skies above, signaling to that aircraft electronically that that is not a vehicle to be struck by the allied air forces -- Anderson.

COOPER: Walt, just my last question, while we have you. We have heard a lot about the pamphlets, the psy-ops, the psychological operations, the pamphlets that have been dropped throughout southern Iraq telling troops, telling Iraqi forces, Disobey your orders, do not fire. And, for tank commanders, literally turn your turrets away from the forward position indicating you are surrendering. Is that something these men in the 7th Cavalry look for? I mean, they are out in front. They will be the ones, I assume, to encounter these tanks first.

Is that something -- I guess that is something they have got to stay mindful of.

RODGERS: They do have to stay mindful of, but they have to assume -- their basic assumption is that any -- any Iraq force that they confront which has not so obviously surrendered is a hostile force, and has to be -- in the language of the commander of this unit -- killed.

If there is a clear indication on the part of the Iraqi units that they are going to surrender -- as you point out, turning the turret backwards and pointing the gun to the ground, the cannon barrel to the ground, then of course, it would indeed be recognized as friendly or not hostile. But -- and would, of course, be spared.

One of the things that is important to remember is that all of the soldiers in this unit, the 3-7, the 3rd Squadron, 7th U.S. Army Cavalry, one of the important things to remember is that they have each -- each of these soldiers has been briefed and trained and indoctrinated in the concept that the Iraqi people are not the enemy of the United States. Indeed, each of these soldiers has been indoctrinated to -- to believe that he is coming to Iraq, albeit as an invader, but nonetheless as a liberator to liberate the Iraqi people from the regime of Saddam Hussein.

There is a lovely picture out there on the horizon now of the Bradley tanks and -- excuse me, the Bradley fighting vehicles, and the M1A1 Abrams tanks. You can tell by the bounce that we are back on rolling desert again, and if -- you can see another -- rather, main battle tank racing to the fore over there.

The sprint forward is just about to take place. As a matter of fact, it is already underway. These tanks are pushing on to their first objective, and there are many objectives. This entire battle plan is mapped out on maps with grids and even the refueling stops are predetermined in advance on these grids. Everything is planned out in the most scientific possible manner to reduce the opportunity for mishap or what Clausewitz once called the "fog of war," botching things up -- Anderson.

COOPER: Walt, just so I'm not confused by the fog of video right now, what is that we're looking at the distance on the horizon that you are heading toward?

RODGERS: Well, let's see. What you are looking at now is a main battle tank. It is an M1A1 Abrams battle tank. It weighs about 69 tons -- tons. It consumes about 1500 gallons of fuel. That gun on the front of it is a 120 millimeter gun. It carries, perhaps, more than three dozen big, heavy shells inside. It is one lethal, imposing weapon, and according to the tankers, those tanks can take out -- in a ratio, one of them can kill four hostile tanks in any situation. During the Gulf War, there were 12 U.S. tanks, M1A1 Abrams like you were just looking at, and they took out 60 or 70 Iraqi tanks. So they figure it is even odds when they are outnumbered four to one -- Anderson.

COOPER: And as you will no doubt attest, the tanks are only as good as the men who operate them, and I imagine 7th Cavalry is among the best in the world. Walt Rodgers, we are going to stick with your pictures. We'll come back to you later on. We are going to continue showing the pictures that your camera man is getting as you continue marching through the desert with the 7th Cavalry.


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