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American Paratroopers Jump into Northern Iraq

Aired March 27, 2003 - 02:06   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Do you have morning papers there?
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: I do have your morning papers. I picked a couple for you today. Getting ambitious. Bringing the Arab papers out, as well. This one is called "Al Watan." (ph) I picked it because of the picture on the front page, and this shows some of the aid making it into Safwan. And I particularly was interested in this, the story about -- yesterday about the humanitarian aid that was stuck here in Kuwait City. This is those very boxes making it across -- making it across the border.

I should tell you, though, that some reports say that as people were taking this aid, they also were cheering on Saddam Hussein. So that is from the Arab paper.

An English paper here for you, "The Kuwait Times." This is a -- this is an Aaron Brown picture, I would say. It's a little off-beat. "Blood and sand scenario." This picture here...

BROWN: I know you mean that lovingly.

KAGAN: Apparently -- I do, a term of endearment.

BROWN: Thank you.

KAGAN: But you look for the different takes. This pigeon apparently is a stowaway. It came with the 3rd Army Air Corps. They had a bunch of supplies sent over. The pigeon was in the box. And I don't know if you can tell here, but the picture -- the pigeon in the foreground and the soldier with his gun aimed...

BROWN: You can't. Oh, the pigeon...

KAGAN: ... in the background.

BROWN: Pigeon better be careful because, you know, they've taken -- they have those chickens over there they were going to use to be the canaries in the coal mine, if you will, on chemical weapons, so if I were that pigeon...

KAGAN: Well, you know, we have those right here at CNN, Aaron. You know, we have birds all over the hotel that are...

BROWN: Is that right? Really?

KAGAN: ... serving that very purpose for us.

BROWN: Daryn, thank you.

KAGAN: Yes. You're welcome.

BROWN: Daryn Kagan, we'll see you again in a half an hour.


BROWN: She updates the headlines of the day.

This day, or this broadcast, at least for us, began as we started to explore the opening of the northern front and the paratroopers who had come in as we were on the air. We had this description of their landing. Now we have some pictures of them on the ground that we can show you, and then we'll work back to how they got there. These pictures are just now coming in. These are American soldiers who have parachuted in. They were received by Kurdish forces, friendly Kurdish forces. This is a Kurdish-controlled area. They were dropping into a safe zone, if you will, and they knew that. Though nevertheless, I'm sure it's an exhilarating experience.

This looks like an air strip that they landed, and this has to all be built up some, and that's going to all take some time to get all the equipment in they need. But you can see they do have some, and they're mustering up and they're organizing their -- their things as they get down on the ground. They got down on the ground by parachute, as we said. And earlier tonight, we talked with CNN's Tom Nybo, who was aboard one of the planes. He was strapped in. He's a producer/photographer of ours, and we turned him into a reporter to describe the video that he shot aboard that plane.


THOMAS NYBO, CNN PRODUCER: I've never experienced anything like it. These guys, they're 19, 20 years old. This is their first time in a situation, jumping into combat. In fact, it was the first time that the brigade had done a combat jump since Vietnam. It was absolutely electrifying. They actually had to strap me in with my camera at the back of the plane. And all the guys were all gung-ho leading up to the jump, and then the day of the jump and the minutes leading up to it, I spoke with a number of them, and you could see a little bit of fear in each and every one of their eyes.

And then when the doors opened, the entire cabin filled with air, just swirling around. And then they did the hands (ph) countdown, and they started shooting people out. I don't know if you really got a sense of it with the video, but it lasted about one minute, and they got all but three jumpers out. One guy got tripped up and so the two jumpmasters couldn't go, but they got 97 guys out in about 60 seconds.

BROWN: I can tell you that we can see it -- even in the graininess of the videocam, we can see it really well. And you get a sense of how quickly it happened. They're almost running up to that door.

NYBO: It was -- it was really strange, in the sense that it was -- that it was complete darkness. As the minutes approached leading up to the jump, they actually cut the lights in the cabin, and I had to go to the night camera effect on the camera to get -- they just had the red light to try to make it less visible to any -- anyone on the ground that might try to target them. And so the only lights that we could see were the lights of towns on the ground and the faint red light, and then everyone just shot out, heading straight into darkness.

BROWN: See if we can re-rack that and look at it one more time. Is there -- does the jumpmaster say anything that starts it all off? Is there -- is there a hand signal that's given? How does it -- how do they know when to start?

NYBO: Well, basically, it was a long flight. It was about a four-hour flight there. And the guys slept most of the way. And then the big moment is 20 minutes beforehand. Actually, about two hours beforehand, they rig up, they get everything on the lines. They get their rucks in front of them. Each man carries about a 60-pound rucksack and also an M-4 rifle. And so then -- then the countdown really begins at two hours. And then at 20 minutes, everything really heats up. And at about 10 minutes, they switch to the red light. And then they do the hand signals, and then it's go.

Yesterday, we actually went through a dry run on the plane, went through it about three or four times, so they knew the drill. The only different was this was complete darkness. It was over northern Iraq, and this was the real thing.


BROWN: Producer/photographer Tom Nybo, who shot those pictures and was on board that plane as those Americans began the establishment of a northern front that will take shape over the next days. This has been a difficult day, in some respects, as you'll see when we come back. The reality on the ground is, of course, always that some -- not just soldiers die, but civilians die. That happened again today. Take a look at more of that, as our coverage continues.

We need to take a short break first. This is CNN.


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