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Nettleton: Parade of C-17s returns

Nettleton reports by videophone from the U.S. air base.

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AN AIR BASE IN EUROPE (CNN) -- More than 1,000 paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade dropped into Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq Thursday morning and secured an airfield. CNN Correspondent Steve Nettleton is at an air base in Europe where the operation was launched. Here is his report.

NETTLETON: The tarmac here at this air base in Europe has become a parade of C-17s as they return from their mission.

Just a few hours ago they took off to drop more than 1,000 paratroopers under cover of darkness over northern Iraq to secure an airfield in the area controlled by the Kurds.

Once that is done, a number of armored vehicles -- tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles -- and other materiel will be airlifted in. The airfield could also be used to fly in humanitarian aid for northern Iraq.

This was perhaps one of the largest airborne operations in recent memory, perhaps even bigger than Panama in 1989.

Military officials said the environment in northern Iraq was very permissive, meaning they did not expect any resistance.

I am told no one was seriously hurt. We still don't have the final report as to whether people broke ankles or broke legs, which are common in such drops.

There was no gunfire. The aircraft were not fired upon. The soldiers were not fired upon.

And they are now starting a massive airlift into northern Iraq.

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