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Brent Sadler: U.S. troops make dramatic entrance

CNN's Brent Sadler
CNN's Brent Sadler

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CNN's Thomas Nybo flew with the U.S. 173rd Airborne as they dropped into Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and secured an airfield (March 27)
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Watch 1,000 U.S. paratroopers leap into northern Iraq and begin digging in. CNN's Brent Sadler and Ben Wedeman arrived on the scene to tell the story. (March 27)
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Retired Generals Wesley Clark and Don Shepperd have more on the objectives of U.S. paratroopers in northern Iraq (March 27)
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BASHUR, Iraq (CNN) -- A thousand paratroopers from the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade parachuted into Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq under the cover of darkness early Thursday to secure an airfield.

CNN correspondent Brent Sadler is in northern Iraq and talked to paratroopers. He told CNN anchor Aaron Brown about the operation.

SADLER: About 1,000 troops dropped out of the sky in a very dramatic parachute drop into this airstrip, which was built in the early 1980s. It's actually a disused airstrip, and the paratroopers are within a mile of the actual tarmac.

They are coming from many directions, coming in from the drop line and gathering and looking very pleased with themselves. They came down in groups of 100. They're called sticks. So ten sticks, 100 men in each stick. That's 1,000.

I'm looking to the distance, it's quite incredible. I can see groups of paratroopers coming in from the drop line, where they came in several hours ago. Groups of about 50 men, 30, 40, 50 men coming from many directions in front of me, carrying their parachute packs and their equipment and starting to establish a foothold on the ground here.

I was just talking to some soldiers from the 173rd, and they told me it was a clean drop. They said that they were very -- the adrenaline was rushing and it was high even before they jumped out of the aircraft.

They came down. No hostile fire, obviously, because this is friendly territory. But it is a very rock-strewn area. So the troops on the ground were telling me that they had bumps and bruises.

It is a very calm situation as I'm watching these paratroopers dig into their positions. I've just been shaking hands with some of the troopers. They look very, very happy, very relaxed.

It is really quite remarkable to see just how well this operation is going. And the calm, methodical way, the way the training works here. The boys on the ground came in here six hours ago, and now are digging heavy mud to get themselves organized. Amazing.

It's also interesting to see that Kurdish forces are picking them up and shipping them out in three- ton lorries and taking them off to unknown destinations. This has been going on during the hours of darkness here and is continuing as I speak to you.

Certainly, what we have here now, given that we saw series of airstrikes against northern front positions in this sector, we're clearly seeing the northern front beginning to go open.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.

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