- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

FORT HOOD, Texas The Army's 4th Infantry Division is hustling to ready maps and battle plans for troops preparing to enter Operation Iraqi Freedom from the south after plans to come from the north through Turkey were abandoned.
The division's intelligence officers are working at a hectic pace to prepare large, laminated maps of southern Iraq to replace previously distributed maps of southern Turkey and northern Iraq.
While the bulk of the 4th Infantry's heavy equipment is furnished with a computer-mapping system of both the north and the south, battalion commanders only have had paper maps of the north until now.
"They've had [paper] maps of northern Iraq since November based on plans to go through a northern front," said Lt. Melissa Bailey, assistant intelligence officer with the 4th Infantry's aviation brigade.
The goal, she said, is to "get a complete package of maps down to the commanders of the battalions."
The paper maps are used mainly as a backup to computerized ones. But they could mean life or death for soldiers if austere conditions in the Iraqi desert present electrical problems for the 4th Infantry, known as the Army's only fully "digitized" division.
The 4th, more than any other batch of U.S. troops, has been caught in the middle of the Pentagon's changing war plan since January, when President Bush ordered the division to mobilize.
Helicopters, tanks and other heavy equipment were sent to the eastern Mediterranean on the hope that Turkey would allow some 60,000 troops into the country to open a northern front against Iraq.
When the fighting got intense in southern Iraq after it became clear Turkey would not allow troops to enter Iraq from the north, the Pentagon finally abandoned the option and ordered more than 30 ships holding the 4th Infantry's equipment to head south through the Suez Canal toward Kuwait. Commanders started focusing on plans to enter Iraq from the Persian Gulf.
The change hasn't exactly taken the officers by surprise, said Capt. Joseph W. Vongs, intelligence officer for the 4th Infantry's aviation brigade. "We did double the work up front in anticipation that this might happen," he said.
"We were working the northern battle plan for about three months. About a month ago, we did start planning for the south. We may not have studied the southern plan for as long, but we're just as familiar with what we have to do," Capt. Vongs said.
The division's 15,000-plus troops from Fort Hood and Fort Carson, Colo., don't know if they'll be heading into combat as soon as they arrive in the war theater over the coming days and weeks. They may instead be given mop-up duty or follow up with peacekeeping and occupation missions.
"We're planning for several things now, possible combat operations and possible stability and support, which are two different missions, but we're going to try to prepare to do both," Capt. Vongs said.
"We might have to do combat until the hostilities cease or end and then switch over to support operations."
One positive aspect of being in limbo in Texas is that some troops were able to sneak a bit of extra time with loved ones.
It was more than a month ago that Lt. Bailey, 25, sent her 8-year-old daughter Tatiana and 5-year-old son Tyler to live with their father in Missouri because she thought she was shipping out.
Last week she brought the children back to their home in Killeen, Texas, and got a chance to say goodbye again.

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