- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2003

KILLEEN, Texas (AP) — This battle-tested military community, where more than 30 soldiers have been lost in the war on terrorism, received two pieces of good news during the weekend: Saddam Hussein had been nabbed — and by their soldiers.

As word spread Sunday through this town 75 miles north of Austin, motorists honked car horns and shouted out their windows in celebration.

But jubilation was tempered by caution and the recognition that thousands of the Army’s Fort Hood troops are still deployed in Iraq.

“It’s a great day for the United States, for a little while,” said Fred Ohnesorge, manager of the Action Pawn in Killeen, just outside Fort Hood. “I think it just helps the morale.”

His shop’s electronic sign displayed the message: “Saddam Hussein captured. Thank you to all our troops!!! Thank you!”

With the rebuilding and peacekeeping mission in Iraq, former Fort Hood soldier Iso Couvertier says people here have no illusions about loved ones coming home soon.

Rejoicing erupted here just hours after about 600 soldiers with the 4th Infantry Division and Special Forces in Iraq raided a farm outside Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit and found the deposed Iraqi leader, bedraggled and hiding in a hole.

The fact that soldiers from Fort Hood were the ones who raided the farm wasn’t lost on locals, but mostly they were elated over the capture itself.

“This might sound cruel, but I’d take him and blow his head off,” said Cheryl Grier, 41, who has lived in Killeen much of her life and knows many soldiers.

Others simply expressed relief that Saddam had been caught.

“I’m just glad to see that he’s captured. It’s a big relief that they captured him alive and he’s going to go on trial,” said Nathan McCaan, 33.

Fort Hood is the base for about 42,000 soldiers. About half of them are overseas, most in Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz said the capture was a “tremendous reward” for soldiers of the 4th Infantry, who were sidelined during the Iraq invasion because Turkey refused to allow ground troops to enter Iraq through its borders.

“There was always that thought that maybe [Saddam] is there and maybe the 4th Infantry Division will get him, and that came true,” Gen. Metz said during a news conference at Fort Hood.

Army Spc. Dale Cowell, 23, who lost a cousin in the war and is set to deploy to Iraq in January, said he hopes having Saddam in custody makes the area safer for the U.S. military.

“We know we’ve got to go over there. We’re ready. We feel that we can go over there and knock out the mission, whatever President Bush wants us to do,” Spc. Cowell said.

Another group of soldiers was aboard a plane flying home from duty in Iraq when an air traffic controller recognized their flight as military and radioed the pilot. The pilot woke his 180 weary 101st Airborne Division passengers with the news.

“The entire plane went nuts,” said Master Sgt. Kelly Tyler, speaking by phone after the plane landed at Fort Campbell, Ky.

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