- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

FORT HOOD, Texas Commanders and soldiers in the 4th Infantry Division are confident they'll play a key role in the invasion of Iraq, despite still being in Texas and the President's ultimatum that war could begin as early as tonight.
"I still say we're not going to be left [out of the action]," said Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph M. Tainatongo, the top-ranking enlisted man in the division's 4th Brigade. "There's going to be an opportunity for us to go."
The 4th Infantry, about 20,000 troops based here and at Fort Carson, Colo., was tapped months ago to be the force that would open a northern front against Iraq from southern Turkey.
But, with its equipment sitting on boats outside southern Turkey, the division has been in limbo since March 1, when the Turkish parliament rejected a measure that would have allowed 60,000 troops into the country.
Turkish leaders on Monday said they were ready to press forward with another measure as early as today. However, polls indicate more than 80 percent of Turks oppose the war, and a reversal by the Turkish parliament may be unlikely.
Military officials at Fort Hood have privately expressed frustration that Turkey has wavered on the issue of allowing U.S. troops. The indecision has led to rumors about what lies ahead for soldiers based here.
Some say the 4th Infantry could still be used to open a last-minute northern front against Iraq if Turkey passes a measure today to allow U.S. troops.
Others suggest the division could remain at Fort Hood for the early stages of the invasion while its equipment may be re-routed to Kuwait. Once there, the 4th Infantry could be tapped to provide a follow-on stabilization force to the 3rd Infantry Division and the Marines.
"The soldiers are ready for anything," Sgt. Tainatongo said. "Whether it's peacekeeping or stabilization, we're going to be ready for whatever the mission dictates."
Col. Michael Moody, commander of the 4th Brigade, added the troops here need to be careful not to live life by the headlines.
"You cannot live the rumors," he said. "You've just got to be ready.
"I'm confident that whatever role we're asked to play, whatever mission we get asked to perform, we will do it extremely well."
The 4th Infantry was not deployed during the 1991 Persian Gulf war. But most here seem certain the action this time around won't end before the division gets into the fight.
"When the Army puts as much equipment on boats and sails it to the Eastern Mediterranean, it would be hard for me to believe there won't be a role [for us]," said Maj. Robert M. Cassidy, an operations officer in the 4th Brigade.
Mr. Bush's speech on Monday evening brought a sense of urgency for soldiers who've been waiting since the end of January for word on which part of the Middle East they'll be sent to.
"It was like a shock. We're here [in Texas], but now it's real. We could get called up anytime now," said Spc. Robert C. Roseboro, a native of the District, who has spent the past two years at Fort Hood.
Spc. Roseboro, 22, has three brothers and a mother living in the District and a fourth brother training for the Army at Fort Gordon, Ga.
He said the 48-hour deadline given to Saddam Hussein and his cronies was Mr. Bush's way of telling the Iraqi dictator that "it's time … No more playing."
"Me personally, I'm ready to go. I've been ready to go for months," Spc. Roseboro said. "Whatever mission they give us, we're going to accomplish it, no matter what."

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