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Monday, April 14

New Army units prepare for peacekeeping, rebuilding

By Mark D. Faram | Military Times

A KUWAITI PORT - As combat winds down in Iraq, new Army units arriving here are gearing up for peacekeeping and rebuilding roles in a country torn by decades of war and neglect.

Soldiers and civilians at this Kuwaiti port began on Monday to offload ships that held nearly 800 tanks, truck and helicopters belonging to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, based in Colorado Springs, Colo. The nearly 5,000 soldiers of the 3rd ACR, most of them already in Kuwait, normally train for ``closing with and killing the enemy,'' said Capt. Bren Workman, regiment spokesman. But the regiment is preparing for a ``stabilization'' role in Iraq and expects to operate with a contingent of civil affairs soldiers, Workman said.

He would not say how many civil affairs soldiers would work with the regiment, but said it would be an unusually large number. Civil affairs troops are specialists in building relationships in communities that have been through war or other strife.

Immediately upon entry into Iraq, the specialists will begin laying the groundwork for peacekeeping operations, Workman said. They will broadcast Arab-language messages through loudspeakers, telling the locals how to stay safe and reassuring them that the American mission is to help them.

``We want our presence, wherever we end up, to be seen as a stabilization force, a friendly force that allows the townspeople to reconstruct their country,'' Workman said.

Peacekeeping operations are still fresh to soldiers in the regiment, which served in 1999 as part of the stabilization force in Bosnia. Nearly two out of 10 soldiers in the regiment have peacekeeping experience.

``We have that track record and we have those lessons learned, so we think we're in a very good position to turn to execute what we're going to be asked to do here,'' Workman said. ``We have learned to tread lightly and deal with people who had concerns with the U.S. forces being in their country in 1999.

``We're going to encounter the same type of concerns with the locals here and we will use our civil affairs assets to reassure that we are there to stabilize the area and not take over,'' he said.

After offloading the regiment's equipment, the troops will have to get it all in working order and ready, which could take several weeks. Military officials say combat is still a possibility.

The regiment is designed to be its own, self-supporting unit because it isn't attached to a division.

``We're designed to operate on our own and be the eyes and ears of a corps commander,'' Workman said.