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White Says Army Ready for Whatever President Asks

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2002 – The Army is ready for whatever President Bush asks it to do, Army Secretary Thomas White said during a press roundtable here Oct. 31.

White stressed the president has not made a decision on using force in Iraq, but said that the service is ready to carry out any mission.

The secretary specifically spoke about urban warfare. He said the Army has learned the lessons of the past decade and has incorporated them into the training regimen.

"One of the things that I notice is how different the style of training today is in our national training centers as opposed to the way it was in 1988-1990," he said.

He said a unit deployed to Fort Irwin, Calif., for training in 1988 would have practiced a classic engagement between a motorized rifle regiment and U.S. forces. Today, U.S. troops train with a complex scenario featuring asymmetric threats, dealing with civilians on the battlefield, situational awareness, and combat in the cities.

"We have excellent (military operations in urban terrain) facilities at a number of our installations," White said. "I think we have a very high state of readiness when it comes to combat in urban areas."

Changes in combat in the cities include the latest technological advances. The Army's Land Warrior program gives soldiers and leaders precise locations for all U.S. soldiers and vehicles. "The soldier knows precisely where he is, where his teammates are, what the local situation is that he or she is dealing with," he said.

Individual equipment, such as rifles equipped with night- vision devices, is an extraordinary advancement, he said. The Army is also looking at munitions that will help soldiers operate in urban terrain.

Better use of unmanned aerial vehicles, including armed Predators, would also increase Army capabilities in urban terrain, White said. "I think that type of capability will be enormously valuable in urban terrain," he said.

White said he would like to see an assault gun available for urban warfare. Some vehicles in the Stryker system would mount a 105 mm cannon. Soldiers could use such a weapon to break through masonry, and the Army could develop a "bunker buster" round for use with the gun.

"What we've never had for infantry operations, interestingly enough, is a competent assault weapon," he said.

During World War II, the Germans based their infantry companies around a direct-fire assault gun weapon. "People fall into the trap of viewing the Stryker assault weapon as an anti-tank weapon," he said. "It's not." Other weapons provide anti-tank capabilities. The mobile gun system will provide direct-fire support to the dismounted infantry.

"In urban combat, that warhead on a 105 mm platform would do great work," he said.

The Army is also working with the other services to keep civilian losses to a minimum in urban combat. Precision fire is key to keeping collateral casualties down. White said a direct-fire weapon is the best option, but the service could use precision-guided munitions from the Air Force and Navy or mortar fire from its own units.

He said there would always be some casualties, but U.S. forces will do everything possible to keep those numbers down.

"If you take a large city with four or five million inhabitants in it, and they're still in the city when the fight starts, civilian casualties are difficult to avoid just because of the proximity of the combat activity to where people live," White said.

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