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'Imagine a giant wave of steel'

By Walter Rodgers
CNN

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CNN's Walter Rodgers

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Stretching for miles, a caravan of tanks plows through clouds of sand toward Baghdad.
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SPECIAL REPORT
•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models
VIDEOPHONE FACTS
The technology used by CNN's Walter Rodgers and his crew is a standard videophone connected to a specialized tracking satellite phone antenna.  Mounted on a vehicle, the antenna locks onto the satellite beacon and remains stationary, even as the vehicle turns, bounces and speeds along at up to 60 mph. 

In addition to allowing live video, these antennas let CNN reporters file video packages, check e-mail, and make phone calls -- all while moving at speed through rough terrain or heavy seas.

CNN has similar land-based systems deployed elsewhere in the region, as well as sea-based versions aboard the USS Lincoln and USS Constellation.

In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news and newsmakers around the world.

IRAQI DESERT (CNN) -- Imagine a giant wave of steel sweeping across the southern Iraqi desert, and imagine that almost hourly the wave grows in strength and numbers.

As we ride through this desert, we can see the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division's heavy mechanized units have moved up. This giant wave of steel that grows every hour is ever pushing northward, ever pushing toward the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

The goal is to intimidate the Iraqis and pressure them. If that doesn't work, then they can smash the Iraqi regime, so powerful is this force that is building out here in the desert.

I am traveling with photographer Charlie Miller. We are transmitting images on a videophone, and we were very, very fortunate. We knew we wanted this particular embed assignment, the 7th Cavalry Regiment, because we knew they were the tip of the tip of the spear.

Charlie's riding out the passenger-side window in the front. What Charlie is doing is holding a mini-cam out the window, bracing it as best he can on the car frame, which accounts for some of the jiggling in the picture.

But even those 68-ton, 69-ton Abrams tanks are bouncing along -- not as much as we are in our Humvee, but there's not a perfectly smooth ride out here.

Jeff Barwise, our engineer, is making all the pictures fly through the air. He does magic. And he's out of CNN Atlanta. Between the two of them, Charlie and Jeff, they're bringing these images to you as we roll through the desert. It's a total CNN team.

The Pentagon generally has given the embedded reporters access to our own vehicles, which gives us the capacity to broadcast live on the road.

If we were, for example, to stand in any position for any period of time, we would be able to throw up a satellite dish and it would be just like local TV in the sense that here you are standing in front of a tank and here you are on the road to Baghdad. And you would have high-resolution pictures.

When we get to any sort of standing position -- if the cavalry ever stands -- then indeed you would have an opportunity for broadcasting like you've never seen before.

That isn't possible when we're on the move with the Seventh Cavalry. But I have been just amazed at what we are seeing: an army in real time, rolling across the desert at 40 or 50 mph en route to its objective, or the first of several objectives.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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