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Lisa Rose Weaver: On the road with a Patriot unit


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SOUTHERN IRAQ (CNN) -- As U.S. troops move within 160 miles of Baghdad -- about halfway to the Iraqi capital from Kuwait, journalists have been given unprecedented access to the front lines. CNN's Lisa Rose Weaver, embedded with a Patriot antimissile unit, spoke to CNN anchor Aaron Brown about the push into Iraq.

WEAVER: I am in southern Iraq at the end of literally a 20-hour convoy into this country from Kuwait. I am with a battery of Patriot missiles.

One of the reasons it [has] taken 20 hours to get into southern Iraq is that the Patriot missiles are so heavy that they got stuck in the softer, looser sand that we encountered in the desert. It's kind of an interesting point, because the Patriots are being used in a much more forward way, more often in this conflict than they have been in the past.

Now this conflict wouldn't be the first time [they have been] used in a so-called "maneuver tactic" way, meaning that [they go] not right on the front, but that [they] accompany infantry refueling stations in order to protect them.

BROWN: This Patriot battery that you're with, [its] purpose is to protect the infantry should [Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein] decide to throw missiles at them?

WEAVER: That's right, it's designed to be on the lookout for any incoming threat to the infantry that it flanks, or at a great distance. It's not limited to being close to them, by any means. But it does have that capability.

[Patriots protect] other units as well -- refueling stations, air assault, air assault refueling facilities -- making it possible, in other words, for [those] units to utilize the area by keeping the skies safe.

BROWN: They have yet to encounter trouble?

WEAVER: The convoy I was with didn't see any trouble. We had arrived on pretty much a cleared battlefield. I also didn't see any evidence of the bombing that we had all seen the night before, interestingly. That had occurred at other points, I suppose, on the border between Kuwait and Iraq.

We also saw very few Iraqis. We did see some Bedouin tribes, who were very friendly. They waved at the convoy. One of the sergeant majors at one point introduced himself to a couple of sheep herders. We saw cattle, sheep, and very few people. And all that we have seen so far have been friendly.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This report was written in accordance with Pentagon ground rules allowing so-called embedded reporting, in which journalists join deployed troops. Among the rules accepted by all participating news organizations is an agreement not to disclose sensitive operational details.


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