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Soldiers Wounded in Operation Anaconda Receive Purple Hearts

Aired March 16, 2002 - 08:38   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: American soldiers wounded in the first hours of a deadly firefight in Operation Anaconda were honored in a special ceremony within the last hour at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

CNN's Martin Savidge is there now and he has a live report for us -- hello, Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Miles.

This is the second time during Operation Anaconda that the Purple Heart medal was awarded to those that were wounded. As you mentioned, in the first hours, the first day, actually, of combat. Operation Anaconda is in its 15th day now and still ongoing. They are doing sensitive site exploitation.

The ceremony that you're listening to actually took place inside of a hangar here at the Bagram Air Base. There were nine recipients, all of them from the 10th Mountain Division, First Battalion, 87th Infantry.

And one of those who is with us right now, and that is Major J. Hall. I never know what to say to a Purple Heart recipient, only because this is obviously something you would not necessarily want to receive.

MAJ. JAMES HALL, 10TH MOUNTAIN DIVISION, U.S. ARMY: True. It's an honor to receive the award and to stand up there with the soldiers today and be recognized for what we did that day. But like you said, it's not one of the awards that you set as a goal to receive. But it is an honor to receive it.

SAVIDGE: Tell us about how you were wounded.

HALL: We had flown into an L.Z. just south of what you call the whale and we had moved into an area after we got off the helicopter, we started receiving fire. And as the day progressed, they were firing mortar rounds at us. And eventually a mortar man will find his target by walking the rounds. And eventually they did.

The group I was with, our battalion tack received mortar fire and six of us in that location were wounded from one round.

SAVIDGE: Now, you were in Desert Storm. HALL: Yes.

SAVIDGE: And I'm wondering how does the combat that you're facing now compare to that operation?

HALL: Much different. We're moving on an objective, had some weapons systems that allowed stand-off. We received mortar and artillery fire then but we were able to stop short and engage those targets and destroy them. Whereas a couple weeks ago we found ourselves in a location where we were in a direct action and in a close quarters combat, a firefight with the enemy.

And so much different in that we were there unable to move. Last time we were able to dictate the conditions for the fight.

SAVIDGE: No doubt you're going to go on other operations. You've already been on an operation, or been out on the front again. Do you think you've changed or does the attitude of a soldier change now and is that a good or a bad thing if it does?

HALL: You continue to prepare. We went out on that, on March the 2nd and then came back in on March the 3rd and we were informed that we would be going out again 24 hours later. So the soldiers were confident, confident in their abilities but have continued to prepare. You rehearse. You rehearse your plan over and over until it's time to go to build that confidence. I don't think anybody was over confident. It's not a good thing to be.

The leaders set the tone. The NCOs, they understand what it takes to go out there and accomplish the mission. So I don't think we were over confident, but I think we were prepared.

SAVIDGE: Major Hall, I will say congratulations to you.

HALL: Thank you.

SAVIDGE: Thank you very much, sir, for talking to us.

HALL: Thanks, sir.

SAVIDGE: Miles, there were over 70 soldiers that were wounded during the early phase of Operation Anaconda and, of course, there were 11 that were killed, three of them Afghani, eight of them U.S. soldiers -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Martin Savidge doing some excellent work over there. Thank you very much and keep up the good work and stay safe.

As a matter of fact, if you'd like to read more about what Martin is up to there, we invite you to check out our Web site, cnn.com. Just hit on the hot button on the front page there. It'll take you right to Martin's dispatches, behind-the-scenes accounts of what it's like to do what he is doing now and in so doing giving you a great sense of what it's like to be in the situation just described there in close contact with the enemy in a firefight. Great reading. We invite you to check it out at cnn.com. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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