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Urban Combat

Aired December 1, 2002 - 20:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These soldiers are getting ready for the battle of the future in the dark alleys and back stairways of cities, where casualties are high and the stakes can drive them higher.




STUFFLEBEAM: Very few people know any more difficult kind of warfare.


AARON BROWN, HOST: If the showdown with Iraq leads to war and there are potential triggers throughout the inspection process, it is likely that any new conflict would be vastly different from the 1991 Gulf War, different and very likely more dangerous. That's because this time the United States could be facing urban combat, the great equalizer.

Military planners have always considered cities to be potential death traps. History has proven them right. But ousting Saddam Hussein from power may very well involve a battle for Baghdad, a street fight and so, the Army is preparing for the worst, training soldiers to fight building to building, house to house, room to room. It is warfare that has been likened by troops to a knife fight in a phone booth. The realities and the risks of urban combat now from CNN military affairs correspondent, Jamie McIntyre.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The soldiers of the 101st Airborne Air Assault Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky must be ready to deploy within 36 hours anywhere in the world. And now they're preparing for the type of battle that may await them in Iraq or elsewhere in the war against terror.

Urban combat, where casualty rates can be 25 percent or more. To beat the odds, this battalion from the 101st will spend several days and nights training, an exercise so realistic it will test their strengths and expose their weaknesses in the kind of fight the Army has tried to avoid.

MAJOR GENERAL JOHN LEMOYNE, U.S. ARMY: The ideal combat situation for us is not in a city.

MCINTYRE: Major General John LeMoyne led an Army task force trying to reduce the dangers of fighting in a city.

LEMOYNE: It tends to get very, very close. As a result, it gets very brutal and it's very violent, and it tends to be very sudden, unexpected.

MCINTYRE: And it leads to more casualties than fighting on open terrain, because a city provides national fortifications for an enemy. Every building is a sniper's nest, every intersection a potential ambush.

So in recent years, the military has begun an urban renewal of sorts, rewriting its doctrine and training manuals and building mock villages, like this one at Fort Knox, Kentucky for war games.

ANDY ANDREWS, ARMY CONTRACTOR: This is a blow pole, where we use explosives.

MCINTYRE: Andy Andrews, a Vietnam veteran, now a civilian employee for the Army, helped design the site.

MCINTYRE (on camera): What is the main premise here?

ANDREWS: Reality. Training to a standard that we have not been able to reach before, by making the city real.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): There is a railroad, a junkyard, a fake cemetery on the outskirts of town, even a sewer system.

ANDREWS: And down in here, you can see it's wet, and it's dirty, and we have an outfit that makes industrial odors for us. And so, in this environment, we do employ the correct odor.

MCINTYRE (on camera): So, you have a working sewer system right down to the smell?

ANDREWS: Well, we don't put raw sewage in it, but the soldiers aren't sure about that.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): As for the water tower at the edge of town, it's actually the control room for a battery of special effects. Sounds bring the village to life. With the roar of a virtual fighter jet and the blast of pyrotechnics, the town takes on the ominous qualities of war-torn Bosnia or Kosovo. And it's easy to imagine Latin America or towns in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East.

(on camera): Is this the Army's premier training facility for this kind of an operation? ANDREWS: Well, it's the newest. It is the most intense when it comes to what we are doing. It covers just about all aspects of possible deployments. Oh, you never know what's going to happen.

MCINTYRE: I don't want to alarm you, but there's a building on fire behind us.

ANDREWS: Things happen once a while.

MCINTYRE: Wow! Take a look at that! Now, the soldiers coming in here, do they have any idea that pyrotechnics are going to take place?

ANDREWS: No. Just as we are experiencing it now, is what they experience as they come through here.

MCINTYRE: This is daylight, but they do this at night.

ANDREWS: They do it day and night.

MCINTYRE: Is it dangerous?

ANDREWS: They think it is. Realistically, it's not. We can't kill them in training. They know that, but the stress levels that are imposed by many of the things that we do in here. It gives them the feeling of being in combat.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): For combat here, the soldiers use blanks in weapons rigged with lasers. Censors mounted on the soldier's chest and helmet emit a shrill alarm when someone is shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aim, center mass at his body. Fire it, and it goes off.

MCINTYRE (on camera): Urban combat, up close and personal, is usually a last resort for the U.S. The Pentagon prefers the safety of long distance war with high-the weapons. But if it comes to war with Iraq, America's technological advantage will only go so far in large cities.

(voice-over): Baghdad, it sprawls across 280 square miles with five million people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What this becomes is a battlefield without any fronts, without any rears. It's very nontraditional in the way that we think about battlefields today.

MCINTYRE: Randy Gangle (ph) directs a think tank for the Marines studying future warfare. He says that success in Baghdad will be possible if U.S. forces concentrate on specific targets key to Saddam's strength, his palaces and political headquarters, and positions his most loyal soldiers are holding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that one of the great difficulties of this battle is going to be locating the enemy. He can hide a very large Army in a city of five million very successfully. He can't defend the entire city. We can't clear the entire city. So it's going to be a game of cat-and-mouse.

MCINTYRE: In the mock city at Fort Knox, the bad guys are played by 34 soldiers from the 101st, now members of a fictional militia called the Cortina Liberation Front. In the training scenario, the insurgents CLF have captured the town, part of its goal to overthrow the elected national government, which has close ties to the United States. The good guys, 380 soldiers from the 101st, will have to take the town back. Much of the burden will fall on the squad leaders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're moving 700 meters from LZ Eagle to the wood line.

MCINTYRE: Men like Sergeant Esteban Springer (ph), charged with executing the orders that come from the top.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really hard. That's why we are training at this level. And training repeatedly, over and over, we'll get better at it.

MCINTYRE: And Sergeant Matthew Hamrick, a combat veteran who knows the risks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make no mistake, we're in a professional business, and people die. And I don't want it to be my soldiers, the ones that die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reconnaissance teams will be in two to five man elements.

MCINTYRE: Over the next four days soldiers from the 101st will draft a battle plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go through the wood line and across this phase line.

MCINTYRE: Practice their moves. Then fight for their lives in the dead of night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch out! Watch out!

MCINTYRE: In this war game, the emphasis is more on war, than game. The skills learned here could mean the difference between life and death, if the next mission is real combat in a real city.

Coming up...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, up against the wall.

MCINTYRE: ... the fatal funnel. Can these soldiers make it through alive?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a saying: fight the enemy, not the plan. You know they're not going to play by our rules.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): Before the battle, troops from the 101st train to survive the fatal funnel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fatal funnel is that point where you go into the room, one meter into room and one meter on each side of your entry point. If you have a bad guy in there, he's the one that will be oriented at the fatal funnel. Every soldier is going through that thing to get into the room.

MCINTYRE: The only way to make it through alive is teamwork. Each soldier is responsible for a section of the room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they're not in their together, the first guy that goes in there doesn't have anybody to cover him when he enters the room. And that's a problem there.

MCINTYRE: Sergeant Matthew Hamrick (ph) has seen combat firsthand. As an elite Army Ranger he was part of the 1989 invasion of Panama to topple General Manuel Noriega, and arrest him on drug trafficking charges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anytime you are in a situation where people shoot at you, I would expect anybody would feel fear. I don't know how I deal with it. And it just helped me -- I guess the Army trained me to deal with somehow in their collective way of thinking the way they train people. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got a room to your left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go left, line, go.

MCINTYRE: Now with the 101st Airborne, he helps lead Charlie Company, training men to kick the Cortina Liberation Front out of the mock embassy at Fort Knox, the biggest building in town. By virtue of his experience, Hamrick (ph) has carved out a special niche for himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know how to say this without letting my commanders way up there see how I do business. I basically hand pick my squad. And I have wheeled and dealed with other squad leaders, and I built my squad up to the powerhouse that I think we are today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got hits out there.

MCINTYRE: The newest squad member is Private Michael Gonzales, 18 years old, fresh out of basic training. Gonzalez joined the Army for excitement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm an adventurist and I like a somewhat adrenaline rush. If you are efficient at what you do, then the danger level isn't that high, if you're good at what you do.

MCINTYRE: But Gonzalez is impulsive, anxious to do a good job, and learn to do it better. His commander says Gonzalez sometimes works too quickly. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clear.

MCINTYRE: For example, checking for booby traps on enemy dead. Do it the wrong way, someone gets killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes I just go too fast. I guess it's just the adrenaline trying to do just it, you know...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For three weeks now I've been trying to get that through him, and he's picking up on it now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I try to be efficient, but yet, fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not something you can learn overnight.

MCINTYRE: Not overnight, but, the sooner the better because urban fighting is taking on a new importance in the Army.

It's a major shift from the mindset of the Cold War.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During the Cold War, the focus was on warfare in the plains of northwestern Europe.

That urban drain has taught us a great deal about adapting...

MCINTYRE: Russell Glenn (ph) is a military analyst at Rand, a West Coast think tank. He says that when Cold War tactics were applied in Desert Storm, the lesson was clear. You probably can't beat the U.S. on open terrain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open terrain allowed us to engage them with weapon systems that gave us superior reach. We had systems that could reach out and kill them at the ranges where they could not kill us.

MCINTYRE: But two-and-a-half years later, the world learned a different lesson as U.S. troops confronted anarchy in Somalia. What began as a humanitarian relief mission turned into a manhunt for combative faction leader, Mohammad Farrah Aidid.

During a raid by U.S. Special Forces, Somali fighters on the ground shot down two Army Blackhawk helicopters with what U.S intelligence believes was help from Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. In the ensuing gun battle, the worse firefight since the Vietnam War, 18 U.S. soldiers were killed, 73 others were wounded. Hundreds of Somalis were killed and wounded as well.

Somali crowds dragged the bodies of U.S. soldiers through the streets. In response, the White House claimed it would not cut and run, but immediately began planning for the withdrawal of U.S. troops within six months. And some at the Pentagon believe bin Laden concluded the U.S. military could be defeated simply by inflicting casualties.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly, somebody looking at that would say that the United States and its potential allies were not as ready to fight in built up areas as they were in more open-air terrain. MCINTYRE: Sergeant Esteban Springer understands the lessons of Somalia. And as a squad leader in the 101st Alpha Company, he is responsible for the lives of eight men.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody's got to do this job and I feel that I'm competent enough and trained enough to where I'm doing a good job at it.

MCINTYRE: At the Fort Knox training site, Sergeant Springer and Alfa Company will attack the hotel, strategically important because it overlooks the main street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pick it up. Start pushing up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to train like you fight.

MCINTYRE: Springer's men have traced out the rooms of the hotel. They've rehearsed their moves in preparation for the mock battle. They can run drills over and over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if you make split decisions at a moment's notice while you're training, then in combat, you'll be able to make these decisions also.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go. And just pick up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a tight working environment and you're inside a building and you want to maintain 18 inches off the wall because bullets could glance off the wall and hit you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to be able to be right next to each other and then you go into your motion in the room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys will come out, then you just fire it off around this corner here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like you are flowing into the room itself from the hallway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then you come in and move into your zone of domination.

MCINTYRE: The training starts at low intensity so newcomers like Private Anthony Guyton can keep up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to have to be clearing the steps, all right, just like that.

MCINTYRE: Guyton joined the Army eight months ago to escape a poor neighborhood in Queens, New York.

PRIVATE ANTHONY GUYTON, U.S. ARMY: This is like every day ghetto around me, urban bad stuff. Hanging out late and stuff like that.

MCINTYRE: Guyton views the Army as an opportunity to build a career.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually picked up Guyton at battalion headquarters when he first came to the unit. He seemed like the model soldier out of basic training -- yes, sergeant, no, sergeant, standing at parade rest.

MCINTYRE: What Guyton resists is the squad's unofficial pastime, chewing and spitting.

GUYTON: Oh, I would never -- I'm a city guy. I tell them one time, I said, "City people don't chew no tobacco, forget that." No, never.

MCINTYRE: But theirs differences haven't diminished the loyalty Guyton (ph) feels to the other men. They're responsible for each other's lives.

GUYTON: It's a bond you make just instantly. Whereas even when I was home, the people I grew up with all my life, we never had that bond.


GUYTON: I love these guys. I love my family. I'm willing to die for these guys the same way I would for my family.


MCINTYRE: Entering and clearing a room, each soldier has a specific assignment. Guyton (ph) knows he could be called to work any position, in the event a comrade falls in battle.

GUYTON: If you practice, you can always going to make a few mistakes, and if you do it for real in a war, ain't no time for mistakes. A mistake can cost you your life.

MCINTYRE: When we return...


MCINTYRE: ... the Cortina Liberation Front digs in for a fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be our most casualty- producing weapon right here.



MCINTYRE (voice-over): The bad guys are digging in for a fight. Thirty-four soldiers from the 101st are playing the enemy, the Cortina Liberation Front. The more experienced have learned from previous war games how to use the urban environment to their advantage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, we're just trying to move cars around the area. It's just something big, heavy, and you see it's hard to move unless we have a forklift, so they're not going to be able to move it.

MCINTYRE: Even though the opposition force is outnumbered 11 to one, they can still inflict heavy casualties.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What it is is just a barrier, just to slow them down.

MCINTYRE (on camera): So, it's kind of a trap? You're trying to trap them in one place?


MCINTYRE: Ambush them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's a term you can actually use, to ambush them, to slaughter them.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): The exercise is instructive to soldiers on both sides of the fight, because it forces them to think like the enemy they may some day confront in a real city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is wired up with explosives or just wired up so nothing opens or closes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wired. Well, we're going to put the explosives on the doors too.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming through as platoon into a building like this, every turn you turn, there is something there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to put something in the elevator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to be on your toes at all times, and every corner you turn around, there could be someone there. There could be a mine there. So you got to watch yourself and your buddy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I may give you back a sniper team in the platoon, all right?

MCINTYRE: The battalion commander from the 101st, Lieutenant Colonel Ricky Gibbs, actually wants a tough fight, to pinpoint his unit's strengths and weaknesses.

LT. COL. RICKY GIBBS, BATTALION COMMANDER: If you cover them up, we don't know, and then we go into combat and then we're in trouble, because we really don't know what we need to fix and we're not a better-trained outfit.

And that's the way I want you to fight it...

MCINTYRE: Gibbs even tips off the opposition force to his battle plan to make it harder for his own troops.

GIBBS: I see that -- this going with two big fights being here and here.

Right now, we're just trying to barricade the downstairs so they're going to have problems getting upstairs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once they get into the wire, they're going to have problems themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unroll those and put those down in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're the only ones that know where everything is at, so they're going to be running around, turning the corner and they realize they can't get there. And hopefully, they'll bunch up and then we'll have people in good spots with good shots.

MCINTYRE: The opposition force can fight dirty. It doesn't have the same rules of engagement that govern U.S. soldiers. So, anything goes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm trying to booby-trap this mine right here, so if they pull it out at night, and it blows them up (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MCINTYRE: This trap uses an illegal anti-personnel mine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. Army does not use them anymore, except in Korea because of the land mine convention, but since we're the enemy, we can use it.

MCINTYRE: The high explosive weapons used in training are simulations, made with fireworks or flares.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grenades. They work good too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have mannequins that you can see around the buildings, and hopefully they change their plan and try to attack in positions where actually we're not there.

MCINTYRE (on camera): So if the op force is prevailing, what would have to happen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think that -- probably if they rush. If they rush too much, they'll run into buildings without thinking through their tactics. Surprise is key. Anytime we can make them think or change their plan, it's an asset to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been in command about 10 months now. And in 10 months I've been in the battalion, we have not gone into a big city like this to fight. We've done a lot of how to enter and clear a room, or how to enter and clear a building with only two rooms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is probably, say, graduate-level work.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): One of the toughest lessons will come from this .50 caliber machine gun. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think we have rounds for it. We ain't got much, but it don't take much.

MCINTYRE: The opposition force is putting the gun in Andy's Restaurant, with a clear shot at the embassy across the street, the tallest, most strategically important building in town.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be our most casualty- producing weapon right here.


MCINTYRE: The battle will begin later that night.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gold field six, Bulldog six, I understand you said you cleared the third floor of building 12, over.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): After three days of training, Lt. Col. Ricky Gibbs sets up a command center in the rain-soaked woods outside of the town. He's about to find out how he and the men he leads might fare in a real battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, good.

MCINTYRE: The 101st wants to fight in darkness to take advantage of its sophisticated night-vision equipment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Condor six, Mad dog six, I need to know when you fire the missile to take out the power station, over.

MCINTYRE: Shortly after 9:00 p.m., using the magic of Hollywood special effects, a Virtual Apache helicopter begins the attack. By hitting the electrical substation, all the power in town is shut down, except for a couple of emergency lights in the embassy, but the Cortina Liberation Front sends up flares so it too can see in the night.

The American force counters with smoke bombs to hide its movements on the ground. Several miles away at a makeshift airfield, Chinooks and Blackhawks carry the troops from the 101st to their assignments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take it easy when you get inside, all right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though we know it's pretend it doesn't feel pretend. We look at everything as if it could be real.

MCINTYRE: The plan is for Charlie Company to move from the landing site through the woods that surround the town and attack the embassy from behind. The soldiers want as much cover as possible because most casualties occur getting into buildings. The opposition force is prepared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let them breach that wire. You all stand in the hallway. Reload! Let's go! Fire!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to get in the fight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger, sir. Come on, let's go.

MCINTYRE: The bad guys have surrounded the embassy with Concertina wire not impenetrable but cutting it takes time.

PRIVATE MICHAEL GONZALES, NEW SQUAD MEMBER: I was thinking before, you know, it's just another training exercise, you know. But when you're doing it, your heart starts racing and my knees started shaking a little bit.

MCINTYRE: Charlie Company blows a hole in the wall to enter the compound. It's safer than climbing over the wall like they had done in training the day before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's breach on one.

MCINTYRE: Inside, the battle is intense .

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, go. Clear!

GONZALES: I knew the bullets weren't real. There's still the whole idea of just doing what we have to do is scary, real scary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop. Hold it. Get back here! Yo! Down, around the corner! Down! Keep the flashlight on there! You see if I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what you chewed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a big concern for fratocide in these units.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got to go. Got fellows coming out


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even going in in a single room, if people don't go to their sector you've bullets flying past people's heads to engage targets; that's how dangerous it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, one, two, three.

MCINTYRE: When the building has been captured after a one-hour firefight, Charlie Company reports that the attack went virtually as planned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One six wounded in Charlie. Roger. I understand you have 16 wounded and two KIA, over. MCINTYRE: With control of the three-story embassy, Charlie Company can now support the troops who will attack the other buildings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to cover Andy. Stop (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Stand by. There is no there right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cover bottom and top?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we open this floor -- as we open this floor, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MCINTYRE: Gonzales is anxious to help, but the first thing he does is wrong. He heads to the balcony. It's dangerous because there's not enough cover.


MCINTYRE: His supervisor pulls him to a supposedly safer place.

GONZALES: There was a metal container guarding 3/4 of a window and I had a little section I was shooting out of.

MCINTYRE: But it's not thick enough to stop rounds from a .50 caliber machine gun, like the one the opposition force set up across the street.


GONZALES: At first I was like, ah, damn, I'm dead. Then I started thinking about -- I was like, I would really be dead right now, blood and the whole nine yards and you kind of have to deal with that in your own little way.

MCINTYRE: It turns out the new position for Gonzalez was no safer than the first one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Gonzalez is a casualty because of our -- mine and my teammates were repositioning him.

MCINTYRE: His body is pulled out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I take responsibility for that, yes.

MCINTYRE: The others pull back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, work your way out of here.

MCINTYRE: While Charlie Company takes the embassy...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go. Let's go!

MCINTYRE: ... Alpha Company is getting ready to attack the hotel.




MCINTYRE (voice-over): While Charlie Company attacks the embassy; the plan for Alpha company is to come through the junkyard and attack the hotel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prepare to launch my first assault team into the breach, over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go! Let's go!


MCINTYRE: While one platoon strikes first to clear a path...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, get a move on right now, I got permission to go.

MCINTYRE: ... the others stay behind.

GUYTON: It seemed like a long wait, but we train for that too. That's where the mental part comes in.

MCINTYRE: Private Guyton carries a folding ladder; unaware he is about to play a key role.

GUYTON: I was expecting to get to where we had to go and leave it all for the next company who was behind us or the next platoon who was behind us, and then the mission changed like instantly. I was like oh, man.

MCINTYRE: When his team gets the signal to move forward, Guyton and the others learn that the first floor of the hotel is too heavily barricaded to enter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open the ladder!

MCINTYRE: To get in a window on the second floor, they need the ladder.

GUYTON: It was halfway open because I was running with it. Then we stopped. And they were like, get the ladder open. Get the ladder open. And I was like oh, shit. And like I wasn't shown how to get it open, I was just told to carry it and drop it off.

MCINTYRE: There's gunfire from across the street. Sergeant Springer, who was supposed to lead his squad...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a squad leader down.

MCINTYRE: ... is one of the first casualties. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was pretty upset actually, because I felt that I failed by squad by being assessed as a casualty, unable to help control the two fire teams.

MCINTYRE: His next in command takes over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're the man! You're the man! Springer is down!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt that I let them down by doing that, and just everything was not going according to the plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go! Let's go! Let's go! Hurry up!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go! Let's go! Let's go!

MCINTYRE: When get the ladder open; they discover it's too short.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get up! Get up! Get up! Move!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, the guys were actually having to jump from the ladder to the windowsill, and then there was another man on the windowsill to help pulling them in.

MCINTYRE: Finally, inside the hotel they confront the opposition force head on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right side, trouble

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know that. Let's go! Let's go!

MCINTYRE: Alpha Company slowly takes control.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody but Weeks get out of that room.

MCINTYRE: They mark each room after it's cleared, a signal that it's secure. Alpha company sustains about 25 percent casualties, one out of four injured or killed. The Army says that's typical of urban combat. Considering the problems they had getting into the building, Sergeant Springer (ph) says it could have been worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, let's go!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They actually entered and cleared room still, even when they took casualties. They formed up into four-man teams and still continued to do what they were trained, the way that they were taught. So, that was great. They did that on their own to a T.

MCINTYRE: With the main building now under their control, a third company, Bravo Company, mops up. Only scattered pockets of resistance are left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty much, by the looks of it, we're it. We're the only thing that's left of the so-called bad guys. So, we're probably just going to run around until we either run out of ammo or they kill us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go! Get out of here!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's not a whole bunch more we can do.

MCINTYRE: Five hours after the battle started, the good guys have taken over the village...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, lift up.

MCINTYRE: ... but only after losing 58 of their men.

When we return, is there a magic bullet for urban combat?

STUFFLEBEAM: We will find clever ways, but it's extremely difficult. Very few people know any more difficult kind of warfare.




MCINTYRE (voice-over): The battle-weary soldiers have spent the night in the buildings where they fought. The overall casualty rate was 15 percent, better than anyone expected. This will be a day to reflect on what went right and what went wrong, lessons that might be needed on a future urban battlefield.

GIBBS: I think overall, the overall fight was faster than what we anticipated, and we were able to get through the town. We were taking bets on how long it would take this town down. And it went from 1:00 in the morning to 2:00 in the morning to 8:00 in the morning. And we finished the fight and destroyed the enemy about 2:00.

MCINTYRE: But the training is not quite over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the building, you're safer than anyplace else. And what we were doing was we were outside, just standing around.

MCINTYRE: Soldiers from each unit meet to critique themselves. Alpha Company meets in the lobby of the hotel, now their hotel. Private Guyton, Sergeant Springer and their platoon leader, Lieutenant Al Snider (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'll tell you one thing, this is a perfect opportunity just to look back. How many new guys we got here? The first fuel problem? All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you use to mark the rooms to clear them? MCINTYRE: There's no top brass, just the guys that pull the triggers.

As they analyze the battle from the previous night, they can see how small problems combine to create big ones. At the beginning there was incomplete information from the first group to attack the hotel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Communication stopped. The CO, the commander thought that the breach was secure when it wasn't.

MCINTYRE: As a result, the next group was called up too early: Sergeant Springer's group.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I think if we would have waited probably another 20 minutes, we would have done a lot better going into the building.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only thing that we lacked on rehearsing was actually employing the ladder itself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You pull this up. Pull this end up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when we got here, we didn't have the ladder fully employed all the way. That was the mission when we went up that ladder, OK? We'll get better, and that's why we train.

MCINTYRE: But if cities are such horrible places to fight, why not just avoid them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are times you're going to say, this particular piece of property is important to us. We want that airfield. We want that seaport. We want that rail junction. We want that tunnel or that bridge. And if that's in a city, then go get it and then hold it.

MCINTYRE: In the case of Iraq, Baghdad is the seat of power protected by Saddam Hussein's special Republican Guard, as many as 25,000 of Iraq's best trained, best equipped and best paid soldiers.

And then, there's the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the rest of his al Qaeda network, missions that could also require fighting in cities.

STUFFLEBEAM: It is not our intention to reduce cities to rubble while they hide in it. We find clever ways, but it's extremely difficult. Very few people know any more difficult kind of warfare.

MCINTYRE: And it appears inevitable.

A new Army training manual is chilling and blunt. "Urban areas are expected to be the future battlefield and combat in urban areas cannot be avoided."

LEMOYNE: We're not going to necessarily be able to pick and choose where we want to fight or when, and certainly not who. And if they're smart, and most of them are, they'll look for any advantage that they can find.

MCINTYRE: So the Army is pushing for more urban training, especially with units like the 101st that are among the first to deploy to a conflict.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the way of the future. We fought in the jungles. We fought in the desert. Now it's a new place to fight.

MCINTYRE: Even after leaving the mock village at Fort Knox, the 101st urban training continued at other sites. Top officers say that with the additional training they've had in recent months, they are ready, more than willing, and competent they can do the job.


BROWN: Twenty-five hundred years ago, a great Chinese military strategist wrote, "The worst policy is to attack cities and cities should only be attacked when there is no alternative." As U.N. weapons inspectors resume the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, American military planners are aware there may be no alternative this time to urban combat. They want to be prepared.

That's this edition of CNN PRESENTS. I'm Aaron Brown. Thanks for joining us and we'll see you next week.


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