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HEIDELBERG, Germany — The Army’s classified rehearsals for an invasion of southern Iraq began in Bavaria this week under tight security.

Code-named “Victory Scrimmage,” the computer-simulated command and control exercises are being led by V Corps commander Maj. Gen. William Wallace, corps spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Richard said.

“Security is extremely tight,” Richard said. “This is obviously a very sensitive exercise.”

More than 2,000 troops — including the top staffs from four of the Army’s 10 divisions — have been assembled for the war games designed to fine-tune invasion options.

The exercises are slated to run through Wednesday.

V Corps, based in Heidelberg, is the Army’s only forward-deployed corps and is widely expected to help lead any ground attack into Iraq from Kuwait should the White House order an invasion. Wallace and his staff deployed to Kuwait in November for top-level preparations — called Internal Look — with U.S. Central Command.

A cadre of corps staff is still maintaining Wallace’s operations center there as thousands of U.S. troops have been pouring into the region in recent weeks.

For Victory Scrimmage, Wallace and his commanders are being pitted against the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas-based Battle Command Training Program’s “World Class Opposing Force.”

Described as an “uncooperative, ‘free-thinking,’ learning and adaptive Opposing Force” in Army literature, the “Red Cell,” as they’re often called, is playing the role of Iraqi field commanders, according to sources familiar with the exercises.

Also participating is a group of senior retired Army officers who are acting as mentors to the current crops of leaders. Leading that effort are Edwin Burba Jr. and William Crouch, both retired generals.

Burba, an infantry officer and Vietnam veteran, served as the leader of U.S. Forces Command — supplying the majority of U.S.-based troops for the 1991 Persian Gulf War — before retiring after 30 years in uniform.

An armor officer and Vietnam veteran, Crouch retired from his post as vice chief of staff of the Army in 1998 after more than 35 years of service, which also included a tour as the head of U.S. forces in Europe.

Falling under their tutelage in Victory Scrimmage will be Wallace and the commanding generals and top staffs of 1st Armored, 1st Cavalry, 3rd Infantry and the 101st Airborne Divisions. Also among the units participating is the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment from Fort Carson, Colo., according to sources close to the exercise.

The 4th ID, from Fort Hood, Texas, was to have been the fifth division involved, but dropped out at the last minute, even as the division received marching orders to the Middle East region last week.

Reports suggest that all or part of the 4th ID may now be bound for Turkey as part of preparations for a northern front. The headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division — as well as a cross section of support units — were given marching orders for Turkey on Wednesday, but most of its combat units are either in Kosovo or just returned from Balkan peacekeeping duties.

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