FAHAHEEL, Kuwait — With some of its troops on alert in Kuwait for more than six months, the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division is fully trained and expects to lead the ground assault into Iraq, the division’s commander said Friday.

“They can fight mounted, they can fight in trenches, if necessary, or in an urban environment,” said Maj. Gen. Buford Blount in a news conference with reporters who are to embed with his troops.

“If we are called upon to go into Baghdad, we feel comfortable we would be able to do that successfully.”

The division — which Blount says is the only fully trained, fully equipped combat division in place — includes some 200 M1A1 Abrams tanks, 50 M109 A6 Paladin self-propelled artillery pieces, 200 Bradley fighting vehicles and 18 Apache Longbow attack helicopters. It also has 450 support vehicles.

The division brought a limited amount of its own equipment. Most troops from the unit known as “the Rock of the Marne” were married-up with equipment already in Kuwait or floating on pre-positioned ships.

For months, the soldiers have conducted all manner of live-fire exercises at training ranges in the Kuwait desert.

“I’m really amazed at how good morale is after all that time,” Blount said. “The soldiers are tremendously focused, mostly because we’ve kept them busy with training. They know the potential for war.”

Throughout the half-hour session at a military press information center south of Kuwait City, Blount exuded confidence in his troops’ abilities and the U.S. Army’s vaunted technological advantage over most foes.

Harsh windstorms would be overcome by thermal sighting devices; desert heat would be mitigated by night fighting with night-vision goggles. Air Force spotters and close-air support controllers are already embedded with the division, giving it a direct link to ready air power.

“They said they’ll have more Air Force than I can use,” Blount joked.

“The thing that would worry me the most is the potential use of chemical or biological weapons. But we’re well prepared. We have good equipment, and the soldiers know how to use it.”

Division soldiers have engaged in specialized training for the particulars of a conflict with Iraq. Soldiers are being told that Iraqi troops might use schools or mosques as fighting positions; U.S. troops are not to engage such positions unless fired upon.

They have also been trained to handle large numbers of prisoners of war and how to tell the difference between regular Iraqi troops and the elite and more loyal Republican Guard units.

In recent days, the division has moved out of the semi-permanent areas such as Camp New York and Camp Udairi. The soldiers are now living in austere conditions at Tactical Assembly Areas.

Even if they lead the spearhead to Baghdad and beyond, Blount said, the troops are prepared for a longer mission.

“I would expect we will be part of any stabilization force,” he said.

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