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News Clippings

Tuesday 18 November 1997

Gulf troops take on desert vipers
By Tim Butcher in Udairi, Kuwait

THEY might be the spearhead of any Western military action against Saddam Hussein but, for the time being, the threat facing the 800 British soldiers recently arrived in the Kuwaiti desert does not come from Iraq.

Snakes and scorpions were the first unwelcome guests at the camp in northern Kuwait that is the new home for the 1st Battalion, the King's Regiment.

"One of the blokes found a viper in his tent on the first night," said one officer. "He killed it but the next morning one of the sergeants had to deal with three scorpions." The mood in the camp was relaxed and there was little tension. Information was scarce as there were only a few radios and no television.

The soldiers were taking advantage of training facilities which were considerably more generous than those at their base on Cyprus.

One soldier said: "We are an infantry battalion and out here we can actually do the things we are supposed to do. The space we have been given for live-firing is just enormous and, with our engineers, we can go out and build pretty much any scenario we need, such as a bunker or trench system."

Recruited mainly from Liverpool and Manchester, the men showed their priorities within hours of their arrival. The engineers had only just finished sinking the goal posts into a makeshift soccer pitch before the men were queuing up to play. The four-week exercise allows them to use their weapons, day and night, with relatively few restrictions. The Iraqi border is about 30 miles away and there are few buildings or people around.

Near the approach road to the camp an enormous pile of military scrap could be seen, Iraqi weapons destroyed during the Gulf war. The old tanks, troop carriers or guns can be dragged out into the desert for use as targets. One officer said: "We did one of the best night exercises I have ever been involved with just because of the freedom and space."

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