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U.S. missiles boom in desert near Iraq

Helicopter-fired Hellfire missiles and high-explosive artillery shells rocked the desert just miles from the Iraqi border on Tuesday as U.S. forces prepared for a possible war against Iraq.

"He (Saddam Hussein) should have been taken care of last time, and this is why we are here again," said Sgt. Golden Brown, 29, of Petersburg, Va. "I just want to get it over and done with so I can get home to my son."

Brown belongs to a 90-member mechanized artillery outfit attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team from Fort Stewart, Ga.

The live-fire exercise Tuesday, 20 miles south of the Iraqi border, included seven Apache helicopters firing Hellfire missiles, six Paladin self-propelled artillery guns, Bradley fighting vehicles, and a range of communications and logistics units.

Many U.S. officials and lawmakers think 200,000 or more American soldiers could be needed to topple Hussein, a force that would require months to move to the region.

Some 10,000 U.S. troops are in Kuwait on normal rotations, based at U.S. Army outposts including Camp Doha and smaller camps closer to the Iraqi border. The U.S. Air Force also uses two Kuwaiti bases.

Sgt. Ronald Knowles of Windsor, N.C., a Gulf War veteran, said base and battlefield conditions in Kuwait have changed greatly since the 1991 conflict, with air-conditioned tents, hot showers and higher-powered artillery available to U.S. troops.

But returning to the Kuwaiti wastelands, with Iraqi forces just over the horizon, gave him a sense of "been there, done that."

"When I left here I didn't think I would ever come back again, but here it is 12 years later with the same old rerun," Knowles, 48, said.

"But I'm not scared about being back. I think this time around, we will do the same thing we did last time, but a bit faster," he said, referring to the 43-day demolition of Iraq's forces in 1991. "If they tell us to go north, off north we'll go."

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