WITH KUWAITI FORCES, SAUDI ARABIA, NOV. 26 -- A hastily trained, frequently out-of-step group of Kuwaiti college students, bank clerks and other volunteers today became the first class to graduate from a new Saudi boot camp designed to provide troops for the tiny Kuwaiti military as it struggles to reassemble its forces.
About 600 new soldiers, some overweight and sweating after a formal march across a sandy makeshift parade ground, shouted "Take us to the front line" and "Long live Kuwait," when formal graduation ceremonies ended.
Kuwaiti spokesmen said about half of the class is physically fit enough to be sent to combat units for further training and the others would be assigned to rear support jobs.
The Kuwaiti military now includes about 4,500 army troops, officials said. Another boot camp class of 600 soldiers graduated two weeks ago from a training camp in the United Arab Emirates, officials said.
The 1,200 graduates of the Saudi and UAE training camps are among 7,000 Kuwaiti men who officials say have volunteered to serve in the military. Officials could not estimate how many of those volunteers will undergo training and join the Kuwaiti military, much of which fled after the Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi forces.
Kuwaiti Defense Minister Nawaf Ahmad Sabah told the troops, "You are the first group and many others will follow to help in the liberation" of Kuwait.
"The oppressor's time of occupation is running out and the day of victory is very near and Kuwait will be back -- God willing," he said.
During the four-week basic training course -- about one-third the length of time U.S. forces train in boot camp -- the troops were taught only the most rudimentary military skills. Today's graduation ceremony included demonstrations of karate, urban warfare and small-arms training.
Kuwaiti officials said the recruits included Kuwaitis from a variety of occupations, including one man who was in the United States at the time of the invasion and flew to Saudi Arabia to join the armed forces.
Active-duty Kuwaiti army and air force units are also being trained by U.S. military advisers.