Planners Take Up Civilians Caught In the Middle

While U.S. combat commanders plan the intricacies of a ground war, other officers are wrestling with peripheral issues, some having life-and-death implications.

How will civilians caught in the cross-fire of ground combat be evacuated? If need be, how will governments be created in parts of Kuwait or even Iraq occupied during the expected allied offensive?

In recent weeks, the civil affairs section of the 3rd Armored Division has been busy moving Bedouins from firing ranges and other operational areas near the northern Saudi border. Two live-fire exercises were delayed for hours while a civil affairs officer fluent in Arabic negotiated with Bedouins camped near the landing zone for tank and artillery rounds.

Once combat begins, civil affairs team will be responsible for moving some, but not all, civilians from the war zone. If areas of Kuwait and Iraq are subsequently occupied, civil affairs personnel also must install temporary civil-military governments to maintain order and minimize civilian suffering.

Protecting civilians engulfed in the ground war, while analogous to allied efforts to limit civilian damage in the air war, is a far more complex undertaking.

During ground combat, the primary mission of civil affairs will be evacuation of civilians. Not all civilians in the line of advance will be moved, however, said Maj. Frederick Phillips, a civil affairs expert attached to the 3rd Armored Division. If civilians are normally residents of an area being occupied and do not wish to move, Phillips said, "we don't mess with them."

Civilians who impede a military advance, who ask to be evacuated or who are deemed a security risk will be moved, said Phillips, 39, of Kalamazoo, Mich. A screening process has been devised to separate Iraqi agents or sympathizers from other civilians. Those deemed security risks will be handled as prisoners of war, Phillips said.

The remainder will be moved to a collection point to the rear, where most will simply be released.

That detailed plan, still under revision, also calls for civilians inadvertently killed during the offensive to be buried where they are found. This policy was requested by the Saudi government, Phillips said, and the civil affairs unit is appraising the identification problems that such burials may raise.Some Low Tech, Too

The Persian Gulf War has already sealed the success of the Patriot missile, and a ground war is certain to be the proving ground for dozens of other new high-tech weapons systems. But Army bakers are still making bread in a World War II oven. Soldiers are wearing the same type of green socks that GIs wore in Korea. And the Vietnam War's beloved Huey helicopters are now clattering across the Saudi desert.

Although words such as laser-guided, rocket-powered, and heat-seeking have become buzzwords of the war, the U.S. military has brought along plenty of old tried-and-tested equipment.

The glaring contrast between old and new is clearly visible on the battleship USS Wisconsin, where Depression-era shells are aimed with the aid of an ultra-modern robot scout plane.

Headquarters boast satellite dishes and microwave long-range antennae. But troops at company level lug backpack radios about the size and weight of an auto battery.