THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, HOST: These soldiers are getting ready for the battle of the future in the dark allies and back stairways of cities, where casualties are high and the stakes can drive them higher.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though we know it's pretend, it doesn't (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You have to ask yourself, what if that was real?
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HARRIS: Good evening, and welcome to CNN PRESENTS. I'm Leon Harris.
Tonight, the American way of war is changing. Missions involving urban combat, once considered a remote possibility, are now seen by many in the Pentagon as increasingly likely. Military planners have always viewed cities as potential death traps, and history has proved them right. So why is American Army now so focused on training soldiers to take to the streets? Some answers from our military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre in "Urban Combat."
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The soldiers of the 101st Airborne Air Assault Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky must be ready to deploy within 36 hours anywhere in the world. And they have seen combat just about everywhere.
They fought to support troops landing on the beaches of Normandy, they fought in the jungles of Southeast Asia and they fought in the desert during the war against Iraq. Now, they are preparing for a different kind of mission: urban combat, where casualty rates can be 25 percent or more.
To beat the odds, this battalion from the 101st will spend several days and nights training, an exercise so realistic it will test their strengths and expose their weakness in the kind of fight the Army has tried to avoid.
MAJOR GENERAL JOHN LEMOYNE, U.S. ARMY: The ideal combat situation for us is not in the a city.
MCINTYRE: Major General John LeMoyne oversees an Army task force trying to reduce the dangers of fighting in a city.
LEMOYNE: It tends to get very, very close. As a result, it gets very brutal and it's very violent, and it tends to be very sudden, unexpected.
MCINTYRE: And it leads to more casualties than fighting on open terrain, because a city provides national fortifications for an enemy. Every building is a sniper's nest, every intersection a potential ambush.
So in recent years, the military has begun an urban renewal of sorts, rewriting its doctrine and training manuals and building mock villages, like this one in Fort Knox, Kentucky for war games.
ANDY ANDREWS, ARMY CONTRACTOR: This is a blow pole, where we use explosives.
MCINTYRE: Andy Andrews, a Vietnam veteran, now a civilian employee for the Army, helped design the site.
MCINTYRE (on camera): What is the main premise here?
ANDREWS: Reality. Training to a standard that we have not been able to reach before, by making the city real.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): There is a railroad, a junk yard, a fake cemetery on the outskirts of town, even a sewer system.
ANDREWS: Down in here, you can see it's wet, and it's dirty, and we have an outfit that makes industrial odors for us. And so, in this environment, we do employ the correct odor.
MCINTYRE (on camera): So, you have a working sewer system right down to the smell?
ANDREWS: Well, we don't put raw sewage in it, but the soldiers aren't sure about that.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): As for the water tower at the edge of town, it's actually the control room for a battery of special effects. Sounds bring the village to life. With the war of a virtual fighter jet and the blast of pyrotechnics, the town takes on the ominous qualities of war-torn Bosnia or Kosovo. And it's easy to imagine Latin America or towns in Africa or Asia.
(on camera): Is this the Army's premier training facility for this kind of an operation?
ANDREWS: Well, it's the newest, it is the most intense when it comes to what we are doing. It covers just about all aspects of possible deployments.
You never know what's going to happen.
MCINTYRE: I don't want to alarm you, but there's a building on fire behind us. ANDREWS: Things happen once a while.
MCINTYRE: Wow! Take a look at that!
Now, do the soldiers coming in here have any idea that pyrotechnics are going to take place?
ANDREWS: No. Just as we are experiencing it now, is what they experience as they come through here.
MCINTYRE: This is daylight, but they do this at night.
ANDREWS: They do it day and night.
MCINTYRE: Is it dangerous?
ANDREWS: They think it is. Realistically, it's not. We can't kill them. They know that. But the stress levels that are imposed by many of the things that we do in here gives them the feeling of being in combat.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): For combat here, the soldiers use blanks in weapons rigged with lasers. Censors mounted on the soldier's chest and helmet emit a shrill alarm when someone is shot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire it, and it goes off.
MCINTYRE (on camera): The Army has more than 30 of these urban combat training facilities around the world and plans to build seven more. Despite all the talk these days about future high-tech wars fought by remote control, the Army believes that small-scale conflicts that threaten world security may ultimately draw its troops into the dirty job of taking a city house by house.
(voice-over): As the Cold War has given way to regional conflicts, driven by nationalism, U.S. military missions have also changed. Pentagon planners now envision their troops simultaneously delivering humanitarian aid, putting down riots and engaging in combat, all within one city, possibly within a few city blocks.
The latest draft of a new infantry training manual is chilling and blunt. Urban areas are expected to be the future battlefields, and combat in urban areas cannot be avoided.
LEMOYNE: Times have changed. Politics have changed. Right now, our most likely threat is a small-scale contingency, an asymmetric enemy who wants to get us in close so we lose the advantages of most of our high technology, and they are banking on the American public and the American media for casualty reports to influence our will.
MCINTYRE: In the mock city at Fort Knox, the bad guys are played by 34 soldiers from the 101st, now members of the fictional militia called the Cortina Liberation Front. In the training scenario, the insurgents CLF have captured the town, part of its goal to overthrow the elected national government, which has close ties to the United States. The good guys, 380 soldiers from the 101st, will have to take the town back. Much of the burden will fall on the squad leaders.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're moving 700 meters from LZ Eagle to the wood line.
MCINTYRE: Men like Sergeant Esteban Springer (ph), charged with executing the orders that come from the top.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really hard. That's why we are training at this level. And training repeatedly, over and over, we will get better at it.
MCINTYRE: And Sergeant Matthew Hamrick, knows the risks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make no mistake, we're in a professional business, and people die. And I don't want it to be my soldiers, the ones that die.
MCINTYRE: Over the next four days soldiers from the 101st will draft a battle plan.
Practice their moves. Then fight for their lives in the dead of night.
In this war game, the emphasis is more on war, than game. The skills learned here could mean the difference between life and death, if the next mission is real combat in a real city.
Coming up, the fatal funnel. Can these soldiers make it through alive?
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a saying: fight the enemy, not the plan. They are not going to play by our rules.
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MCINTYRE: Before the battle troops from the 101st train to survive the fatal funnel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fatal funnel is that point where you go into the room one meter in the room one meter on each side of entry point. If you have a bad guy in there, he's the one that will be oriented at the fatal funnel. Every soldier is going through that thing to get into the room.
MCINTYRE: The only way to make it through alive is teamwork. Each soldier is responsible for a section of the room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they are not in their together, the first guy that goes in there doesn't have anybody to cover him when he enters the room. That is a problem then.
MCINTYRE: Sergeant Matthew Hamrick has seen combat firsthand. As an elite Army Ranger he was part of the 1989 invasion of Panama to topple General Manuel Noriega, and arrest him on drug trafficking charges.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anytime you are in a situation where people shoot at you, I expect anybody would feel fear. I don't know how I deal with it. I guess the Army trained me to deal with somehow in their collective way of thinking the way they train people. I don't know.
MCINTYRE: Now with the 101st Airborne, he helps lead Charlie Company, training men to kick the Cortina Liberation Front at a mock embassy at Fort Knox. The biggest building in town. By virtue of his experience, he has carved out a special niche for himself.
I don't know how to say this without letting my commanders up there see how I do business, but basically I hand pick my squad. I've wheeled and dealed with other squad leaders, and I built my squad to the powerhouse I think we are today.
MCINTYRE: The newest squad member is Private Michael Gonzales, 18 years old, fresh out of basic training. Gonzalez joined the Army for excitement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm an adventurist; I like the adrenaline rush. If you are efficient at what you do, the danger level isn't that high. If you are good at what you do.
MCINTYRE: But Gonzalez is impulsive, anxious to do a good job, and learn to do it better, his commander says he sometimes works too quickly.
For example, checking for booby traps an enemy dead. Do it the wrong way, someone gets killed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes I just go too fast. I guess it's the adrenaline trying to do it, you know...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For three weeks now I've been trying to get that to him, and he's picking up on it now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I try to be efficient, but yet, fast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not something you can learn overnight.
MCINTYRE: Not overnight, but, the sooner the better. Because urban fighting is taking on a new importance in the Army.
It's a major shift from the mindset of the Cold War.
RUSSELL GLENN: During the Cold War the focus was on warfare in the plains of northwestern Europe.
MCINTYRE: Russell Glenn is a military analyst at Rand, a West Coast think tank. He says when Cold War tactics were applied to Desert Storm, the lesson was clear. You probably can't beat the U.S. on open terrain.
GLENN: Open terrain allowed us to engage them with weapon systems that give us superior reach. We had systems that could reach out and kill them at ranges where they cannot kill us.
MCINTYRE: But 2 1/2 years later, the world learned a different lesson as U.S. troops confronted anarchy in Somalia. What began as a humanitarian relief mission turned into a manhunt for combative faction leader (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
During a raid by U.S. Special Forces Somali fighters on the ground shot down two Army Blackhawk helicopters. In the ensuing gun battle, the worse firefight since the Vietnam War, 18 U.S. soldiers were killed, 73 others were wounded. Hundreds of Somalis were killed and wounded as well.
Somali crowds dragged the bodies of U.S. soldiers through the streets. In response the White House claimed it would not cut and run, but immediately began planning for the withdrawal of U.S. troops within six months.
GLENN: Certainly somebody looking at that would say the United States and potential allies were not as ready to fight and built up areas as they were in more open-air terrain.
MCINTYRE: Sergeant Esteban Springer understands lessons from Somalia. As a squad leader in the 101st Alpha Company, he is responsible for the lives of eight men.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody has to do this job and I feel I'm competent enough and trained enough to where I'm doing a good job at it.
MCINTYRE: At the Fort Knox training site, Springer and Alfa Company will attack the hotel. Strategically important because it overlooks the main street.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to train like you fight.
MCINTYRE: Springer's men have traced out the rooms of the hotel. They've rehearsed their moves in preparation for the mock battle. They can run drills over and over.
If you make split decisions at a moment's notice, while you are training, then in combat, you will be able to make these decisions also.
It's a tight working environment and you are inside a building, you want to maintain 18 inches off the wall because bullets could glance off the wall and hit you. You want to be able to be right next to each other and you go into your motion in the room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys will come out, then you just fire it off around this corner here. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like you are flowing into the room itself from the hallway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then you come in and move into your zone of domination.
MCINTYRE: The training starts at low intensity so newcomers like Private Anthony Guyton (ph) can keep up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to have to be clearing the steps, just like that.
MCINTYRE: Guyton (ph) joined the Army eight months to escape a poor neighborhood in Queens, New York.
PRIVATE ANTHONY GUYTON, U.S. ARMY: This is like every day ghetto, urban bad stuff. Hanging out late and stuff like that.
MCINTYRE: Guyton (ph) views the Army as an opportunity to build a career.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I actually picked up Guyton (ph) at battalion headquarters when he first came to the unit. He seemed like the model soldier out of basic training -- yes, sergeant, no, sergeant, standing up in parade dress.
MCINTYRE: What Guyton (ph) resists is the squad's unofficial pastime, chewing and spitting.
GUYTON: I would never -- I am a city guy, I tell them, city people don't chew no tobacco, forget that. No, never.
MCINTYRE: But theirs differences haven't diminished the loyalty Guyton (ph) feels to the other men. They are responsible for each other's lives.
GUYTON: It's a bond. You meet just instantly. Whereas even when I was home, the people I grew up with all my life, we never had that bond. I love these guys. I love my family. I'm willing to die for these guys the same way I would for my family.
MCINTYRE: Entering and clearing a room, each soldier has a specific assignment. Guyton (ph) knows he could be called to work any position, in an event a comrade falls in battle.
GUYTON: If you practice, you can always going to make a few mistakes, and if you do it for real in a war, ain't no time for mistakes. A mistake can cost you your life.
MCINTYRE: When we return, the Cortina Liberation Front digs in for a fight.
MCINTYRE: The bad guys are digging in for a fight. Thirty-four soldiers from the 101st are playing the enemy, the Cortina Liberation Front.
The more experienced have learned from previous war games how to use the urban environment to their advantage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, we are just trying to move cars around the area. It's just something big, heavy, and you see it's hard to move unless we have a forklift, so they are not going to be able to move it.
MCINTYRE: Even though the opposition force is outnumbered 11 to one, they can still inflict heavy casualties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What it is is just a barrier, just to slow them down.
MCINTYRE (on camera): So, it's kind of a trap, you're trying to trap them in one place?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MCINTYRE: Ambush them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, that's a term you can actually use, to ambush them, to slaughter them.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): The exercise is instructive to soldiers on both sides of the fight, because it forces them to think like the enemy they may some day confront in a real city.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is wired up with explosives, this is just wired up so nothing opens or closes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we are going to put the explosives on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, all right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming through as platoon into a building like this, every turn you turn, there is something there. You have to be on your toes at all times, and every corner you turn around, there could be someone there, there could be a mine there, so you have to watch yourself and your buddy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I may give you back a sniper team in the platoon, all right?
MCINTYRE: The battalion commander from the 101st, Lieutenant Colonel Ricky Gibbs, actually wants a tough fight, to pinpoint his unit's strengths and weaknesses.
LT. COL. RICKY GIBBS, BATTALION COMMANDER: If you cover them up, we don't know, and then we go into combat and then we are in trouble, because we really don't know what we need to fix and we are not a better-trained outfit.
MCINTYRE: Gibbs even tips off the opposition force to his battle plan to make it harder for his own troops.
GIBBS: I see this going with two big fights being here and here.
Right now, we are just trying to barricade the downstairs so they are going to have problems getting upstairs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once they get into the wire, they are going to have problems themselves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unroll those and put those down in there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the only ones who know where everything is at, so they are going to be running around, turning the corner and realize they can't get there. Hopefully, they will bunch up, and then we will have people in good spots with good shots.
MCINTYRE: The opposition force can fight dirty. It doesn't have the same rules of engagement that govern U.S. soldiers. So, anything goes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Booby-trap mine right here. They pull it out at night, and it blows them up.
MCINTYRE: This trap uses an illegal anti-personnel mine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. Army does not use them anymore, except in Korea because of the land mine convention, but since we are the enemy, we use it.
MCINTYRE: The high explosive weapons used in training are simulations, made with fireworks or flares.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grenades. They work good too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have mannequins that you can see around the buildings, and hopefully they change their plan and try to attack in positions where actually we're not there.
MCINTYRE (on camera): For your force to prevail, what would have to happen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think that -- probably if they rush. If they rush too much, they will run into buildings without thinking through their tactics. Surprise is key. Anytime we can make them think or change their plan, it's an asset to us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been in command about 10 months now, and in 10 months I have been in the battalion, we have not gone into a big city like this to fight. We've done a lot of how to enter and clear a room, or how to enter and clear a building with only two rooms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is probably I would say graduate-level work.
MCINTYRE: One of the toughest lessons will come from this .50 caliber machine gun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think we have rounds for it. We ain't got much, but it don't take much.
MCINTYRE: The opposition force is putting the gun in Andy's restaurant, with a clear shot at the embassy across the street, the tallest, most strategically important building in town.
The battle will begin later that night.
(INTERRUPTED BY BREAKING NEWS)
MCINTYRE: After three days of training, Lt. Col. Ricky Gibbs sets up a command center in the woods outside of the town.
He's about to find out how he and the men he leads might fare in a real battle. The 101st wants to fight in darkness to take advantage of its sophisticated night-vision equipment.
Shortly after 9:00 p.m. using the magic of Hollywood special effects a Virtual Apache helicopter begins the attack.
By hitting the electrical substation all the power in town is shut down, except for a couple of emergency lights in the embassy, but the Cortina Liberation Front sends up flares so it too can see in the night.
The American force counters with smoke bombs to hide its movements on the ground.
Several miles away at a makeshift airfield, Chinooks and Blackhawks carry the troops from the 101st to their assignments.
SGT. MATTHEW HAMRICK: Even though we know it's pretend it doesn't feel pretend. We are looking at everything as if it could be real.
MCINTYRE: The plan is for Charlie Company to move from the landing site through the woods that surround the town and attack the embassy from behind. The soldiers want as much cover as possible because most casualties occur getting into buildings.
The opposition force is prepared.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all stand in the hallway. Reload! Let's go!
MCINTYRE: The bad guys have surrounded the embassy with Concertina wire. Not unpenetrable but cutting it takes time.
PVT. MICHAEL GONZALES, NEW SQUAD MEMBER: I was thinking before it's just another training exercise, but when you are doing, your heart starts racing and my knees started shaking a little bit.
MCINTYRE: Charlie Company blows a hole in the wall to enter the compound. It's safer than climbing over the wall like they have done in training the day before.
Inside, the battle is intense .
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still, the whole idea of just doing what we have to do is scary.
HAMRICK: Even going in a single room, if people don't go to their sector you have bullets flying past people's heads to engage targets; that's how dangerous it is.
MCINTYRE: When the building has been captured after a 1 hour firefight Charlie Company reports that the attack went virtually as planned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand, you have 16 wounded and 2 KIA -- over.
MCINTYRE: With control of the embassy, Charlie Company can now support the troops that will attack the other buildings.
Gonzalez is anxious to help, but the first thing he does is wrong. He heads to the balcony. It's dangerous because there is not enough cover.
His supervisor pulls him to a supposedly safer place.
GONZALEZ: There was a metal container guarding 3/4 of a window and I had a little section I was shooting out of.
MCINTYRE: But it's not thick enough to stop rounds from a .50 caliber machine gun, like the one the opposition force set up across the street.
GONZALEZ: First I was like, -- then I started thinking about, I was like, I would really be dead right now, blood and the whole nine yards. And you kind of have to deal with that your own little way.
MCINTYRE: It turns out the new position for Gonzalez was no safer than the first one.
HAMRICK: I think Gonzalez is a casualty because (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
MCINTYRE: His body is pulled out.
HAMRICK: I take responsibility for that, yes.
MCINTYRE: The others pull back.
While Charlie Company takes the embassy...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go let's go!
MCINTYRE: Alpha Company is getting ready to attack the hotel.
MCINTYRE: While Charlie company attacks the embassy, the plan for Alpha company is to come through the junk yard and attack the hotel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prepare to launch my first assault team into the breach, over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go!
MCINTYRE: While one platoon strikes first to clear a path.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, get a move on right now, I got permission to go.
MCINTYRE: The others stay behind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seemed like a long wait, but we train for that too. That's where the mental part comes in.
MCINTYRE: Private Guyton (ph) carries a folding ladder, unaware he is about to play a key role.
GUYTON: I was expecting to get to where we had to go and leave it all for the next company who was behind us, the next platoon who was behind us, and then the mission changed like instantly. I was like oh, man.
MCINTYRE: When his team gets the signal to move forward, Guyton (ph) and the others learn that the first floor of the hotel is too heavily barricaded to enter. To get in a window on the second floor, they need the ladder.
GUYTON: It was halfway open, because I was running with it. Then we stopped. They were like, get the ladder open, get the ladder open. And I was like oh. Like I wasn't shown how to get it open, I was just told to carry it and drop it off.
MCINTYRE: There is gunfire from across the street. Sergeant Springer (ph), who was supposed to lead his squad, is one of the first casualties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was pretty upset actually, because I felt that I failed by squad by my being assessed as a casualty, unable to help control the two fire teams.
MCINTYRE: His next in command takes over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are the man! You are the man! Springer is down!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt that I let them down by doing that, and just everything was not going according to the plan.
MCINTYRE: When get the ladder open, they discover it's too short.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, the guys were actually having to jump from the ladder to the window sill, and then there was another man on the window sill to help pulling them in.
MCINTYRE: Finally, inside the hotel they confront the opposition force head on.
Alpha company slowly takes control. They mark each room after it's cleared, a signal that it's secure. Alpha company sustains about 25 percent casualties, one out of four injured or killed. The Army says that is typical of urban combat.
Considering the problems they had getting into the building, Sergeant Springer (ph) says it could have been worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They actually entered and cleared room still, even when they took casualties. They formed up into four-man teams and still continued to do what they were trained, the way that they were taught. So, that was great. They did that on their own to a T.
MCINTYRE: With the main building now under their control, a third company, Bravo company, mops up. Only scattered pockets of resistance are left.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty much. We're it. We are the only thing that is left of the bad guys. So, we are probably just going to run around until we either run out of ammo or they kill us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go! Get out of here!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not a whole bunch more we can do.
MCINTYRE: Five hours after the battle started, the good guys have taken over the village, but only after losing 58 of their men.
When we return...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressmen and senators are going to be invited to visit this site. Senior state department officials will visit these sites. And it's quite easy to develop the impression in your own mind that you are better at this than you are.
MCINTYRE: The battle-weary soldiers have spent the night in the buildings where they fought. The overall casualty rate was 15 percent, better than anyone expected. This will be a day to reflect on what went right and what went wrong, lessons that might be needed on a future urban battlefield.
GIBBS: I think overall, the overall fight was faster than what we anticipated, and we were able to get through the town. We were taking bets on how long it would take this town down. It went from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. to 8 a.m., and we finished the fight and destroyed the enemy about 2:00.
MCINTYRE: But the training is not quite over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The building, you are safer than anyplace else. What we were doing, we were outside, just standing around.
MCINTYRE: Soldiers from each unit need to critique themselves. Alpha Company meets in the lobby of the hotel. Their hotel. Private Guyton Sergeant Springer and their platoon leader, Lieutenant Al Snider.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll tell you one thing, this is a perfect opportunity just to look back. How many new guy we got here?
What did you use to mark the rooms to clear them?
MCINTYRE: There's no top brass, just the guys that pull the triggers.
As they analyze the battle from the previous night, they can see how small problems combine to create big ones. At the beginning there was incomplete information from the first group to attack the hotel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Communication stopped. The CO, the commander thought the breach was secure when it wasn't.
MCINTYRE: As a result, the next group was called up too early: Sergeant Springer's group.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think if we would have waited another 20 minutes we would have done a lot better going into the building.
MCINTYRE: Rushed from the beginning, things only got worse when they needed the ladder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only thing that we lacked on rehearsing was actually employing the ladder itself.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When got here we didn't have the ladder fully employed all the way.
That was a niche when we went up that ladder. We get better, that's why we train. MCINTYRE: But are they likely to use the skills they are training to develop? Especially with a president who says that during the previous administration, the U.S. military was overdeployed.
MIT Professor Barry Posen is a specialist in U.S.-military policy.
BARRY POSEN, MIT: President Bush will no doubt be offered many chances to intervene. And the question the American military has to ask itself, will President Bush be able to say no to everyone of those chances?
Remember, his father couldn't say no to Somalia.
GEORGE BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When see Somalia's children starving, all of America hurts.
LEMOYNE: As a soldier, I will tell you we cannot relax. The likelihood of continued peacekeeping operations, small-scale contingencies or any other nickname you want to give them, to continue is very high.
MCINTYRE: But if cities are such horrible places to fight, why not just avoid them? Because that's where the people are.
By the year 2030, 60 percent of the world's population will live in cities, many of then ripe with the conditions that breed political instability.
GLENN: The world today is more urbanized. The focus of national diplomacy, of national politics, of, in many cases, military strength are in built-up areas.
LEMOYNE: There are times they will say, this particular piece of property is important to us. We want that airfield. We want that sea port. We want that rail junction. We want that tunnel, that bridge. And if that's in a city, go get it and hold it.
MCINTYRE: Consider some of the potential hot spots that U.S. military planners say could involve cities. The Middle East, including Baghdad, if the United States had to move against the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Seoul, South Korea, just 25 miles from the border with heavily armed North Korea, where the U.S. is committed to defend against any attack from the communist North.
And the Balkans: Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, where ethnic conflict continues even while thousands of peacekeeping troops patrol in the region.
LEMOYNE: We are not going to necessarily be able to pick and choose where we want to fight or when, and certainly not who. And if they are smart, and most of them are, they will look for any advantage that they can find.
MCINTYRE: That advantage often lies in a city, as soldiers who train for the fight quickly learned. But while the intensity is a sobering experience for the participants, some experts worry that the realistic training may be confused with the real thing.
BARRY POSEN, MIT: Congressmen and senators are going to be invited to visit this site. Senior state department official will visit these sites. And it all looks very can-do, and our Army knows how to do this. And that's true, they will know how to do it as well as it can be done. And it's quite easy to develop the impression in your own mind that you are better at this than you are.
MCINTYRE: For now, the Army is pushing for more urban training, especially with units like the 101st that are among the first to deploy to a conflict.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the way of the future. We fought in the jungles, we fought in the desert, now it's a new place to fight.
MCINTYRE: In fact, just a month after the 101st went back to their home base, they returned to the village at Fort Knox for another round of training.
HARRIS: Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, whose work "The Art of War" is a classic, wrote: "The worst policy is to attack cities. Attack cities only when there's no alternative."
Today, many military leaders in the U.S. say there may be no alternative, and they want to be prepared.
That's this edition of CNN PRESENTS. I'm Leon Harris. We will see you next week.
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