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Local Gulf War Vet Understands Difficulty Of Combat

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Many people are keeping tabs on the war whether or not they know someone deployed in the Gulf region.

Some people watching from the homefront know exactly what it's like to be on the front lines.

Scott Maitland is one of those.

The Chapel Hill restaurateur was a combat engineer platoon leader during the Persian Gulf war. It was his job to forge ahead of the infantry and artillery units.

He was on the lookout for minefields and bridges rigged to blow.

"You're laying on your belly with a plastic rod," Maitland said, "trying to figure out where the mine is without setting it off."

Maitland understands the difficulty troops are having when they encounter Iraqi people.

"I bumped into guys in civilian clothes carrying AK-47s," he said. "That's a very difficult situation for an officer.

"I don't know who these guys are," he said. "I don't speak good Arabic. It's a problem."

Maitland said he was able to bluff his way out of the situation, and he credits good training for that.

He added that news of the recent ambush on Marine supply officers didn't surprise him.

"Being in charge of all those convoys out in the middle of nowhere, I realize how easy it is to get lost," he said.

Maitland said the Army has come a long way in 12 years. During the Gulf War, only a handful of soldiers in a unit had GPS devices or night vision goggles.

But he also said that, even with all the training, there is little to prepare troops for all the dangers that lie ahead. Maitland stressed that soldiers have to keep a cool head under pressure.

"What struck me as we entered enemy territory was there were no rules," he said.