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Archive for the ‘MNF-I’ Category

Source: CentCom.

07 November 2007
By Sgt. 1st Class Rick Emert
1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs
.

CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Set up in five trucks with heavy machine guns, enemy forces sat in wait for a helicopter to fly over their location west of Baghdad on the last day of May. It appeared their plan was to strike a blow to Multi-National Division-Baghdad by taking down a U.S. Army helicopter.

The enemy forces were trained and prepared with personnel to drive the trucks, man the guns and keep a lookout for any of the U.S. helicopters that patrol the skies of Baghdad in search of roadside bomb emplacers or insurgent mortar teams.

The 1st Air Cavalry Brigade’s Apache crews had become a thorn in the insurgency’s side by regularly disrupting terrorist attacks on Coalition Forces and Iraqi civilians.

As they waited, four Apache pilots from 1st “Attack” Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB, 1st Cavalry Division, were getting an intelligence briefing before heading out on their mission. The intelligence indicated that there were up to 30 gun trucks in a specific area, and the pilots’ mission was to check it out.

With both determination and caution, 1st Lt. Brian Haas, chief warrant officers 4 Steven Kilgore and Elliott Ham and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cole Moughon took to the skies to check the validity of the report. All four said they thought from the onset that some sort of engagement was imminent. They expected to find at least several trucks with gun mounts that could easily be modified to attack air and ground assets.

The two Apache crews, each with a pilot in command and a copilot-gunner, came up on a truck and sedan that stopped suddenly; the occupants quickly exited the vehicles and low crawled toward a ditch. The crews didn’t know if this meant the people were being cautious, preparing for a possible engagement by taking cover, or if they knew that an engagement was imminent.

“That instantly heightened our awareness; something is going on out here,” said Kilgore, a Portage, Ind., native. “These people aren’t just scared of us. They may be a little bit, to an extent, but there’s something going on out here. We started keeping an eye open.” It didn’t take long for their suspicions to be confirmed.

“I remember … thinking this is weird; something’s up,” said Moughon, from Gray, Ga. “We (in the lead aircraft) heard (Kilgore) make the call over the radio: “Hey, I’m taking fire at my rear.” We heard (Haas) say there was a big gun. I looked over to my right, and I was about to say: “Oh, I got it.” I just got out “oh.” I could see the flash from the muzzle. I saw a stitch of dirt in the road coming up towards us.” It was even worse than the intelligence report had predicted; the trucks had more than just weapon mounts.

“We were looking for trucks with mounts – not trucks with heavy machine guns looking to kill us,” Moughon said. “At that point, it was pretty scary, because I knew – back in February, we lost an aircraft to heavy machine gun fire – we knew what the deal was right away. We knew that we were in something pretty dangerous.”

Kilgore spotted a gun truck about one-and-a-half kilometers away shooting at the helicopters, but there was a much more ominous threat. “We started taking fire from my right side about 1,500 meters away,” Kilgore said. “What I didn’t know is there was another gun about 300 meters away in the same line that started shooting at the same time. That rattled the aircraft. It didn’t hit … but rattled the aircraft.”

A seasoned Apache pilot with multiple deployments under his belt, Kilgore initially thought his aircraft had been hit. “We were so close to the gun that when the aircraft started to rattle, I thought I was taking hits,” Kilgore said. “I actually saw muzzle flashes from it. It was about 250 to 300 meters out my right door.” Within a couple of minutes, the Apache crews had gone from searching for the gun trucks to becoming the targets of a planned ambush by the enemy forces. “I was definitely at a position of a disadvantage, and I needed to gain an advantage,” Kilgore said. “That meant … moving out away from that (gun truck) to get out of his ability to track me. I was able to put a salvo of (rockets) on that gun truck and clear that gun truck. We came back later and destroyed the gun truck.”

Both aircrews broke contact safely, and then came back in to engage the trucks and insurgents.
The trail aircraft had disabled one of the trucks, and Moughon and Ham in the lead aircraft took out another one on the second pass. “They broke off that truck, and we followed them out and then came back in. (Ham) called and said he had trucks fleeing to the north,” said Haas, from Ashley, N.D. “They came around and engaged there. We came in behind them and just kind of suppressed again as they were breaking. They shot another missile. I think we made two more passes.”

With nearly half of the gun trucks already disabled, the aircrews were not about to let some of them get away to launch an ambush on another aircraft. “I saw three trucks with machine guns in the back in kind of like a straight trail formation hauling … down the road,” Moughon said. “As soon as I got the sight on them, I launched the missile. I saw the guy swing his gun around and just a bright flash of the gun firing. The (driver) braked. The missile hit right in front of the truck and didn’t do anything. We broke, I think (the trail aircraft) suppressed, then we came back around and fired another missile.

“(It was) the same thing; the guy knew what he was doing. He slammed on the brakes, but this time it killed the driver. That caused him to careen into his buddy and pushed him off the road. We further engaged with the (30mm) gun and got several guys that were running away. We just started (destroying the weapon systems) from there.” The seemingly determined enemy forces had blinked and tried, without success, to flee.

“Once they knew that we weren’t going to run away from them, that’s when we got the advantage and just got real aggressive,” Haas said. “I think that helped us, because we got noise and rockets flying off the helicopter, and they saw that and they knew they were in for it.”

A couple of days later, with plenty of time to reflect on the engagement, the pilots realized there were some things they could have done differently. “In this situation, you’re going to make mistakes,” Moughon said. “It’s not like (training) back at Fort Hood where we’ve got time. Everything was heat of the moment. You had to get rounds out. It was all a matter of who made fewer mistakes – whether or not you were going to be going home. Obviously, we made fewer mistakes than the enemy.”

While that may have been true about their actions during the 15 intense minutes that the engagement lasted, the Apache crews were simply more prepared, thanks to a whole team of Soldiers from the 1st ACB who provided support back at home base, Kilgore said. He explained that the information on the gun trucks from the brigade’s intelligence report, the operational briefing from the brigade operations staff and the aircraft maintenance and armament personnel all contributed to the mission’s success.

“All of that led to us being successful in this engagement,” Kilgore said. “Yes, we were the executors – the four of us – but, there is a big picture here that goes into everything we do. It’s really the Army aviation team that led to this win, this success. I think we can all take pride in that. We, 1ACB Army aviation, defeated the enemy. We did it pretty much by ourselves as aviation. We didn’t have ground forces with us. We didn’t use artillery. “We can see th[e] teamwork that went into it – across the board teamwork – we can see that tenacity that is being exhibited every day by these guys. I think it’s something we can all take pride in. This was a big win for the whole team.”

For their quick and heroic actions in the chaotic scene on May 31, the pilots were awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses – the top aviation-specific military award. The awards were presented Oct. 28 by Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, Multi-National Corps-Iraq commanding general.

“I’ve been an aviator my whole career, and I’ve always wanted to be an aviator, since I was a little kid,” Kilgore said. “The Distinguished Flying Cross … is a special award. For me to be included in that group that has received the Distinguished Flying Cross – it feels a little humbling. There have been a lot of great aviators who have received the Distinguished Flying Cross and great aviators who haven’t received the Distinguished Flying Cross. How do I match up to that? I don’t know; maybe it’s a one fight thing, and it was something special enough that someone took notice and thought that we deserved the Distinguished Flying Cross for it.”

For Moughon, it still hasn’t sunk in that he earned the prestigious medal. “When I got to the unit, my commander (for Company B, 1-227th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion) had gotten a DFC for acts in OIF II. I got to looking at it, because I wanted to know what it was,” Moughon said. “Then, I realized who all had got it before him. When somebody mentioned that we might get it, I thought: ‘I am not in their company.’ I’m just two years out of flight school. I was just trying to stay alive. Receiving the award was a very humbling experience and almost embarrassing. There are guys out here that do just as much every day – sacrifice every day to go out there and find the enemy and kill them. They don’t get recognized for it.”

While the pilots couldn’t pin down what made their actions heroic, perhaps how they approached the engagement itself is telling as to why they received Distinguished Flying Crosses. In the initial moments of the engagement, with bullets and tracers flying past their aircraft like something out of “Star Wars” – as Moughon said – and with the Apaches outnumbered nearly three to one by gun trucks on the ground, the pilots never even considered high-tailing it to safety.

“I can’t say that I thought: ‘We should get out of here.'” Haas said. “I don’t know why, but it never crossed my mind. Maybe that’s just the way we are. I didn’t come here to say: ‘Yep, there’s bad guys out there. I’m not going out there.’ I came over here to – I’m not going to be naïve and say to make a difference – but I came over here to do my job and do it to the best of my ability. There’s a lot of the guys that I’ve flown with before, and they’re the same way. The hard part is finding (the enemy). We fly around Baghdad where there are millions of people and they all look the same; unless somebody is shooting at you, you don’t know. When they shoot at you first, that makes it easy.”

“The initial contact was scary, and you thought about – yeah, this was a big deal,” Moughon added. “At that point, it was like they say in the westerns: ‘If you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound.’ We were in it, so we had no choice. If we had just flown away, they probably would have been there to take somebody else down. We’re a gunship; that’s what we do. We don’t get low and suppress and run. We stay and fight. Our job is to go out, find the enemy and kill them. That’s what we do.”

Photo – Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commanding general of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, (left) presents the Distinguished Flying Cross to Onawa, Iowa, native Chief Warrant Officer Elliott Ham, (second from right), as Portage, Ind., native Chief Warrant Officer 4 Steven Kilgore, (right), waits in a ceremony Oct. 28 at Camp Taji, Iraq. Four Apache pilots from 1st “Attack” Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, earned Distinguished Flying Crosses for their actions against five gun trucks with heavy machine guns on May 31. The Distinguished Flying Cross is the U.S. military’s highest aviation-specific award. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Rick Emert, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs.

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26 Aug 07
by Multi-National Division-North
Public Affairs Office
.

BAGHDAD – Operation Lightning Hammer concluded Wednesday after a 12-day, large-scale operation to disrupt al-Qaeda and other terrorist elements in the Diyala River Valley, a complex area of villages and palm groves in Iraq’s Diyala province.

The operation, which involved approximately 16,000 Iraqi and Coalition forces clearing approximately 50 villages, was a key element in Multi-National Corps-Iraq’s overall operation, Phantom Strike; and resulted in 26 al-Qaeda members killed, 37 suspected terrorists detained and the discovery of 10 weapons caches. “The strength and determination of the fighting men and women from the Iraqi and Coalition forces showed great results during Lightning Hammer,” said U.S. Army Col. David W. Sutherland, commander of Coalition forces in Diyala province. “We have continued to diminish their supplies and disable al-Qaeda’s abilities to disrupt the population.”

Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, partnered with members of the 5th Iraqi Army Division, initiated the operation with a late-night air assault into targeted locations on Aug. 13, and conducted an additional three air-assaults during the course of the operation. Residents of most villages welcomed the security forces, providing tips and intelligence about recent activities in their towns, and were interested in joining the Iraqi Security Forces. Following clearing operations, the Iraqi Army provided medical assistance and humanitarian aid to the local citizens, many of whom said their villages were recently influenced by al-Qaeda.

More importantly, more than 80 tribal leaders and representatives, some of whom had not spoken in over a year, met Aug. 19 to discuss their grievances and swore on the Quran to unite in their fight against terrorists and become one tribe of Diyala. “As I conducted my battlefield circulation and talked with many of the citizens, they repeatedly thanked our Soldiers, but more importantly, their security forces, for liberating their towns from the terrorists – specifically al-Qaeda,” Sutherland said. “Because their villages have been cleared, the local and central governments will now be able to provide those essential services al-Qaeda destroyed, and the people feel a sense of security they have not known for some time.”

Throughout the operation, the Task Force Lightning Soldiers also discovered 22 improvised explosive devices, 11 of which were discovered based on tips from a police chief in the river valley, and reduced three house-borne IEDs and six vehicle-borne IEDs, all of which could have been used to harm a large portion of the population or security forces. Additionally, an al-Qaeda command post was discovered in the village of Shadia, and an al-Qaeda medical clinic was located in Qaryat Sunayjiyah.

The command post, which was surrounded by fighting positions, contained bed space for 20 individuals, supply requests, records of munitions, a list of families supporting the element, a list of al-Qaeda members detained by Coalition forces and other terrorist propaganda. “Although we didn’t find many of the terrorists, the operation proved to be a great success because we disrupted al-Qaeda, causing them to run,” Sutherland continued. “Their fear of facing our forces proves that the terrorists know there is no safe haven for them in Diyala.

“And though this specific operation is over, our fight is not over,” he continued. “We will continue to aggressively target al-Qaeda, and ultimately, they will be brought to justice.” The results of Lightning Hammer cleared the Diyala River Valley of al-Qaeda and allowed Iraqi and Coalition forces to maintain a permanent presence in Mukeisha, a village in the heart of the river valley area.

Photo – Spc. Samuel Melendez, Bravo Trop, 5th Battalion, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, patrols a mrash outside of Qubah, a small village in the Diyala province. The patrol was part of Operation Lightning Hammer, a maneuver to flush insurgents from the area. Photo by Sgt. Patrick Lair, 115th MPAD.

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23 Aug 07
By Army 1st Lt. Kenya Virginia Saenz
Task Force Pacemaker Public Affairs Office
.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan – Afghans and Multi-national forces are currently working hand-in-hand on a variety of expansion construction projects here.

Soldiers from the 864th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy); 1st Construction Company, 100th Republic of Korea Engineering Group; and Polish 1st Engineer Brigade, are working together to construct metal building systems (K-Spans), roads, ditches, culverts and sewage lagoons here. TF Pacemaker Headquarters Support Company Soldiers, led by Army Capt. Eric Parthemore, from West Liberty, Ohio, are not only engaged in supporting the battalion, but also manage the missions of the multi-national forces.

The Polish engineers provide both additional capacity and leadership to multiple horizontal construction projects. Polish soldiers, led by Polish Army 1st Lt. Radoslaw Teleżyński, are working to improve the roads here by ensuring that proper drainage and sewage structures are constructed before the rainy season begins. The Polish army has been deployed in places such as Lebanon, Syria, and Africa to support many humanitarian missions since the war on terror began in 2001.

“I didn’t know what to expect or what missions we would have, but working with American Soldiers has been a great experience. They have been very helpful,” said Teleżyński. I have been able to learn different training techniques from the American Soldiers and compare them to our techniques. I changed our technique to what works best to accomplish the mission successfully.”

Polish Pfc. Rafaz Soboń added, “This is my first time deployed and it has been a new and interesting experience. We learned about different cultures in class, but it is better to learn from first-hand experience.”

The 1st Construction Company from the Republic of Korea focuses on K-Span construction. According to Parthemore, the Korean engineers are especially meticulous and bring a vertical construction capability to the HSC that it does not have. The company is commanded by Korean Capt. Bo Geol Choi from Seoul, Korea. Once completed, the K-Spans will enhance maintenance operations and provide more space for supply support activity here. Even though K-Spans are not common in Korea, the soldiers were previously trained by civil engineers in their country, said to Choi.

“We are very proud to be part of this mission. Our main goal is to bring the proper engineering assets for future Coalition forces,” says Choi. “There have been a few challenges over the language gap as well as different working systems, but over all, the construction progress and the relationship with American Forces are going well.” Korean soldiers, Sgt. Chi-Keun Lee and Cpl. Min-Gi Kim agreed, “It is fun learning about different cultures, even though sometimes we have to use hand signals to communicate with each other.”

“The addition of Polish and Korean engineers along with Afghan contractors, gives our task force a tremendous capability that we do not normally have,” said Parthemore. Simply working on a single jobsite with engineers of four nationalities working together toward a common goal is very satisfactory. Also, our common understanding and respect for safe operations keeps us accident free despite the communication difficulties,”

Photo – Polish Pvt. Piotr Oparski, Polish Engineer Platoon, works on the final touches of a culvert in Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan, as a scoop loader hauls the rest of the dirt. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Kenya Virginia Saenz.

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22 Aug 07
By Tim Kilbride
Task Force Marne Public Affairs
.

BAGHDAD – Rather than clearly drawn lines in a Sunni vs. Shia sectarian battle, the driver of much of Iraq’s current violence is the murkier struggle for “power and influence,” a coalition commander said Aug. 19.

“This is not black and white here. It’s all shades of grey, and there’s a mixture of extremist elements and terror elements and criminal activity. It’s all of the above,” said Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of Multinational Division Center and Task Force Marne, during a lunch with journalists.

In conversations with Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. in 2006, when Maj. Gen. Lynch was a deputy commander for Multinational Force Iraq and Gen. Casey the commander, the two agreed that the biggest motivator for violence in Iraq is the question, “Who’s going to be in charge?”

“We came to the conclusion that the primary concern inside of Iraq was a struggle for power and influence. It’s naive to believe that all sorts of violence inside of Iraq is Sunni vs. Shiia or Shiia vs. Sunni; that’s just not true. And when you find intra-Shiia rivalry, it’s primarily a function of the struggle for power and influence,” Maj. Gen. Lynch said. “We see that a lot across our battlespace.”

Multinational Division Center’s area of operations includes Najaf, Karbala, Babil and Wasit provinces, with additional areas of Baghdad and Anbar provinces. The provinces form what the military calls a belt around Iraq’s capital.

“We’re way past the point where we lump extremists as ‘anti-Iraqi forces,'” Maj. Gen. Lynch explained. “What you have to do is have great precision as you talk about the enemy. The best question that’s out there is, ‘Who is the enemy?'”

There are many layers to the security situation, and it varies by area, the commander said. However, he outlined three general sources of violence: Sunni extremists, Shiia extremists, and Iranian interference in the form of equipment and training.

Specifically, Maj. Gen. Lynch said, many of the rockets and explosively formed penetrators, a deadly type of improvised explosive device, used in attacks against U.S. forces originated in Iran. The bulk of these Iranian weapons uncovered so far have been found in Shiia hands, he said, but they have also been discovered in Sunni weapons caches.

Maj. Gen. Lynch said he does not yet know how Sunni militants acquire the weapons, whether on the black market or through direct contacts. He noted, though, that most of the training by Iranian forces goes to Shiia extremists, some of it taking place inside Iraq. “We have in our battlespace some number of members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Maj. Gen. Lynch acknowledged. “They’re here. We watch for them. We will target them.”

However, Maj. Gen. Lynch said, no Iranian forces have been captured or killed in his area of responsibility.

The effects of the training have been evident in recent weeks as the lethality of attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces increases. The number of EFP attacks is up, and “the enemy is indeed now more aggressive than we’ve seen him to be,” Maj. Gen. Lynch said.

Forty-six percent of attacks in his area of responsibility are being conducted by Shiia extremists, Maj. Gen. Lynch said, but with drivers of violence spread across the sectarian divide, he explained, U.S. forces have no choice but to treat each enemy in the same fashion. “What you want to do is take away the enemy’s leaders, take away the enemy’s munitions, and you want to take his ability to train,” the general said. “So you attack all three of those things simultaneously.”

To that end, Maj. Gen. Lynch said, his Soldiers have conducted a series of month-long operations to target various centers of violence around his area. The latest, Operation Marne Husky, launched Aug. 15th and targets the Tigris River Valley southeast of Baghdad, in the area between Salman Pak and Suwayrah.

The first two operations, Marne Torch and Marne Avalanche, aimed to clear and hold areas south of Baghdad. But with success in those efforts, extremists fled to new areas, Maj. Gen. Lynch said.

“Did we defeat the enemies in those sanctuaries?” he asked. “No, that’s too strong a term. But we surely disrupted his ability to do what he wants to do,” he said.

Faced with a finite number of U.S. and Iraqi troops available for holding ground, Maj. Gen. Lynch said, he arranged for his combat aviation forces to launch Marne Husky as a “disrupt” operation, intended simply to keep the enemy unsettled and incapable of regrouping. “The phrase is ‘tactical momentum,'” Maj. Gen. Lynch said. “We believe that we have the enemy on the run. We believe that we’re in a pursuit phase of this operation.”

While not capturing new ground, disrupt operations help prevent attacks on civilians and Soldiers alike by keeping the enemy on the defensive and denying him the opportunity to reclaim territory, Maj. Gen. Lynch explained. “The enemy’s got this amazing capability of filling the void,” Maj. Gen. Lynch said. “If we go to an area and we conduct an operation and we leave, in about 48 hours he now controls that area again. So you just can’t let him rest.”

Strategically, Wasit province, where the bulk of Marne Husky is being conducted, is key to curtailing Iranian influence on the security situation, Maj. Gen. Lynch said. “Wasit province is of particular concern because of the Iranian-Iraqi border,” he explained.

The province shares a 200 kilometer stretch of border with Iran, leaving the way open for weapons smuggling, Maj. Gen. Lynch said.

And with combat operations taking place in the western half of the province, equally important work is being done to shore up security in the eastern half, along the border, Maj. Gen. Lynch said.

Maj. Gen. Lynch’s deputy commander, Army Brig. Gen. Ed Cardon, explained that in addition to training being given to Iraq’s border guards by U.S. forces, a series of forts extend along the border with Iran.

At the one legitimate point of entry from Iran into Wasit, Brig. Gen. Cardon said, the border crossing is overseen by the Iraqi government. At that point, every inbound truck is unloaded and searched for weapons, he said.

As a further precaution and to account for smuggling routes, a series of six checkpoints are scattered on westbound routes in areas behind the border crossing, Brig. Gen. Cardon said. These will be manned by an incoming unit of 2,000 troops from the Republic of Georgia, he said.

“If we control these areas, it will be hard to move weapons in trucks through Wasit,” Brig. Gen. Cardon said. However, he added, “We’re under no illusions … that the flow of weapons is going to stop from Iran.”

In a development that could potentially bolster the program, Brig. Gen. Cardon said, Shiia tribes in the border area have approached his commanders, volunteering to assist in curtailing smuggling. U.S. forces will present the government of Iraq with the Shiia offer, he said.

Similar arrangements have greatly enhanced security elsewhere in the Task Force Marne area of operations, Maj. Gen. Lynch said, pointing to the success of the Sunni and Shiia “concerned citizens” groups in securing their villages. “We want the security of Iraq to be accomplished by the people of Iraq,” he said.

“The solution is a sustained security presence by the Iraqi security forces,” but the concerned citizens groups act as a crucial transition in areas with inadequate Iraqi security force protection, he said.

But in a region where tribes form the bonds of society at the local level, and family loyalties compete with any sense of national identity, critics including the Iraqi government have wondered whether encouraging a new breed of neighborhood militias is in Iraq’s long-term interests.

“This is the challenge that you have: as you increase the authority of the tribes, how does that impact the authority of the provincial government?” Brig. Gen. Cardon stated.

The hope, he said, is that both the tribes and the Iraqi government build themselves up at the same time.

Photo – Maj. E. E. Smith gives a thumbs-up to Iraqi National Police Col. l. Ahmed Hatem Hamid Taher after observing no violence in the streets of Al Furat, Aug. 9, during the 7th Imam holy day. Maj. Smith is a team chief assigned to the National Police Transition Team. Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Brian L. Boone.

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15 Aug 07
by Multi-National Division – Baghdad Public Affairs Office
.

Baghdad – Local citizens fed tips to Soldiers from the 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, which led to the finding of four weapons caches and the detaining of two suspects in multiple operations north of Baghdad, Aug. 8 and 9.

Troops from Battery B, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, attached to the 1st BCT, acting on a tip from a neighborhood watch volunteer, uncovered an improvised explosive devices cache near the town of Sab Al Bor, Aug 8. The cache included five complete IEDs and 12 incomplete IEDs. The cache also included 20 munitions of varying sizes, 100 pounds of homemade explosive, one can of nitric acid, some command wire as well as the tools necessary to manufacture IEDs.

The same day acting on a tip from a volunteer, Soldiers of Company D, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, also of 1st BCT, found a 100 millimeter projectile, 10 80mm mortars, six IED timers, two rocket-propelled grenades and an accompanying booster. In two separate incidents also involving information garnered from volunteer sources, Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, working with their Iraqi counterparts from the 3rd Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division (Mechanized), unearthed two caches and detained two suspects.

In the first, while draining a canal, engineers from 2-8 Cavalry’s Sapper Company found three 60mm mortar rounds, two 82mm mortar rounds, one 120mm mortar round and one 122mm projectile Aug. 9 near Kem. In the second find, during a cordon and search, 2-8 Cavalry troops and Iraqi troops found 1 sniper rifle with two scopes, one AK-47 assault rifle with five magazines, a 9mm Glock pistol, a hand grenade and detained two suspects in connection with the cache near Al Dhabtiya, also on Aug. 9. All of the finds were further evidence of Ironhorse Soldiers’ success in working with Iraqi communities and volunteers to root out insurgents and extremists alike, said Lt. Col. Peter Andrysiak, 1st Brigade Combat Team’s deputy commanding officer.

“Cooperation by citizens and their volunteer security roles is what will turn the tide in securing Iraq,” said the Austin native. “We have the largest reconciliation and volunteer movement in Multi-National Division-Baghdad. We fully support Iraqis taking an active role in securing their neighborhoods, towns and villages to stop the violence which hinders the government’s delivery of essential services and an environment that enables small business opportunities and growth.”

Local Iraqis have grown tired of the al-Qaeda stranglehold and they are taking back their communities and their lives, according to Andrysiak. “Their efforts, along with that of the Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces, may prove to be the turning point,” he added.

Photo – Soldiers from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment take defensive fighting positions, while their commander talks with locals inside the fenceduring a cordon and search in Husseniya. Photo by Sgt. Rachel Ahner.

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13 Aug 07
By Multi-National Division – Baghdad
Public Affairs Office
.

CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Multi-National Division – Baghdad soldiers rescued a 2-year-old Iraqi boy from a dry well in which he fell Aug. 9.

Soldiers with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division responded to the pleas for assistance from the father of a boy who had fallen into a dry well near the family’s residence.

The company commander, Capt. David Powell of Newport Beach, Calif., was about to begin a scheduled security patrol when the boy’s father approached the gate of his Coalition outpost on foot. Using an interpreter, Powell quickly assessed the situation and sent the patrol to assist with the recovery of the child.

The father directed the soldiers to the location of the well and Powell used his flashlight to find the child at the bottom. “I could see that the baby had fallen some 25 feet and was lying at the bottom of the well,” Powell said. “He appeared to be breathing, but would not answer to our calls.”

Using a back hoe from the outpost, the patrol began a slow and meticulous process of digging a parallel shaft to the dry well, then tunneling to the well horizontally, being careful not to cause the well to cave in. “The back hoe made quick work of the rescue shaft just to the south of the well. Then the real digging began,” said Powell. Because of the instability of soil, a fear of a cave-in and desire to not risk any of his soldiers, Powell selected himself and Staff Sgt. Raul Torres, a native of San Venito, Texas, to dig the horizontal shaft to the well.

Using an entrenching tool, a flat-head screwdriver, rebar and other primitive farming tools, Powell and Torres went to work. After several hours of digging, a faint crying was heard from the boy. “He sounded scared, but OK,” said Powell. “I don’t think I have ever heard a more beautiful sound.”

After five hours of digging the horizontal shaft reached the well. The well was basin shaped at the bottom, making the boy very difficult to locate. After several attempts to reach for the boy, Powell was able to pull the boy to safety.

Coalition medics on the scene quickly assessed the boy, finding no serious injuries. The child was then returned to his mother and father, who were thankful for the assistance. The patrol then filled in the hole they dug, and returned to their outpost.

The following day, Powell visited the family’s residence with a medic to ensure the child was not having any medical issues from the fall. The medic determined the child was in perfect health. “In my 18 years in the Army,” Powell said, “this is, by far, the greatest thing I have ever done.”

Photo – Capt. David Powell from Newport Beach, Calif., holds the 2-year-old Iraqi boy the day after he rescued him. The boy fell into a dry well Aug. 9. U.S. Army photo.

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Originally posted @ DoD Daily News-2.

15 July 07
by John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
.

BAGHDAD – Now at full strength, the U.S. troop surge in Iraq is showing “definitive progress” and the number of forces serving in Iraq’s Multi-National Division-North could be halved by summer 2009, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon said.

A reduction of U.S. forces under the general’s command could begin as early as January 2008, he told Pentagon reporters via videoconference.

Mixon, commander of both Multi-National Division-North and the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division, is responsible for six Iraqi provinces in northern Iraq, including the city of Baqubah — site of the ongoing Operation Arrowhead Ripper.

He said he has given U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander, Multi-National Corps-Iraq, a plan indicating a possible reduction of force in Multi-National Division-North during 2008.

Mixon said the current debate over troop withdrawal should revolve around reaching a strategic “end state.”

“It seems to me that we should first decide what we want the end state to be in Iraq, and how is that end state important to the United States of America, to this region and to the world, and then determine how we can reach that end state, and how much time that will take,” he said. “To me, that seems to be the most important thing, because there will be consequences of a rapid withdrawal from Iraq.”

“It cannot be a strategy based on, ‘Well, we need to leave,’” he added. “That’s not a strategy, that’s a withdrawal.”

U.S. forces that remain in the region after a reduction could focus on training and assisting their Iraqi counterparts as needed, Mixon said.

“Over time, in a very methodical and well thought out way,” he said, Multi-National Division-North could be drawn down to “a minimum force that would continue to work with the Iraqi forces in a training and assistance mode, have the capability to react and assist the Iraqis if required, and provide them those capabilities that they don’t have, like attack aviation, Air Force fixed-wing support, and medical support,” he said.

Speaking about Iraq’s Nineva province, the general said the provincial government and security forces there continue to grow and improve. Mixon said he has observed the 2nd and 3rd Iraqi Army Division and Iraqi police providing security to provincial residents requiring scant coalition assistance.

“Based on this assessment, I have recommended that Nineva province go to provincial Iraqi control in August,” he said. Though a handover to the provincial government is a sign of progress, Mixon added that it alone won’t usher in a reduction of U.S. troops, who will continue to partner with Iraqi security forces there, he said.

As part of the troop surge, which reached full strength in mid-June, Mixon received two brigades based out of Fort Lewis, Wash. The general credits the additional forces with helping to improve security in Diyala province, and cited Operation Arrowhead Ripper that was launched last month.

“Operation Arrowhead Ripper kicked off on June 19 with the arrival of 3/2 Stryker Brigade and will continue until Baqubah is secure and the government center there is functioning,” he said. “We have had to clear numerous complex obstacles, including 24 houses booby-trapped with explosives … and 100 other types of improvised explosive devices.”

In the ongoing operation, troops are clearing Baqubah’s city blocks in an “intentionally slow” fashion to reduce the number of casualties. To date, Coalition and Iraqi security forces have killed more than 90 al-Qaeda operatives, discovered 45 weapons and munitions caches and detained about 130 suspected al-Qaeda operatives, Mixon said. During raids in Western Baqubah neighborhoods, troops also have uncovered al-Qaeda safe houses, torture houses, medical clinics and bomb-making factories.

Local leaders, tribal sheikhs and the Western Baqubah’s citizens are cooperating with combined forces, providing them valuable information about al-Qaeda, Mixon said.

“These people are coming forward because they have increased confidence in their security forces and they are simply tired of al-Qaeda dominating their lives and terrorizing their neighborhoods, as they have done over the last several months,” he said.

Mixon specified that al-Qaeda operatives in his area of responsibility primarily are Sunni Iraqis, some of whom received weapons and explosives training as members of the former Iraqi regime or army. The 1920s Revolution, composed “principally former Ba’athists” and others who oppose the new Iraqi government, is one of the multiple groups comprising the greater insurgency, he said.

Listing signs of progress in Baqubah, Mixon said Iraqi forces are beginning to take responsibility for security, and that a “small influx” of residents are returning to the city which they had previously fled. The city’s municipal employees also are working to repair the water and power infrastructure, the general said.

“We still have a long way to go in Baqubah and Diyala,” he said, “but with the influence of al-Qaeda diminished, the security situation will now allow Iraqi security forces and government officials to re-establish basic securities for the citizens of Baqubah.”

Photo – U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Christopher Kluser, machine gunner with Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, stays alert while on the up gun in the turret located in a 7-ton truck in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, July 9, 2007. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Timothy M. Stewman.

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News from CentCom:

21 Jun 07
by Spc. Carl N. Hudson
Combined Press Information Center
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BAGHDAD – The Fardh Al-Qanoon spokesman and a Multi-National Force-Iraq spokesman held a press conference at the Combined Press Information Center Wednesday.

Iraqi Army Brig. Gen. Qassim Atta Al-Moussawi, Fardh Al-Qanoon spokesman, and U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Fox, a Multi-National Force-Iraq spokesman, discussed the progress of Fardh Al-Qanoon. [Continue reading.]

All 30,000 troops are finally in place, and the Iraqi Army (IA) is working well with them. Sometimes the IA would take the lead in the missions, while at other times the MNF-I would take the lead.

This was a conference to let the people know that no matter what they were hearing in the press, they were indeed working hand in hand. Literally! It’s a good report. Thank you, and have a nice day.

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