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Archive for the ‘strategy’ Category

24 July 07
by Capt. Teresa Sullivan
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
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SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) – Airmen of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing dropped 120,000 leaflets over the Helmand Province in Afghanistan July 22 to help prevent civilian casualties while prepping the battlefield for future operations.

The nine-member crew of the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, all based out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, successfully accomplished a short-notice mission to release leaflets over four southwestern Afghanistan drop zones in a dangerous Taliban hot spot, despite challenging winds and dust storms.

The leaflets were designed to deliver a message to the people of the province to take refuge in their homes and also discourage them from harboring Taliban members. In the meantime, coalition forces continue efforts to eliminate the insurgent’s stronghold while avoiding loss of innocent lives.

The mission began several days prior to C-130 Hercules’ takeoff when the squadron was alerted and planners began developing their strategy. Their computer-based plan considered route, location, wind forecasts and leaflet size in its calculations. High winds and dust storms throughout the area made planning a challenge.

Prior to the mission, the aircrew gathered to discuss the game plan.

“It’s going to be a long night, but you are all prepared,” said Lt. Col. Joe Sexton, the 746th EAS commander to the C-130 crew after the mission brief. “It’s no coincidence that you all are on this (mission). I have full confidence in all of you. You guys are going to go out there and do it right.”

Ready to put their plan to the test, they set off for the airdrop.

“We were originally scheduled to do a different mission, but we were alerted to come into work because we were going to be doing a ‘special’ mission,” said Capt. Brett Cochran, a C-130 pilot and native of Pflugerville, Texas. The captain was responsible for flying the aircraft over four drop zones. “This is the first mission of this kind for our squadron during this deployment so far, so it’s important we get things started on a good note.”

A lot was on the minds of crew members who were new to the combat zone airdrop business. “What-if” discussions included the dust storms, fuel, shifting winds, contingency plans and defensive tactics on the way to Kandahar International Airport to pick up the leaflets.

The Air Force uses leaflets to deter enemy forces or reduce their will to fight. In this case they were being used to encourage innocent bystanders to stay out of harm’s way. While the leaflet-drop mission may be new to some of the pilots of this expeditionary squadron, it’s a mission that’s tied closely to the 379th AEW’s heritage.

In the summer of 1944, leaflets were dropped over Germany by the 379th’s ancestor, the 379th Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force, intended to shape the adversary’s psyche, and to destroy their ability to wage war.

Then 379th BG’s leaflets were designed to spread the word on allied progress during World War II. Some provided words of encouragement to the people of enemy-occupied countries while others focused on relentless bombings of Nazi airfields, oil refineries and cities undermining the enemy’s will to resist.

Knowing the wing’s forefathers carried out similar missions 63 years ago reminded the aircrew that they’re part of a long tradition of airpower.

“It’s neat that we can continue on with the legacy,” said 1st Lt. Mike Heddinger, a 746th EAS co-pilot from Wichita Falls, Texas. “It’s also great that we’ll be helping the guys on the ground by prepping the battlefield.”

As the crew departed Kandahar for the Helmand Province, pilots reviewed their play book once more while loadmasters rehearsed the drop in their minds preparing the harnesses, oxygen tanks and boxes of leaflets.

“What we’re going to do is line these boxes up as advertised and push them out the door at the right time,” said Master Sgt. Larry Lambert, a 746th EAS senior loadmaster from Asbury, N.J.

The loadmasters in the back of the C-130 were responsible for the drop portion of the mission, communicating closely with the crew in the cockpit.

“We’ve been around the block a few times, so I can put my faith in the guys up front (of the C-130),” he said. “These leaflets can save innocent lives, so we’re fired up to be a part of this.”

As the aircraft approached the drop zone Sergeant Lambert established contact with his two loadmaster teammates using designated hand signals, letting them know when they were 20, 10, four, three, two and one minute away.

The crew was 5,000 feet above the target and everyone was fully prepared in safety gear. Within the hour the mission was complete. The crew went four for four over the Helmand Province, dropping the leaflets on time and on target. Within minutes it would be raining leaflets over the Helmand Province.

“It was a good day. We accomplished what we were asked to do,” said Captain Cochran. “We completed the mission at hand and it’s a great feeling.”

This is what it’s all about, said Maj. Pat O’Sullivan, the 746th EAS director of operations, from Sebring, Fla.

“We love this stuff. Missions like this drop with little to no notice,” he said. “As soon as we received the word, they started moving, planning for and coordinating every possible scenario and variable. They were ready for every situation, guaranteeing a successful mission.”

Photo – Tech. Sgt. Matt Rossi drops 30,000 leaflets July 22 over a drop zone in the Helmand Province in Afghanistan. The squadron successfully met their objective of dropping 120,000 leaflets over the Helmand Province, prepping the battlefield. Sergeant Rossi is a 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron instructor loadmaster. Photo by Capt. Teresa Sullivan.

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Originally posted @ DoD Daily News-2.

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