The initial movement of 1st Cavalry Division, ARARNG, ILARNG and ORARNG troops will be oriented to the relief of 1st Armored Division, 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division and the 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment units that are located in the Central Iraq area around Baghdad. For security reasons, exact deployment dates and specific units designated for departure can not be announced at this time.
Meanwhile, new living accommodations for the incoming 1st Cavalry Division is well underway through an $800 million project to build half a dozen camps which is scheduled to be complete by 15 April. The new outposts, dubbed enduring camps, will improve living quarters for soldiers and allow the military to return key infrastructure sites within Baghdad to the emerging Iraqi Government.
The largest of the new camps, Camp Victory North which will be one of the largest overseas posts built since the Vietnam War, lies northeast of Baghdad International Airport on land adjacent to a former hunting reserve for Saddam Hussein. At Camp Victory North, concertina wire, underground bunkers, and concrete barriers are as much a part of the palace grounds as the palm trees and grass that line the roadside into the camp.
While Camp Victory North will be the division's largest domicile, work continues on several other camp areas. North of Baghdad, about 5,000 troops will live in Taji, a former Iraqi Army air base. To the east, in the "Green Zone", Camp Dragoon and Camp War Eagle located in the Tisa Nissan District, combined, will have room for about 2,200. Camp Muleskinner is located on land adjacent to the former Iraqi officers war college in Al-Rastimiya. About 2,100 troops will share the base with the new Iraqi army. Camp Falcon, a base camp located on the southern outskirts of Baghdad in the Al-Rashid District, is currently undergoing improvements to accommodate 5,000 troops.
On 04 September, although not part of the Department of Defense public announcement or troop movement, "B" Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment and "C" Company, 312th Military Intelligence Battalion were assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Regiment, 18th Airborne Corps and were deployed to an unknown destination in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
On 27 September the 39th Infantry Brigade (ARARNG) received mobilization orders directing nearly 3,000 soldiers from 47 units across the state of Arkansas to report for federal active duty in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM II by 12 October. Following a brief period of organizational readiness preparation, on 28 October the main body of the 39th Infantry Brigade began departing from its 47 respective locations across the state of Arkansas. Moving out a battalion a day, the 3000 Arkansas Guardsmen linked up with the 1st Cavalry Division at Ft. Hood, TX. At the completion of the pre-deployment train up at Ft. Hood and Ft Polk, LA, the soldiers will deploy to carry out their assigned missions in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM II. The 39th, joined by a battalion of soldiers from the 41st Infantry Brigade (ORARNG), are expected to be in theatre for up to 12 months, of their 18-month mobilization period,
On 09 October the 2nd Battalion, 162 Infantry Regiment (ORARNG) received orders that their official mobilization date would be effective on 12 October. On that date, under federal orders, the individual units are to report to their local armories in either Coos Bay, Cottage Grove, Eugene, Corvallis or Newport to complete any predeployment training requirements, pack and load their equipment in preparation for movement to the initial training and staging area of Ft. Hood, TX.
On 29 October a mobilization ceremony was held for the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment at the Lane County Fairgrounds Exhibit On the following day, on 30 October they left by commercial aircraft from Mahlon Sweet Airport in Eugene, OR, and traveled to Ft. Hood, TX to be placed under the command of the 39th Infantry Brigade and be integrated into the 1st Cavalry Division to complete their overseas deployment training.
On 02 November, the 1st Battalion, 202nd Air Defense Artillery (ILARNG), a
subordinate unit of the 39th Infantry Brigade, along with their convoy of
pre-loaded equipment moved out from their home armory base at Galva, IL to
join up with the 39th and the 1st Cavalry Division at Ft. Hood TX. for
The movement of more than 13,574 tons (occupying 230,000 square feet) of combat equipment and supplies included artillery, M-1/A-1 tanks, Humvees and shipping containers - all belonging to the 1st Cavalry Division. The one thing it did not have was ammunition and explosives. Those are handled separately as a safety issue. On 07 January. enroute, the USNS Benavidez paid a brief port visit to Souda Bay, Crete, Greece before it arrived at the port of Ash Shuabyah, just 20 miles south of Kuwait City, Kuwait as its final destination on 15 January. On shipboard stevedores readied the cargo, taking advantage of the roll-on, roll-off capability which began the transition from ship off-loading, inspection and onward movement to the initial staging area for the 1st Cavalry Division, Camp New York, Kuwait.
|2nd BCT Color Casing Ceremony on Cooper Field|
On 18 December, amidst the pomp and ceremony of Cavalry tradition, a flag-casing ceremony was held in front of the 1st Cavalry Division's headquarters building to mark the start of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team's final preparations for its deployment in January to Iraq. As the unit flags disappeared into the stark green sheaths, it began to hit home to the military families that the day they have been facing for months was finally drawing near.
The 2nd Brigade Combat team, departing in January, will consist of over 3,000
troops composed of Headquarters and Headquarters Company and "D" Troop, 9th
Cavalry of the 2nd Brigade along with the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment;
the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment; 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery
Regiment; 91st Engineer Battalion; 15th Forward Support Battalion; "B"
Company, 13th Signal Battalion; "B" Company, 312th Military Intelligence
Battalion and 2nd Platoon, 545 Military Police Company.
The deployment of personnel follows that of their equipment which is on its way to the seaports of the Persian Gulf. Though this was not the first deployment for the Combat Brigade, it is different from any other of their deployments because they did not take many heavy armored vehicles. Ever since the receipt of deployment orders, all of the soldiers have been trained in security tasks that are common to a stability operation, specifically manning traffic control points, executing cordons or dismounted patrols.
Like every other Brigade Combat Team in the 1st Cavalry Division, it has been transformed from an armored brigade into a light cavalry by exchanging their heavy armored tanks for humvees to conduct reconnaissance patrols and combat operations dismounted. Since the transformation the Combat Team has lost some firepower from its tanks, but individual soldiers increased their firepower by carrying different weapons.
While at Camp Udairi Range, the majority of the time was spent in combined training and qualification on small arms ranges, Bradley Fighting Vehicle zeroing, and .50 caliber and 7.62mm sniper training. It also provided a good learning experience for the crews as it was the first time they had the opportunity to see the effects of service ammunition on targets. Special facilities at Camp Udairi gave the opportunity to train in Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT), convoy live fires and HUMMWV mounted gunnery. Everyone had a chance to shoot their weapons off of platforms they would be fighting from in Iraq.
With questions raised in the media about the battle readiness of troops in Iraq, 1st Cavalry Division leaders wanted to assure their soldiers that they had the best equipment the Army has to offer and continued to work the issue. Force protection was the driving force behind the efforts of the 1st Cavalry Division to provide armored layers to its fleet of vehicles. The effort began even before the troops began migrating north from Kuwait into Baghdad. More than half of all the division Humvees in theater were up-armored, either through Army-provided add-on-armor kits or as M1114 up-armored Humvees.
On 14 January, the 515th Support Battalion (Forward) was organized, activated
and assigned to the Support Command, 1st Cavalry Division at Ft. Hood, TX. The
unit will serve as a provisional battalion in support of the Division's
deployment to Iraq.
|Presentation Of Colors Prior To The Casing Ceremony|
On 27 January, in a ceremony, accomplished with the usual colorful cavalry pageantry including the final charge of the Division's famed horse platoon until 2006, the new 1st Cavalry Division (Motorized) signified the end of its stay at Ft. Hood, TX by casing its colors along with those of its remaining seven brigades and 29 battalions including the 39th Enhanced (Separate) Infantry Brigade from the Arkansas Army National Guard (ARARNG) and prepared them for unveiling in Baghdad, Iraq in about two months. As the 1st Cavalry Division prepares for deployment to Iraq, its legacy, reputation and distinctive yellow patch precedes it, making the mission more easy in some instances and more difficult in others.
In a presentation in the Howze Theater, Major General Peter W. Chiarelli, 1st Cavalry Division Commander outlined the force structure and the deployment organization elements of the Division and how they will be used to conduct the assigned mission of "Full Spectrum Operations; including offensive, defensive, stability and support operations in Iraq. To carry out its mission the 1st Cavalry Division Force XXI Organization has transitioned to a 1st Cavalry Division Motorized Task Organization supported by a Division Headquarters Rear Detachment tasked to support the main body of the First Team deployed in theater.
Personnel will be transported either by chartered commercial or C5 Galaxy cargo-transport aircraft out of Robert Gray Army Airfield in the coming weeks, The equipment of the 1st Cavalry Division is steadily moving out of Ft. Hood, TX on rail cars to make the trip to the seaports of Houston and Beaumont, TX, but it is making history in that the Division is not taking many armored tanks - the machinery that makes it the heaviest fighting division in the Army's arsenal. Instead, the Division is moving Bradley Fighting Vehicles and every armored Humvee it owns, a testament to its new, largely peacekeeping, role as, it is being deployed as a Light Motorized, Task Oriented, Cavalry Division,
In support of carrying out their security mission in Iraq, the 1st Cavalry Division will take along high technology computer systems recently developed by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which are designed to streamline the command bureaucracy, allowing senior officers collaborate in real time with visual tools. Half of the computer systems will be located in the Baghdad Headquarters facilities while the remainder will be distributed among eight command posts in the Area of Responsibility. All will be connected by one overarching wireless network.
Each bank of computers has three screens: one for the user's own work, one for 3-D simulated battlefields and a third to peer into what's happening on other systems throughout the city. Commanders will also be able to talk to each other using voice over Internet technology. The network is designed to sharply reduce the need for commanders to crisscross the city for meetings while hastening the flow of information. Instead of sending an eMail request, for example, they can simply drop in on each other's computers for data they need.
The Order of Battle for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM II WebSite lists the operational hierarchy of the various units being deployed to carry out the following prime mission assignments:
By the week ending 30 January, the 39th Infantry Brigade, an Arkansas based National Guard Unit comprised of nearly 4,000 soldiers from Arkansas and 1,200 from ten other states, had arrived at Ft. Polk, LA from their initial deployment training in Ft. Hood, TX. The unit, now redesignated as the 39th Brigade Combat Team and assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, will engage in war exercises, desert and urban training at Ft. Polk. In March they will initially deploy to staging areas in Kuwait and after additional desert training, they will move on to Iraq to be in a position to carry out their mission by mid-April.
On 31 January the first elements of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team arrived safely in Baghdad after moving overland in a journey of 250 miles. The move up from Camp Udairi, Kuwait to Baghdad required two full days, moving in five serials with company commanders leading each of the serials north through Basra to Baghdad. There was minimal contact with any insurgents and all vehicles made it to Baghdad under their own power.
The first echelon of units, comprising of nearly 3,000 soldiers, are being billeted at the first of eight bases on the city's outskirts, Camp Victory North, near the Baghdad International Airport which covers over 1,000 acres and is capable of housing between 25,000 and 30,000 troops. This camp will become the homebase for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, some divisional units, and most of the supporting FORSCOM units. For lack of a better description, soldiers are quartered in modified trailer homes that are quite comfortable. There are consolidated showers and latrines, and one dining facility for the camp. One of the Command Centers for the Division will be located in the center of Baghdad.
Task Force 1-5, consisting of "A" Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry, "HHC". "B" and "C" Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, "A" Company, 15th FSC plus 13th Signal Battalion and 312th MI detachments, soon relocated their operation base about 12 kilometers to Banzai Patrol Base in order to provide a more strategic coverage to several critical structures and organizations such as the Kadhum Shrine which is the third holiest shrine in Iraq. In addition, the World Food Program warehouses which feed 1/3 of Baghdad, the telecommunications site which provides phone services to all of Baghdad, the medical supply warehouse which provides the medicines to 2/3 of Baghdad, the University Hospital, the Baghdad Law School and some critical infrastructure and services which keep parts of Baghdad running.
The Area of Responsibility (AOR) of the 1st Cavalry Division command covers an area larger than that of the 1st Armored Division which was in charge of the capital of Iraq, Baghdad. The Area Of Responsibility assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division stretches beyond the sprawling city limits of Baghdad to encompass the farmland and outlying towns to the north and west, including the Taji air base, about 20 miles northwest of Baghdad. As evidenced by their types of equipment listed in their departure manifest, the troops have made a major transition from tanks into armored Humvees to better patrol city streets enabling its presence to be less of an impediment to daily life in a congested city.
Along with the different equipment, the incoming 1st Cavalry Division troops will have a different frame of reference of the country that they occupy. For months, prior to their departure from their home base of Ft. Hood, TX, commanders down to the level of sergeant have been tutored in Arab languages and culture. Meanwhile, rank-and-file soldiers, in addition to language familiarization, have had extensive specialized training and been re-oriented from battlefield missions to those concentrating on control of urban areas and combat.
In conjunction with the stand-up of the 1st Cavalry Division, the Coalition Forces has scheduled increases in the number of Iraqi police available for assignment in Baghdad, but there is no firm deadline for a complete turnover of Baghdad security to Iraqis.
As the first part of the orderly transition of control from the 1st Armored Division to the 1st Cavalry Division began, members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division were being recognized around Baghdad by their distinctive horse head shoulder patch. Riding along with 1st Armored Division soldiers and taken part in raids and combat operations they began to learn the finer points of stability operations in Baghdad.
The lighter, more mobile 2nd Brigade Combat Team will take over duties from
the 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, home based in Ft. Riley, KS. Their area
of responsibility is primarily on the west side of Baghdad. The 3,000 soldier
combat team, called the Blackjack Brigade, brought 90 of their Abrams M1A2
tanks to Iraq, but it will rely more heavily on its 120 armored Humvees to
move around and through the city.
On 10 February, following 10 days of joint operations with the 2nd Battalion,
70th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Division, the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry
conducted a formal Transition Of Authority (TOA) ceremony, taking over the
sectors commanded by the 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor Regiment 1st Armored
The official transition of authority from the Wiesbaden, Germany based 1st Armored Division to the 1st Cavalry Division is planned to be completed by 15 April. By that time, the 1st Cavalry Division, with units from the Army National Guard (ARNG) attached to it, will have an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 soldiers in the Baghdad metropolitan area. At its peak, the 1st Armored Division and troop contingents under its command numbered nearly 37,000
The deployment to carry the war on terror to the enemy and protect the newly found liberties of the Iraqi people will bring the troops of the 1st Cavalry Division directly into harms way, as evidenced by the casualties experienced by the units of the Division that were deployed in the fall of 2003. A website chronicling those casualties and any of future hostilities will be maintained as a constant reminder that "The Price of Liberty is not Free" and that the First Team deserves our full support.
By 11 February combat equipment supporting the main body 1st Cavalry Division began to move forward in long lines. In weeks, its enormous combat power will cast a big shadow on the port of Corpus Christ, TX. and will be catapulted into the Iraqi landscape. To move the Division, the New Orleans-based Army Reservists of the 1192nd Transportation Terminal Brigade will move four ship loads of equipment, consisting of some 3,500 pieces of cargo, in a 12-day period. The loadout of the 1st Cavalry Division is a part of the biggest surface equipment moves since World War II and involves a total of 300 vessel operations. Cargoes are going both to, and from, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Soon after the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division took over their permanent billets at Camp Victory North on the northeastern side of Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), they were greeted by the local band of terrorists in a mortar attack on their mess hall. Three troopers were injured and received medical treatment. On the following Saturday, 28 February, the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry they executed a very large operation that involved the whole Task Force 2-12 to capture several members of a cell that had been identified as those shooting rockets and mortars into Baghdad International Airport. Simultaneous raids on five different objectives, including twelve houses, resulted in the capture of a considerable number of weapons, explosives, and 36 million Iraqi dinar along with fourteen people who were detained for questioning.
On 28 February, units of the 39th Infantry Brigade, who had been training at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Ft. Polk, LA. during last month, cased their colors as they prepared for departure to Iraq. Later in the day, the first group of 250 soldiers left by commercial plane from Alexandria, LA. Traveling through nine time zones, they are scheduled to arrive at a staging area in Kuwait before being deployed to Baghdad to meet up with other units of the 1st Cavalry Division.
Throughout the month of February, troops of the main body of the 1st Cavalry Division were airlifted from Ft. Hood, TX to Kuwait and filtered through Camp New York. They trained daily, adjusting to the harsh desert environment, and coordinated arrivals, inspected and readied their equipment at the local motor pools. The Troopers lived in tents and slept on cots arrayed in huge bay-like areas. The tents, in addition to being well equipped with lighting and electricity. were air conditioned. Completing the housing facilities, shower trailers with warm-running water were located about a quarter-mile away from the sleeping quarters. Each unit stayed for only a few days before moving on, in overland convoys to the various camp locations in the Baghdad Area of Responsibility.
On 04 March, a second element of the 39th Infantry Brigade, "F" Battery, 1st Battalion, 202nd Air Defense Artillery, retrained for duty in Iraq as a Military Police Company at Ft Polk, LA, cased their colors signifying the end of training and prepared for departure to Iraq. The bulk of the 120 man team departed Alexandria, LA. by commercial aircraft, with stops in Maine and Germany before arriving at their intermediate "in theater" destination of Kuwait.
On 07 March, in their first official search missions working jointly with the 4th Infantry Division, Task Force IRONHORSE (2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division and attached units) conducted 194 patrols and eight raids and captured 49 individuals Sunday and Monday. Twenty-eight of the patrols were joint operations conducted with the Iraqi Police. Iraqi Civil Defense and Border Guard. Some 500 soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, backed by tanks and helicopters, raided the biggest dairy processing plant in the western suburbs of Baghdad and detained four suspected militants.
15 March was marked as a historic day for the 39th Brigade Combat Team as the 1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery conducted the first combat operation of their mission by successfully moving more than 400 soldiers and 150 vehicles from the staging camp in Kuwait to Camp Cooke, Taji, Iraq. Although their convoy to Camp Cooke was virtually uneventful, the battalion, headquartered in Russellville, AR has had their hands full ever since. In one day they had 25 different events of cordon and search patrols outside the wire.
While the base in Taji is completely bare bones at this point, the advance party of the 206th is making great strides to bring Camp Taji to full operational status. Plans are in place to build several new buildings including the Brigade Headquarters, a troop medical clinic, a courthouse, a gymnasium and much more.
On 17 March Operation IRON PROMISE, involving thousands of troops from the 1st
Cavalry Division, which recently arrived in Iraq, the outgoing Germany-based
1st Armored Division and scores of Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers, was
launched in Baghdad to weed out insurgents and capture illegal weapons.
Meanwhile, back in Texas on 17 March, several hundred members of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry gathered inside the Ironside Gym at Ft. Hood to say goodbye to friends and family as they began the final stages of deployment to Iraq with a mission of counter-insurgency and national security.
In the early hours of 22 March an aircraft, carrying personnel of the last units of the 1st Cavalry Division scheduled for deployment to Iraq, departed Robert Gray Army Airfield with an unidentified destination. As security permits, all the deployed elements of the 1st Cavalry Division and their dates of departure will be published.
On 24 March the 1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery, 39th BCT, the first combat unit north of Baghdad for the 1st Cavalry Division, was already taking care of business in Taji as they conducted a Transfer of Authority with the 1st Armored Division and have already earned their first earned combat patches.
On 26 March Operation IRON PROMISE began on the streets of Baghdad to show the Iraqi people that coalition forces are committed to securing the region and are determined to eradicate cell groups that pose a threat to a free Iraq. The operation consists of targeting known enemy locations and aggressively carrying out cordon and search operations looking for insurgents, former regime sympathizers and foreign fighters.
In what has become almost a nightly ritual, soldiers from "A" Troop, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, line up their vehicles on a quiet side street in the sleepy town of Abu Ghuraib just before initiating a cordon and search mission. More than 3,000 2nd Brigade Combat Team soldiers took to the Baghdad streets for the nightlong operation of sweeping 88 buildings and 700 plus houses.
During this sweep, seven wanted individuals were found and detained. The suspected insurgents surrendered quietly and there were no injuries to coalition or Iraqi forces. Not all weapons discovered are required to be confiscated. Household residents are allowed to possess one AK-47 or similar rifle and no more than 200 rounds of ammunition for personal protection.
As the night progressed, "A" Troop remained on the lookout for improvised
explosive devices or harassment from small arms fire. One IED was discovered
along a side route and an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team was called to
remove it. During the operation, civil affairs and psychological operations
teams settled disputes between soldiers and residents. The teams also
interviewed civilians, assessed damage, and processed damage claims.
In the evening of Sunday, 04 April around 1700 hours, a reconnaissance patrol of about 22 soldiers, a mix of veterans from the 1st Armored Division, men finally going home after a year in Iraq, and their replacements mostly from the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry and 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division who had only been in the country less than a month and headquartered at Camp War Eagle, was ambushed in the slums of Sdar City, the district of Baghdad that used to be called Saddam City. It is now named for another Iraqi who has worked his way up the list of coalition enemies: Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr. The patrol. moving in heavily armored Humvees and carrying only small arms and machine guns was responding to reports that the militia of Sadr were going to take over Sadr City's police stations.
The patrol spotted about 30 men brandishing weapons. Many wore the all-black dress of Sadr's Al-Mahdi Army, a militia that like all private militias in Iraq is officially outlawed and is supposed to be disbanded. As the soldiers prepared to challenge the men, a hellish gunfire rained down from facing rooftops of two and three story buildings. The Sadr militia fighters unloaded their AK-47s on the Humvees and troop carriers. From the alleys, other militiamen attacked with rocket-propelled grenades.
The patrol was hit hard and the leader made the correct decision to move to a better defensive position. by abandoning their vehicles and taking refuge in a building about 300 yards away and called for backup. The first of their reinforcements to respond, the Rapid Deployment Forces in a column of four Bradley armored vehicles, also came the under heavy fire.
An additional group of reinforcements entered Sadr City and come under attack. With the city in darkness and firefights raging, a column of tanks entered and put the uprising down for the night. In the worst Baghdad street fighting since the Iraqi capital fell nearly a year ago, eight soldiers were killed that night and another 51 were wounded in clashes with al-Mahdi Army militia of Sadr. At least 30 Iraqis, suspected insurgents, died and another 194 were wounded.
As some militiamen engaged the Americans, others spread out in the
neighborhood. They dumped the stalls of a street market into the road in an
attempt to blunt the advance of American vehicles. They occupied a district
government building and set their sights on the Iraqi police. The Iraqi police
retreated from at least two of their stations and consolidated forces in the
main station of the neighborhood. Sadr's men moved in to take over the
deserted police buildings, only to be confronted as the night went on by the
reinforcement forces moving from government building to government building,
On the afternoon of 06 April, Monday, tanks and troops were highly visible in
several sections of the neighborhood. They guarded police stations, the Mredi
market and occupied Sadr's headquarters, where the night before they had
detained four people suspected of helping command the uprising. Coalition
officials have suggested they will move soon to arrest al-Sadr, who is
surrounded by his al-Mahdi Army militia who were behind the wave of
AUTHOR'S NOTE - In this moment in time, it is appropriate to look back to 03 January 1933, when the 1st Cavalry Regiment was transferred out of the 1st Cavalry Division to Ft. Knox, Kentucky where it was reorganized and designated as a mechanized unit. The new mission of the 1st Cavalry Regiment was to expand on the evaluations, develop and test combat vehicles, beginning the formal mechanization era of the Army. Thus the process of replacing horses with machines accelerated and the first mechanized armored cavalry organization came into being. Cavalrymen from the First Team became the nucleus of new armored forces for America - that grew into the 1st Armored Division.
In carrying out their new mission, the 5th Brigade Combat Team will be working closely with some of the newly developed Iraqi security resources of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, the Iraqi Force Protection Services and the Iraqi Police who are dedicated to the promise of a free and sovereign Iraq. The 30 minute ceremony marked the first time that two brigade combat teams, led by division artillery headquarters, have assumed an infantry-type mission of patrols and searches from another.
On Tuesday night, 07 April, a follow-up airstrike to take out clusters of insurgents gathering in Sadr City, killed four Iraqis and three more died from wounds sustained in fighting a day earlier. By the latest figures, at least 64 Iraqis have been killed and 242 others wounded in the district since the ambush on Sunday.
Following a lull that allowed a repositioning of forces during Wednesday and Thursday, Combat Teams of the 1st Armored Division, which had been due to leave Iraq, and the 1st Cavalry Division were preparing for another night of clashes with the estimated 3,000 fighters of the Mehdi Army remaining in the city.
As the events of the week unfolded, the insurgents activity, which began last Sunday in Sadr City to seize police stations in Baghdad, was only the beginning for a series of hostile events which spread through the "Sunni Triangle" of Central Iraq by those who are unwilling to accept a democratic government representing the all of Iraq.
The dramatic yearlong ascent of Iraqi Shiite Muslims which has built a force capable of confronting the US led coalition, has hit a central nerve in the Mideast balance of power, empowering Shiites across the region to voice rising demands for rights and recognition. In particular, they fear that the United States will try to install a puppet government that does not have the support of the people.
In the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, US Marines have a major thrust (Operation VIGILANT RESOLVE) to crush a Sunni Muslim rebellion and establish re-control of the city, street-by-street fighting continued. In Kut and Najaf, south of the capital, Shiite militiamen maintained control of government buildings and police stations, while foreign troops remained quartered outside the cities. Shiite militiamen also occupied much of Kufa, which neighbors Najaf, and prepared for a battle with Italian troops farther south in Nasiriyah.
In Baghdad, after a day marked by several mortar strikes around the center of the capital. explosions echoed across the city during the night. On Friday morning, 09 April, the insurgents' attacks on conveys and Army installations continued with two soldiers being killed in action in Iraq, At 0830 hours, a roadside bombing accompanied by small arms fire killed a soldier with the 1st Cavalry Division at Camp Cooke, an Army base north of Baghdad. In the afternoon, a convoy of Army fuel trucks was attacked on a highway near Abu Ghraib, a western suburb of Baghdad. One soldier with the 13th Corps Support Command and an Iraqi driver were killed and 11 people injured.
The continued street-by-street battles in the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah and
the takeover of three southern cities by an extremist Shiite militia suggested
that the need for US.forces, far from diminishing, has escalated dramatically.
General John P. Abizaid, the chief of the US Central Command, indicated that
he may consider holding several thousand troops here beyond their planned
departure by extending the combat tour of the 1st Armored Division by ninety
days and might also request that the 3rd Infantry Division, which left Iraq
last summer, be brought back much sooner than planned.
West of Baghdad, in the Sunni bastion of Fallujah, in the face of an additional battalion of Marine reinforcements that has moved into the edge of the city, the insurgents have agreed to a 12-hour cease fire beginning Sunday at 1000 hours (0600 GMT) after six days of fierce clashes which claimed the lives of hundreds of people. US and Iraqi views are converging. From the crack of dawn, Fallujah's imams and civic leaders will call on the fighters to hold their fire to avoid a massacre that could wipe out an entire city.
Meanwhile, the city of Baghdad remains in a state of turmoil as localized
street battles against the coalition of Iraq occupation forces continues
although the eruption of ambushes, in force. of last Saturday has been put
Following an earlier engagement with terrorists, the 2nd Platoon, "F" Battery, 202nd ADA had returned to their base at Camp Victory for a resupply of ammunition. In anticipation of the engagement being expanded, the Headquarters platoon joined and when they and the 2nd Platoon were leaving the main gate, they observed two large black plumes of smoke rising from the main highway to the capital. Without hesitation, both the 2nd and Headquarters Platoon, along with the remainder of the Battery, headed to the area.
As the Battery arrived at the attack site, near the suburb of Abu Ghraib, two fuel tankers were burning, four soldiers (from the convoy unit) were wounded, one of which was critical. "F" Battery soldiers immediately began engaging the terrorists and treating the wounded. They called in a medivac helicopter which landed near the scene to transport the wounded to safety.
As the fight continued to rage, air support from the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation, was called. Two AH-64, Apache attack helicopters, arrived on the scene and after less than five minutes of engaging the enemy, completed an aerial attack, taking out a hotbed of terrorists who had fired on the coalition convoy. At 1105 hours (0705 GMT), one of the helicopters, which normally carries a crew of two, was downed by hostile fire west of the Baghdad International Airport. The condition of the crew was unknown at the time of the initial report, but later were reported as killed in action.
After the incident, additional helicopters circled overhead, covering the area while ground troops closed off the main access highway - a key supply route into the capital. Heavy firing was heard as tanks and Humvees moved into the area. The entire battle lasted over 30 minutes before the enemy pulled back and the convoy was able to move back to the safety of the airport compound. Miraculously, only one soldier of "F" Battery was injured during the battle and he returned to duty the next day.
On 12 April, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the Al-Thawra District, Operation IRON BROOM was initiated by Coalition Forces along with locals and the District Advisory Council to bring pride and stability to their community. The objective of the Operation is to jump start trash collection, the cleaning of major thoroughfares and the general beautification of selected public facilities. The 1st Cavalry Division is currently heading this civil works project throughout its area of operations.
In the Al-Thawra District, the 478th Civil Affairs Unit attached to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment at Camp War Eagle has taken the lead in an effort to beautify the district and has been working in conjunction with contractors to provide equipment operators and laborers to aid the locals to repair the neighborhood streets, collect trash, and other beautification projects. The Civil Affairs Team, also known as Team Demon, is also working with the Baladiya, the municipality of Al-Thawra, to develop local trash collection points in the neighborhood and then have the trash taken to existing landfills.
Another initiative born from the efforts of Operation IRON BROOM came from a
local contractor from Al-Thawra. It is called "Trash for Cash". It is an
incentive program designed to have the residents of Al-Thawra pick up trash in
their neighborhood in exchange for cash. Iraqi contractors will establish
collection points and then issue trash bags to locals. For the work, residents
will receive one dollar for every three bags of trash returned. It is the hope
of Team Demon that "Trash for Cash" helps to instill pride in the residents
for their community. Team Demon is currently planning many more projects in
|Color Guards for Divisional Transfer of Authority in Baghdad|
On 15 April, as planned, the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division were uncased during a ceremony that took place in view of the "Crossed Swords" Iraq-Iran War Memorial in the Green Zone, marking the Transfer Of Authority of the Baghdad area of operation from the 1st Armored Division, headquartered in Wiesbaden, Germany, to the First-Team.
The Area Of Responsibility for the 1st Cavalry Division will cover a larger swath of Iraq than originally delegated to the 1st Armored Division, stretching beyond the sprawling city of Baghdad to encompass the farmland and outlying towns to the north and west, including the Taji air base, about 20 miles north of Baghdad.
Honor guard teams from both divisions were present bearing their colors as
well as the Army and United States flags. The Honor Guard of the 1st Cavalry
Division wore ceremonial uniforms for the event: replicas of uniforms worn
during the American Indian Wars in the 1800s, standing ready to add to its
long history and rich legacy.
The colors of the 1st Armored Division were not cased because its combat power is still needed to carry out critical strategic, operational and tactical missions for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. As part of a revised Defense Department "combat force plus-up" Utilization Plan, about 18,000 soldiers of the 1st Armored Division comprised of two brigades with aviation support personnel, military police and transportation units and another 2,800 soldiers of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, headquartered in Ft. Polk LA, will remain in Iraq beyond their normal tour of duty of one year for 90 to 120 days.
AUTHOR'S NOTE - In this moment in time, another flashback to 05 May 1971 when the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division, minus those of the 3rd Brigade, were moved from Vietnam to Ft. Hood, TX and were passed to the commander of the former 1st Armored Division, Major General James C. Smith. The 1st Armored Division was reflagged, reorganized and redesignated as the 1st Cavalry Division. On 10 May, 1971 the colors of the 1st Armored Division were moved to Germany, replacing those of the 4th Armored Division. The next time that the 1st Cavalry and 1st Armored Divisions would cross paths would be on 07 October 1998 in a NATO Multinational Division (North) Transfer Of Authority ceremony held at Tuzla Airfield, Bosnia.
On 16 April at 1000 hours, just one day after the transfer of authority of the Baghdad area of operations to the 1st Cavalry Division, the base camp for Task Force Baghdad - Camp Victory North, came under a 122-millimeter rocket attack. Two of the rockets landed inside the camp area, wounding two US civilian employees and one soldier. Two Iraqi civilians died and four other Iraqis were wounded when three rockets fell shy, outside the base camp during the attack. In all, five rockets were fired at the base camp.
Also on 16 April, the trail party of the 39th Brigade Combat Team, many with a distinctive Bowie knife hanging from their pistol belts, arrived at Camp Cooke, Iraq, placing the entire Brigade in a combat zone for the first time in its long history. The arrival completed what may likely be the most dangerous mission of the deployment, to date, for many of the soldiers. While this convoy made the trip without enemy contact, some of the other serials came through with a story to tell.
The most infamous serial of its convoy took place on 08 April when soldiers with the Brigade's Headquarters and Headquarters Company managed to fend off a mass attack on its 36-vehicle convoy with the support of soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry (ORARNG) and the 1st Armored Division. Escorted by two M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles from the 1st Armored Division, they were hit shortly after they entered Baghdad. The soldiers fiercely engaged their enemy without relent for approximately 40 minutes as the convoy inched its way through the zone of attack. Final intelligence summaries determined 10 to 15 Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG) targeted the convoy along with several Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) along with a mass of automatic machine gun fire.
The Brigade's 3rd Battalion, 153rd Infantry headquartered in Searcy, AR. also convoyed through an RPG attack which left one of their soldiers injured by shrapnel.
Although the 206th Field Artillery finished its first month in Iraq without suffering any casualties, the month of April has not been as fortunate for "E" Troop, 151st Cavalry, based in Marianna, AR and West Helena, AR. On 07 April, at 1500 hours, a mortar attack inside the Forward Operating Base (FOB) left two "E" Troop soldiers wounded. It also handed the brigade its first death. On 09 April, two nights later, while on patrol with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, "E" Troop was hit by an ambush. After a short firefight, "E" Troop realized its casualty list had grown. Three more soldiers were wounded and the Brigade had lost its second soldier.
Although having to deal with the loss of two fellow soldiers, "E" Troop has maintained and continues to perform its mission. The Troop had detained 11 individuals suspected of involvement in attacks on coalition forces. That was half of the Brigade's total on to date.
The 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry, 39th Brigade, headquartered in Malvern, AR has not received casualties either and continues to work towards their transition of authority. The 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry headquartered in Corvallis, OR., was not as fortunate, taking their second and third casualties in two separate incidents on 08 April, involving IEDs. The injuries are not life threatening and the incidents remain under investigation.
On the morning of 23 April, Operation YELLOW STONE began as combined elements of the 39th and 4th Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) as well as Macedonian Special Forces of the 1st Cavalry Division moved into the former presidential-island retreat of Al-Rashida. Their mission was to secure the area and remove the anti-coalition forces from the island that had been firing on Camp Cooke.
The island is the location of a dilapidated palace that houses Iraqi squatters and insurgents who have been attacking Camp Cooke with rockets and mortars. The only way onto the island was through a single bridge, but the soldiers were prepared. Early that morning, the Troops from "E" Troop, 151st Cavalry, 39th BCT, established an outer cordon and immediately began taking enemy fire. Returning fire, the engagement was quickly squelched and the operation continued as planned.
The Macedonian Special Forces secured the single gateway to the island, and
quickly began searching the northwest area of the island. With a large land
area to search and access limited to the solitary bridge, 2nd Battalion, 227th
Aviation Regiment delivered two additional 39th BCT platoons to the southeast
area of the island. From prior intelligence, it had been indicated that there
was the possibility for enemy attack, but the soldiers were ready to get the
insurgents and their weapons.
On 24 April (Saturday), around 0530 hours, insurgents, using a truck launcher, fired five 57-mm and two 80-mm Russian made rockets inside the compound of Camp Cooke located at Taji, a former Iraqi Air Force base 12 miles north of Baghdad that now headquarters the majority of the 39th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. In the attack, four soldiers of the Support Battalion were killed, three were critically wounded, four seriously wounded and twenty-three experienced minor injuries. This type of action by the insurgents is not new, inasmuch as the Brigade has come under regular rocket and mortar attacks since arriving at the camp two weeks ago. However, this was the first attack on the camp that resulted in loss of life.
Helicopter gunships were called into action and they destroyed the truck from which the rockets were launched. The action report did not indicate the degree of casualties among insurgents.
Undaunted by the attack, the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team held the Transfer Of Authority (TOA) planned with the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division at Camp Cooke.
Before it even took control of Baghdad this month, the 1st Cavalry Division had found itself sucked into gritty combat in Sadr City, the sprawling Shiite Muslim slum of Baghdad. The Division has withstood more than 150 attacks this month, and saw too many of its fresh soldiers killed and wounded.
The campaign in Sadr City has cooled, though the neighborhood still seethes. On 25 April, Sunday, a 1st Cavalry Division raiding party reentered the neighborhood, attempting to apprehend suspected Shiite militiamen. The soldiers were unable to capture the targeted terrorists, but became locked in a firefight with neighborhood residents in which two Iraqis were killed. Members of firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's al-Mahdi Army have "stepped back into the shadows" to gather intelligence, assess their chances and plot new attacks.
But the 1st Cavalry Division can't afford to wait for new attacks. In a
strategy of simultaneous engagement, they have to be able to fight the
insurgents in an intensifying guerrilla campaign as the country moves toward
gaining nominal sovereignty by June 30 and general elections by next January
and at the same time try to get the people of Iraq to move ahead. As soldiers
of the Division are talking to neighborhood leaders, tribal sheiks and imams,
its Psychological Operations unit is printing newspapers and fliers, trying to
get the message out that the 1st Cavalry has money to spend on restoring order
and beauty. In doing so, the Division will contract with local construction
firms to fix sewers, collect garbage and install street lighting to improve
the living conditions and infuse money into the local economy.
The M1114 includes extra armor, a heavy-duty chassis and other safety features designed to better withstand explosive blasts and increase protection from other threats by offering the soldier 360 degrees of 7.62mm Armor Piercing Perimeter protection inside the cab. Key features of the sophisticated armor package are (1) a turret mount, (2) Front Underbody Blast Protection, (3) Rear Underbody Blast Protection, (4) Transparent White Glass, Laser and Armor Resistant and (5) 155mm Overhead Airburst Protection at a range of 100 meters. Additionally, each M1114 comes equipped with the latest in Army communications system technology and a turbo-charged motor and air conditioner system for cooling personnel and electronic equipment.
The two contractors, both AM General and O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt who mounts
the armor kit, are quickly shifting production and reconfiguring their
factories to meet the increases in demand. There are currently 2,750 armored
Humvees in Iraq, and production is slated to climb from 220 next month to 300
a month by July. The first lot of a shipment of 700 M1114s arrived in Baghdad
this week as replacements to fill out the present wheeled equipment inventory
of the 1st Cavalry Division.
The vehicle also features, a run-flat tire inflation system that lets the
soldiers traverse a number of different terrains with the flip of a switch. It
is equipped with four-wheel drive, and four-wheel independent suspension. This
allows a smoother ride for the soldiers and a more stable platform when
operating weapon systems. In addition, the ASV has air conditioning, two
separate fuel tanks, and a Gas Particulate Air Filtration System that feeds
purified air into the soldier's gas masks when they are wearing them.
"A" Troop arrested the men, searched the homes and their business. "C" Troop,
with a platoon of combat engineers from "B" Company, 8th Engineer Battalion
along with a platoon from the 304th Battalion, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps
searched a nearby amusement park for weapons caches. The engineers found
several shallow holes along a wall at the park. Lying around one hole were
some old Iraqi army helmets. They broke out shovels and dug into the holes,
eventually finding 20 more helmets and a few protective gas mask filters.
In an award ceremony, held on 13 August, Pfc. Christopher Fernandez was
awarded the Silver Star, the third-highest combat medal of the military and
Sgt. Timothy Buttz of Bloomington, Minnesota, the soldier that carried the
dead and wounded to safety and had the presence of mind to destroy the
sensitive radios in the vehicle before abandoning it, was decorated with the
Army's Bronze Star medal, with a special commendation for valor, by the
Division's Commander, Major General Peter Chiarelli.
Around midnight of 09 May, US aircraft bombed the Sadr City offices of Muqtada al-Sadr as ground troops of the Division opened fire from nearby streets, destroying the remaining structure of the office. The building had been used to stockpile weapons and was destroyed by fire from M-1 tanks and aircraft. By the time the building came down, all the enemy personnel inside had been killed, bringing the total enemy militiamen killed in gunbattles throughout the area to thirty-five. The next morning as the office laid in rubble, residents took to the streets with white plastic buckets and wheelbarrows to cleanup the debris. Sadr himself, hunkered down in the holy shrine city of Najaf as religious authorities attempted to negotiate and resolve his status with the coalition, ordered his Mehdi Army to launch a broad new offensive against the US led occupying forces following their crackdown on his strongholds in Baghdad and across the south.
On 13 June, at 0835 hours (local), an explosion in the heavily the fortified headquarters of the 1st Cavalry Division, located in the "Green Zone" compound along the banks of the Tigris river in Baghdad, indicated that it had been hit by one of the frequent mortar and rocket attack from insurgents opposed to the US - led occupation of Iraq. As plumes of white smoke rose above one of the former palace buildings, sirens sounded to warn the staff to take cover in the basement shelters. No injuries were reported.
On 24 June, in response to the broadest and among the bloodiest day of attacks on occupation forces and Iraqi Police by the insurgents, the Mehdi Army of the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr declared a truce with the US-led Coalition Forces and Iraqi Police by loud speaker in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City and said it was ready to help them and protect important sites from insurgents attacks. The Mehdi Army offered their services to protect government buildings, hospitals, power stations, water stations, gasoline service stations and oil refineries. The statement indicated that the Mehdi Army was ready to protect "all those who might be targeted by terrorists activity, notably in the coming two weeks," referring to the 30 June handover of limited power to the Interim Iraqi Government.
Fighting has rocked the Shiite Muslim slum of Sadr City almost nightly since
Sadr rose up against US forces in the first week of April. The militia of the
radical cleric has waged a two-and-half-month rebellion in central and
southern Iraq against US-led Coalition Forces that ended only this month. US
Forces evicted the militia from most areas, but had a protracted stand-off
with the cleric in the Shiite shrine city of Najaf. Sadr agreed to scale back
his presence in Najaf the first week of June and since then, the fiery cleric
has given mixed signals on whether or not he would support the new Iraqi
The new interim government was sworn in six hours after the handover ceremony, which Western governments largely hailed as a necessary next step. The Arab world voiced cautious optimism, but maintained calls for the US military to leave the country quickly. Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi delivered a sweeping speech sketching out some of his goals for the country, urging people not to be afraid of the "outlaws" fighting against "Islam and Muslims," assuring them that "God is with us."
Members of Allawi's Cabinet each stepped forward to place their right hand on
the Quran and pledged to accept their new duties with sincerity and
impartiality. Behind them, a bank of Iraqi flags lined the podium.
The reason, the phrase, at first glance, is just enough like "Let Freedom Ring" to make some wonder whether the president's penchant for creative English was on display. But look again.
This was a historic moment, long anticipated and carefully orchestrated. Presidents are purposeful and deliberate at such times. A note like this, ostensibly spontaneous, is the kind that scholars could hope to unearth at some future date in a George W. Bush presidential library. Bush clearly had no intention of waiting for that day.
In a follow-up session, the NATO alliance quickly indicated that it would
commit more troops to Afghanistan and begin training the Iraqi military, which
faces a daunting task in putting down the growing insurgency threatening the
In addition to Saddam Hussein, the group included eleven other former members of his regime. Key captured leaders presented to the court for arrangement were;
The 1st Cavalry combat patch is a "mirror image" of the division patch in that the silhouette of the horse head and diagonal line across the gold background has been reversed so it points forward when worn on the right arm of the uniform. It is the same concept as utilized to display the US flag when worn on the right arm, in that the field of stars in the flag is on the upper right-hand corner of the patch. It may look backwards, but the flag billowing toward the back of a soldier indicates he is always advancing, never retreating.
On 15 July, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, who had
received their redeployment orders for operation IRAQI FREEDOM II on 04 May,
completed the final stage of troop movement from Ft. Drum, NY via the way of
the port of entry in Kuwait to Baghdad, Iraq. It is composed of approximately
2,000 troops organized into a Brigade Headquarters Company; 2nd Battalion,
14th Infantry Regiment; 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment; 2nd Battalion,
15th Field Artillery Regiment; 210th Forward Support Battalion; "B" Company,
10th Signal Battalion; 1st Platoon, 463rd MP Company and elements of 110th
Military Intelligence Battalion.
On 02 August newly-arrived soldiers of Task Force 1-41, 3rd Brigade, 1st
Armor Division from Ft. Riley, Kansas, composed of a Headquarters Company, a
Mechanized Company and a Motorized Company of the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry
and "C" Company, 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor, that are attached to the 2nd
Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division conducted a right-seat ride with
the troopers of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat
Team, 1st Cavalry Division. A right-seat rides gives incoming units a chance
to see what the current units are doing. The right-seat ride, lasting two
days, was carried out around Camp Cuervo in northeastern Baghdad, where 2nd
Battalion, 8th Cavalry is located. During the right-seat ride, the Task Force
1-41 Soldiers took the extra seats in the vehicles and tagged along for the
patrol, standing back to study how certain things are done under some
situations and getting their feet wet to help with others.
As the remainder of the 1st Brigade battled elements of the al-Sadr's Mahdi militia in Baghdad, the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry moved out of Baghdad to the holy city of Najaf, some 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Baghdad to support the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment counter a similar regional uprising of Sadr's militia who had taken refuge in the Imam Ali Mosque in the Old Town Section of the city.
In Sadr City, the 1st Brigade troops battled small bands of the Mahdi Army Militia armed with machine guns and Rocket Propelled Grenades and quickly dispersed or obliterated them. Seeing that his forces had been overcome, al-Sadr, in a political flip-flop, announced that he and his forces were committed to the truce and that the US forces must also honor the truce. After nightfall Thursday, al-Sadr's militia indicated that they wanted to restore the truce that has kept the neighborhood relatively calm for months. An after-action casualty count indicated that twenty of the militia were killed and one hundred fourteen others wounded.
In spite of the call for truce in Sadr City, the stronghold area for the young firebrand cleric, hundreds of militiamen armed with AK-47 assault rifles and Rocket-Propelled Grenades continued to man traffic checkpoints and resist surrendering to the US or coalition authorities. The Health Ministry said 22 people had died in clashes in Sadr City and other parts of the Baghdad over the weekend. A 1st Cavalry Division observation helicopter, that had been monitoring the situation, had mechanical trouble and made an unscheduled "precautionary landing" northwest of Sadr City. Both pilots were rescued and reported safe.
On 09 August the Iraqi Interior Ministry imposed an area wide curfew. in effect from 1600 hours to 0800 hours for the district of Sadr City, home to two million people, and will remain for an unspecified period because of the continued unrest and hostile attacks by the Mahdi Army.
Although the al-Sadr's Mahdi militia has been battling US forces in the cities
of Najaf and Basra as well as Baghdad in parallel with the demands of "honor
the truce", the militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, warned that he would fight
"until the last drop of his blood had been spilled". The response of the US
forces and Iraqi National Guard was to continue their hands-off policy toward
him and pursue the main objective to take down the local elements of al-Sadr's
Mahdi militia in a show of force.
Also on 12 August, with full approval of the Iraqi Ministries, the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment along with "A" Company. 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment and Iraqi National Guard (ING) soldiers launched a major operation on the militia loyal to a radical Shiite cleric in Najaf with explosions and gunfire echoing near the holy city's revered Imam Ali shrine and its vast cemetery which encompasses and area of five square miles. The focus of this action was to crush the uprising led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose fighters have been battling in Shiite strongholds across Iraq for a week.
Sensing the buildup, hundreds of citizens of Najaf had already fled in the
last few days, moving in with relatives and friends in quieter neighborhoods,
or out of Najaf entirely. Shortly before dawn, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry
Regiment, 39th Infantry Brigade rumbled into Najaf, columns of M1-A1 Abrams
tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles throwing up an armored cordon around the
oldest section of the city. The encircled area extended in a roughly one-mile
radius from the shrine of Imam Ali, which militiamen have occupied and used
as a base for mortar attacks. As part of the multi-prong siege, a column of
tanks from the 1st Brigade, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade lined one edge
of the cemetery as a helicopter flew overhead on patrol. Soldiers set up
positions, crawling on the roofs of single-story buildings. Thick black smoke
poured into the sky as helicopters skimmed mud-brick rooftops in the heart of
Najaf. Insurgent militia responded to the assault with Rocket-Propelled
Grenades and mortar bombs, firing at times from inside the walls of the Imam
Ali Mosque. Soon after midday, the city center was under control and the
entrance to the Imam Ali Mosque was blocked.
The offensive risks enraging the Shiite majority, including those who do not support the uprising, if it desecrates one of Islam's most revered sites - the shrine where many of the insurgents have taken refuge. US forces, Iraqi police and troops have cordoned off the shrine, cemetery and the "Old City" of Najaf, but so far have not made any move to raid the "exclusion area" of the shrine. If necessary, any attack on the shrine would be led by members of the Iraqi National Guard to deflect Shiite anger.
With a night of limited engagement, al-Sadr was able to meet with his Mahdi Army loyalists inside the Imam Ali shrine compound. In the early morning of 13 August military officials reported that, at 0430 hours, al-Sadr had been wounded by shrapnel in the chest and twice in a leg and the interim Iraqi government officials and a group of representatives of al-Sadr were trying to negotiate a settlement with al-Sadr. Consequently, any plans to continue intense fighting were placed on "hold". Despite the negotiations, the US military indicated that it will maintain the cordon around the shrine, the cemetery and the "Old City" of Najaf, sealing off the area where the militants had taken refuge.
Following suspension of an offensive against Muqtada al-Sadr's militia by US forces, Iraqi officials and aides to the radical Shiite cleric began negotiations to end fighting that has raged in Najaf for nine days, One of al-Sadr's key demands was the US unconditional withdrawal from Najaf and the freeing of all Mahdi Army fighters in detention in exchange for the disarming his followers and ending the fighting.
US and Iraqi officials wanted to ensure that any new truce would eliminate the
flaws of the previous truces, which ended a two-month uprising in early June.
Al-Sadr militants had repeatedly violated that cease-fire, shooting at police
and burying caches of weapons in the cemetery and using the time to
regroup and recruit new followers.
In the evening of 13 August with negotiations well underway, the radical Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has had a long history of sending contradictory signals, announced his intentions to stay in his Najaf stronghold until victory or death, shattering hopes of a compromise with US forces encircling the city's holiest shrines. Buoyed by the mass demonstrations condemning the US offensive aimed at crushing his nine-day old uprising, al-Sadr became defiant toward what he called the "dictatorial" interim Iraqi government trying to negotiate an end to the standoff and called for its resignation.
On 14 August as peace talks between representatives of the cleric's militia and Iraqi government broke down, in another turn about, Shiite rebel leader Moqtada al-Sadr indicated that he will now accept the control a UN force in Iraq. A factor leading to this new position is that al-Sadr may have recognized that the Iraqi government would not agree with his demands and he anticipates sympathy for his cause and a set of more favorable terms being agreed to under UN negotiations. Inasmuch as such a force has not been structured within the UN organization at this time, it was not clear if the breakdown of negotiations will lead to an immediate renewal of the fighting between followers of al-Sadr and the combined coalition-Iraqi force that shook the streets of Najaf with gunfire and explosions since 05 August.
Taking on the rebellious cleric Moqtada al-Sadr directly on the politically sensitive issue of American forces being used to disarm his religious militia, Iraqi officials issued orders to deploy Iraqi troops in Najaf to conduct the offensive against the Shiite Muslim militia who were "holed up" in the city's vast cemetery and the Imam Ali shrine. News of the deployment, the first since sovereignty was restored to Iraq on 28 June, reached US forces as they had moved in position to initiate significant combat operations hours after the two-day truce had been called off. Just as the convoy was ready to roll, orders to return were issued.
US commanders on the ground in Najaf applauded the decision to call in Iraqi troops. The new Iraqi Army battalions, which are better trained and have more sophisticated equipment than other Iraqi security forces, would augment police and national guard units assigned to the area. The Iraqi army has seven well trained and deployable battalions, two of which have undergone additional instruction in counterinsurgency warfare.
On 15 August the US forces, waiting for the Iraqi reinforcements, picked up roughly where it had left off when a cease-fire was declared Friday and moved to tighten the cordon they had set up last week. They took up positions on the cemetery perimeter and at the entrance to the Old City and prepared for reengagement with the al-Sadr militia. Scattered fighting continued for the second day while armored patrols pushed closer to the shrine, targeting on what commanders called militia gathering points and artillery pinpointed suspected militia positions in the cemetery.
US troops are training Iraqi national guard units for any possible raid on the shrine compound. but in the meantime, the US troops have retaken the lead in the Najaf fighting, while Iraqi security forces have played a minor role, mainly manning checkpoints.
The standoff in Najaf threatens not just the national political conference,
but the legitimacy of the Iraqi interim government. While most Iraqi Shiites
are not al-Sadr supporters, anger over the siege at the Shrine of Imam Ali
threatens to drive most Iraqi Muslims away from supporting the interim
government. As a compromise, rather than send in Iraqi trained military as
previously proposed, those attending the conference agreed to dispatch a new
delegation to the embattled city of Najaf to persuade rebellious Shiite Muslim
cleric Moqtada Sadr to abandon his uprising, vacate the religious shrine and
participate in the country's political process.
On 17 August the eight-member delegation of the National Conference arrived in Najaf on US military Blackhawk helicopters, with the objective to persuade the firebrand cleric and his Mehdi Army militia to call off the rebellion that has hit eight southern and central cities and rattled oil markets. The delegation entered the huge mausoleum compound at the heart of the city's historic center at around 1900 hours. Heavy gunfire, punctuated by mortar blasts, had raged throughout the day. Their peace proposal offers amnesty and a place in the political process for al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militiamen if they put down their arms and abandon the holy sites, including the Imam Ali Shrine, where fighters have taken refuge. After a three hour wait, two of al-Sadr deputies indicated to the delegation of Iraqi political and religious leaders that the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr welcomed the mission, but not the peace proposal and refused to meet with them "because of continued aggression by the Americans.
Contrary to al-Sadr's comment, the US military indicated that it did not conduct offensive operations, sitting "in-place" during the entire time designated for the meeting. A journalist with the delegation reported that the sound of battle died down, but more than a dozen outgoing mortar rounds were fired from an area very close to the shrine, apparently by the militants.
The delegation, which had planned to be in Najaf only for a day, flew back to
Baghdad to return to the National Conference. As they prepared to board their
helicopter to take them back to Baghdad, the members seemed resigned to a
continuation of the fighting and perhaps an escalation.
1st Cavalry Division troops made a significant advance into Sadr City, a district of Baghdad that is one of his powerbases and killed more than 50 of his Shiite militiamen. The forces, backed by tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, advanced some 1.5 miles into the slum area inhabited by two million people, meeting sporadic resistance. Capitalizing on the Brigade's foothold in the city, the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry and the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiments commenced their respective attacks the following day.
In order to keep the front-line troops moving, Iron Horse Brigade's forward support elements gathered at a location several kilometers from the fighting. These elements included "C" Company 115th Forward Support Battalion, a team of medics from 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment and two Civil Affairs teams from the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion. By the third day of IRON FURY, the 1st Brigade Combat Team had exceeded its initial expectations for the mission, pushing blocks past their planned objectives despite mounting opposition from the insurgent forces. The strategy of continuous movement required the militants to leave their normal secure places of refuge and move to fight across the entire width of Sadr City.
On 18 August al-Sadr sent a message to the National Conference in Baghdad, indicating that he would accept the peace proposal, which demands his militia drop its arms, withdraw from the shrine and transform itself into a political party in exchange for amnesty. Although the initial message did not detail the means by which at-Sadr would carry out the terms of the surrender agreement, the news did raise the hopes of resolving the crisis that has angered many of the Iraqi Shiite majority and threatened to undermine the fledgling interim government.
Gunfire and explosions continued to heard across Najaf after the deal was announced and there was no indication of whether there could be a quick end to two weeks of fighting between al-Sadr's militia and US soldiers and government troops. However al-Sadr has made conflicting statements in the past and aides to the cleric said he still wanted to negotiate details of the surrender to end the two weeks of fighting, lay down his militia's weapons and leave the shrine of the holy city of Najaf to the south. The Defense Ministry of Iraq countered by ordering al-Sadr and his militia to lay down their weapons and leave immediately, abandoning their rebellion in Najaf and at least seven other cities. Only then would they be granted an amnesty.
On 19 August, Thursday, al-Sadr remained defiant and refused to take a public position regarding the interim governments demands. Explosions and gunfire could be heard in the streets of Najaf, 90 miles south of Baghdad. Three US tanks and two Humvees were parked about 400 yards from the shrine, about as close as US forces have come to the holy site during the fighting. Fighters from the Mahdi Army militia could be seen manning positions in narrow alleys of the Old City and outside the shrine compound. A clock on the outer wall of the compound, reportedly hit by shrapnel, was smoldering.
In the nearby Valley of Peace cemetery, the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry
Regiment, with support of the Marines, continued the fight in sporadic clashes
with the militia. Meanwhile, M1-A1 Abram tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles
of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment continued to roam Najaf's old city,
a district of houses and shops along narrow streets south and east of the
shrine to assert its presence,
It was not immediately clear if this strike signaled the beginning of a
threatened offensive of the Iraqi government was under way at the mosque,
where the radical cleric and his Mehdi Army militia have holed up.
In one of the lulls between airstrikes, a top al-Sadr aide said the cleric had ordered his militia to relinquish control of the shrine where they have been holed up. But in a letter shown by the Arab television station Al-Arabiya, al-Sadr indicated that he would not disband his Al Mahdi Army. There was no certainty that the latest offer from al-Sadr to withdraw would be implemented, as both sides appeared to be engaged in brinkmanship.
On 20 August the dawn broke over the somewhat calm, quiet city of Najaf as Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, backed off threats to storm the shrine, saying a peaceful resolution was possible. The shrine compound, which had been filled with hundreds of chanting and belligerent gunmen in recent days, appeared far calmer. Far fewer people were inside and no armed men could be seen. In a surprising step aimed at ending the 2-week-old uprising centered on the holy site, militiamen loyal to rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr began to remove weapons from the revered Imam Ali Shrine. However al-Sadr's followers remained in control of the walled shrine compound, but kept their guns outside. Some of the fighters who had earlier been in the shrine with weapons were still there, but now unarmed and mingling with civilians.
The firebrand cleric agreed to take a further step and surrender the shrine and were working out the details for transfer of control over the shrine to Iraq's highest Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani. The handover of the keys to representatives of al-Sistani appeared to provide a face-saving way out of the crisis for militia leader Moqtada Sadr. But in the latest twist in the tortuous search for a resolution to the crisis, al-Sadr and al-Sistani aides late were still trying to agree on how to transfer control. An aide to al-Sistani insisted al-Sadr's followers must completely leave the site before religious authorities would take the keys to the shrine that symbolize control.
Sporadic gunfire and occasional explosions were heard in the city Friday
evening, but far less than that of previous nights. By nightfall, al-Sadr's
followers remained in control of the shrine, but they were no longer bringing
their weapons inside the walled compound of the holy site.
Al-Sadr had said previously he would not give in to the government demand to disband his militia and take up politics. It remained unclear how the Iraqi government would react if that demand went unmet. The whereabouts of al-Sadr remains some what of a mystery. An aide of Moqtada Sadr said the radical Iraqi Shiite leader was still in the holy city of Najaf and would not leave it alive.
On 22 August, (siege day 18), engagement with the al-Sadr militia began in the early morning at 0230 hours as militant rebels attempted a mortar attack on US Troops in the Old City. Two threat positions held by Shiite rebels were detected and taken out with rapid cannon and howitzer fire from an AC-130 gunship. The bursts of cannon fire, which lit up the area attacked with white flashes and the sounds of shelling could be heard in the streets were followed by three large explosions near the Mehdi Army's mausoleum headquarters. The fighting died down after about 45 minutes, returning the city to the relative calm that it had seen over the weekend. US forces were observed repositioning armored vehicles to reseal the Old City where al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia is holed up, restoring a cordon that had been loosened in recent days, when peace efforts were making progress.
Later in the afternoon, militants attacked US forces with mortars, prompting
another round of clashes that lasted for nearly a half hour. Hospital reports
indicate that at least three people were killed and 18 injured during fighting
overnight. The US military could not confirm the bombing, but said operations
in Najaf were ongoing. Late in the evening of 22 August loud blasts were heard
in the Old City of Najaf as an AC-130 gunship and AH-64 Apache helicopters
circled overhead, targeting positions held by rebels loyal to radical Shiite
cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in an apparent bid to break their will. The aerial
assault of cannon fire, marking the third AC-130 attack on the city since
Thursday, began as US tanks moved to within 800 yards of the Imam Ali shrine
and lasted to the early hours of Monday. With talks aimed at ending the siege
stalled, US forces appeared to tighten their noose around the old city.
Shrapnel landed in the courtyard of the gold-domed mosque, whose outer walls have already been slightly damaged in fighting that has killed hundreds. Large plumes of smoke rose into the air. The fighting around the holiest Shiite Muslim shrine of Iraq eased for a time but then broke out with intensity again in the early afternoon especially near the cemetery that adjoins the mosque. US snipers were observed on rooftops around the surrounding areas. Tanks approached within 250 yards of the shrine, their closest move in days. In the evening the two sides exchanged heavy fire as planes hovered overhead.
Four days after Sadr aides said they would hand over control of the shrine to
representatives of Shiite Islam's most revered cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali
al-Sistani, the deal was still in limbo.
For the first time, in addition to the US military who have been carrying the burden of attack, an Iraqi National Guard security force of about 500 troops have been deployed into the "ground zero" battle zone, advancing to within 400 meters of the Imam Ali shrine. A special force group of about 50 moved within 200 meters of the shrine after US helicopters fired missiles and strafed militia positions in a cemetery that adjoins the mosque and, with loudspeakers urged the followers of firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to evacuate the shrine and surrender.
In his announcement of the use of National Guard security forces, Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan indicated that if al-Sadr surrendered peaceably "he will be safe and will be highly respected. But if he continues to resist, then there will be no options for him other than death or prison." He added "We are in the last hours. This evening, Iraqi forces will reach the doors of the shrine and control it and appeal to the Mehdi Army to throw down their weapons. We are going to cleanse the city and the shrine of militiamen if they do not leave soon of their own accord." An aide to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said his Mehdi Army militia was ready to negotiate (rather than surrender) to end the fighting.
AC-130U airstrikes began at dusk and continued randomly for the third night in
a row as Iraqi and US troops braced for an imminent assault on Najaf's holy
shrine, with orders to kill or capture militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr unless
he surrendered. At approximately 1930 hours, two AH-64 Apache helicopters
fired Hellfire missiles near the city's vast Valley of Peace cemetery, before
tanks began pounding positions in the Old City around 2050 hours. The old city
was shrouded in smoke that concealed even the usually bright floodlighting of
About an hour later, the vehicles had not moved any closer, but the shrine, one of the holiest Shiite pilgrimage sites in the world, was very close to being isolated. As many fled from the battle, several al-Sadr aides, including one of al-Sadr's top lieutenants, were arrested for removing valuables from the sacred Imam Ali Shrine, which the Mahdi Army controls. Artillery and tank fire pummeled all main roads leading from the gates into the Old City and only a few dared venture out, sprinting for their lives to collect basic necessities such as bread.
On the 21st day of fighting, US planes fired missiles within meters of the Imam Ali mausoleum, shattering windows inside its ornate galleries and sending up clouds of dust. US armor units held the shrine in a pincer grip from the west and east and heavy artillery pounded areas to the south as snipers fired on all those coming or going from the mausoleum.
Another political complication of the struggle for control of the Imam Ali Shrine emerged with the return of the Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani to Iraq. He is now in the southern city of Basra after crossing the Kuwaiti border. He had gone to London for medical treatment on 06 August, one day after fighting erupted in Najaf. The cleric wields enormous influence among Iraq's Shiite majority and his return could play a crucial role in stabilizing the crisis in Najaf. Without commenting on any of his prior positions regarding al-Sadr or his rebellious Mehdi Army, the cleric announced that he had a plan to save the "burning city" of Najaf. He indicated that Thursday he would journey to Najaf and "The masses will join him to gather at the outskirts of Najaf and they will not enter the city until all armed men, except the Iraqi policemen, withdraw from the city".
Many thought that his planned march to Najaf could be an attempt by the reclusive Irianian born cleric to reclaim some of the political power captured by al-Sadr who challenged the leadership of the Najaf clergy and masterminded the uprising of the poor masses. After meeting with government representatives late Wednesday, al-Sistani proposed a new peace initiative, calling for Najaf and Kufa to be declared weapons-free cities, for all foreign forces to withdraw from Najaf and leave security to the police and for the Iraqi government to compensate those harmed by the fighting there.
Without any notification of the Iraqi government approval or acknowledgement of the call for peace by al-Sistani, heavy fighting persisted in Najaf's Old City as gunships attacked the area for the fourth night in a row and fierce skirmishes broke out. Huge blasts sporadically shook the city, and smoke rose into the night sky.
On 26 August, in an operation geared up to tighten the siege, cannon fire from
AC-130 gunships that pounded key rebel targets all night in a bid to break the
militia's will and force them to lay down their weapons and leave the shrine
was followed by a barrage of artillery fire which rocked Najaf in the early
morning hours. The explosions of at least five artillery rounds were heard in
the heart of the city which has been gripped by three weeks of fighting
between US forces and rebels loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. After
the attack, gray smoke was seen rising near the Imam Ali mosque.
Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi declared a 24-hour cease-fire in Najaf from the time of al-Sistani's arrival "to reinforce our commitment to peace." Najaf Governor Adnan al-Zurufi indicated that Iraqi and US forces would temporarily pull back from positions near the revered Imam Ali Shrine to allow for peace efforts.
In a brief conference, Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, brokered a dramatic agreement with a rebel cleric and the Iraqi government to end three weeks of fighting between his militia and US-Iraqi forces. The renegade Muqtada al-Sadr accepted the proposal in a face-to-face meeting during an evening meeting with the 75-year-old al-Sistani. Hours afterward, Iraq's interim government also agreed to the deal.
The five-point peace plan put forward by al-Sistani calls for 1) Najaf and Kufa to be declared weapons-free cities; 2) all foreign forces to withdraw from Najaf; 3) police to be in charge of local security; 4) the government is to compensate those harmed by the fighting and 5) a census to be taken in preparation for elections expected in the country by January.
Al-Sadr agreed to all points of Sistani's peace plan to end fighting that has killed hundreds and undermined the authority of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. The plan involves Sadr's Mehdi Army militiamen leaving the sacred Imam Ali shrine by 1000 hours, Friday and disengaging with the US forces who will leave Najaf when ordered by the Iraqi government. All security will be under the authority of the local police as Najaf will being be declared a weapons-free zone.
Iraq's interim government stared failure in the face after a 22-day assault
against Moqtada Sadr, who merely slipped out of grasp, refusing to disarm his
militia. Militiamen were busy stashing their heavy weaponry in safe houses
confirmed they had no intention of ceding their arsenal to the Iraqi
authorities. The only clear victory for the government was Sadr's departure
from the Imam Ali shrine four months after the Mehdi Army first occupied it.
As the crowd level diminished, al-Sadr's followers handed over the keys to the site to religious authorities loyal to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the esteemed cleric who secured the peace deal. The handover the keys was a symbolic, yet crucial, step in ending the bloody crisis that has plagued this city since 05 August, killing hundreds of Iraqis and nine US troops, ravaging parts of the Old City and threatening the control of the Interim government of Iraq. By the afternoon the shrine appeared empty, clear of the visitors and Mahdi Army militants. Even the narrow streets around the mosque, walled by blackened shells of destroyed buildings as a testament to the fierce fighting that killed hundreds, were relatively quiet.
Notwithstanding the terms of the truce, a big question mark hangs over the
role al-Sadr and his militia will play in Iraq, especially ahead of elections
in January. Sadr draws formidable support among Iraq's downtrodden majority
Shiites. Although Prime Minister Iyad Allawi gave them an amnesty under
yesterday's peace agreement, it's not clear that it applies to Sadr who has
been indicted by an Iraqi court last year for alleged involvement in the
killing of a rival cleric in Najaf. Secretary of State Colin Powell comments
in a US radio interview included the statement: "That indictment has not been
lifted. Right now, we're not pursuing it."
Taking fire of assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team in Humvees drove through the impoverished neighborhood with loudspeakers, alerting people to stay in their houses because coalition forces were "cleaning the area of armed men". Gunfire crackled in the streets as tanks rolled by and helicopters patrolled the sky. Militants stood in the streets calmly launching round after round of mortar shells at troops but missed, hitting a small power station and knocking out electricity to a six-block area. Black smoke rose over the neighborhood. The Health Ministry report indicated that ten Iraqis were killed and 126 were wounded in the battles, while the US forces reported no casualties.
On 29 August Iraqi tribal leaders, Shiite politicians, government officials and US military officers agreed to a one-day truce for discussions on how to end violence in Sadr City. The sprawling Shiite district of eastern Baghdad has been the scene of repeated clashes between militiamen loyal to the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and US forces in the 16 months since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Despite the apparent resolution of the Najaf crisis on last Friday, Sadr City remains as a flashpoint, with al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militiamen continuing to engage US forces as they carry out their humanitarian and security missions. Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi blamed the violence on renegade al-Sadr or his followers who do not want to acknowledge the need to extend the peace conditions, agreed to in Najaf, to other areas of Iraq.
In the afternoon, the head of the tribal negotiating team, Naim al-Bakhati, indicated to reporters that 1) all sides had agreed that damaged areas in Sadr City were to be rebuilt; 2) US troops withdraw from the area except for normal patrols and reconstruction work; 3) Iraqi police be allowed to freely operate in the areas and 4) additional talks would resume later in the day. He added: "but there was no agreement on any conditions in which the Mahdi Army would surrender their weapons". Offering a counter view, a spokesman for the 1st Cavalry Division indicated that "there has not been any agreement of any kind in that the talks were not negotiations". All sides agreed to extend the truce until Monday morning to give the Iraqi government time to evaluate the results of the meeting.
On 30 August, a ten-point roadmap drafted by National Security Adviser Muwafaq al-Rubaie was delivered to al-Sadr's office. However subsequent discussions between the Iraqi government and the office of radical Shite cleric were stumbling on the final point which required the rebel militia to hand over its weapons. In somewhat of a surprising turnaround, Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr, in an order to his followers for a nationwide ceasefire, announced that his militant movement would join the political mainstream and within the next two days would explain his political vision on this participation. If acceptable to all parties, the announcement could provide a major boost to the government of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and would suggest that al-Sadr's acceptance of the US backed political process clears the air for elections in January. The question of disbanding the Mahdi Army militia remains open and there is no indication that the cleric is considering doing so.
On 07 September, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, "The Blackhawks", began their first stage of redeployment back to Ft Hood, Texas after fulfilling a year of duty in Iraq. Normally a Bradley Fighting Vehicle company, the Blackhawks traded their tracks for the wheels of Humvees and deployed as a completely separate company several months in advance of the main body of the 1st Cavalry Division.
Arriving in Iraq in September 2003, the Blackhawks spent several months serving with the 82nd Airborne Division, the 1st Infantry Division and later with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Unit. Facing almost daily engagements with anti-Iraqi forces in the western edges of the "Sunni Triangle", the Blackhawks conducted raids and patrols in several villages near Fallujah. On 27 May the Blackhawks were reassigned, rejoining the First Team in Baghdad. The environment of the International Zone - contrasted with what the combat hardened unit were used to, helped the troops to prepare for transition back to the states.
On 07 September as peace talks stalled in Sadr City on the issue of weapon
surrender, multiple engagements of Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) attacks and
detonations of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) between Multi-National Forces
and Iraqi insurgents began at 0030 hours (local) in the Al Thawra district of
eastern Baghdad and continued until 1230 hours. Among those attacks was one
directed at a team of soldiers who were defusing one of the homemade bombs
that are hidden in alleys and intersections throughout the area by al-Sadr's
Mahdi Army militiamen. The ambush, carried out with Rocket-Propelled Grenades,
took the life of one soldier and wounded two others.
Yesterday, Iraqi security forces dealt another blow to al-Sadr's prestige when a 60-strong force searched his office in Najaf looking for weapons. Al-Sadr was not in the office at the time and no weapons were found there. Having faced down al-Sadr in Najaf, US commanders have turned their attention to his base in Baghdad's Sadr City, a teeming Shiite slum which is the cleric's main power base.
On 12 September a barrage of mortars or rockets, one of central Baghdad's
heaviest in recent months, started at about 0500 hours (local) and continued
for more than an hour. More than a dozen explosions were heard at dawn along
with heavy gunfire that erupted in a street at the heart of the city. The
crackle of gunfire echoed across Haifa Street, a major avenue in the center
of the capital and notorious crime-ridden district and a stronghold of
As two Kiowa Warrior helicopters flew over the burning Bradley they received small-arms fire from the insurgents in vicinity of the vehicle. Clearly within the rules of engagement, the helicopters returned fire taking out anti-Iraqi forces in the vicinity of the Bradley. After the crowd dispersed, the vehicle was destroyed by rocket fire to prevent looting of its sensitive communication components. The Tawhid and Jihad claim of responsibility for the fighting of Sunday came in a posting on its Web site. Al-Zarqawi, one of the most wanted militants in Iraq, is believed to be behind a number of suicide bombings in Iraq over the past year.
One of the UN Resolution Charters, under which the Coalition forces operates, is to provide a secure environment to allow the political process to go forward allowing elections to take place in the December-January time frame. In recent weeks, with many pockets of the country still not under their full control, the build-up of many military offensives in rebel-held Iraqi cities are part of a major coordinated drive that focuses on the major trouble spots. Full engagement in all-out battles or airstrikes in or around several restive cities, including Najaf, Fallujah, Ramadi, Tal Afar and Baghdad are being initiated. The new plans involve using a similar mix of political pressure, military muscle and economic enticement to effect the same changes in other cities as employed in Najaf.
To meet the cost brought about by the increased military intervention in Iraq to strengthen security, the administration plans to propose shifting $3.46 billion from Iraqi water, electrical power and other internal reconstruction projects to improve security, boost oil output and prepare for elections scheduled in January. The change in fund allocation, which requires congressional approval, reflects a realization within the administration that without better security, long-term rebuilding is impossible. Of the more than $18 billion approved for reconstruction of Iraq, only about $1 billion has been spent or committed.
Other proposed expenditures include includes economic incentives of $286 million to quickly provide jobs for Iraqis; an extra $100 million to develop and expand Iraq's agriculture base; another $100 million to help train local government officials; and $60 million for administering and monitoring the national elections that are scheduled for January.
The US military is undertaking a major operation to quell mounting insurgency,
intended to undermine the interim Iraqi government, so that national elections
may be held next January. Air strikes, on Thursday night, near Fallujah had
killed around 60 foreign fighters of the Tawhid and Jihad group, loyal to Abu
Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian with a $25 million price on his head who is the
number one foe in Iraq. Early on Friday, US warplanes destroyed a compound in
south central Fallujah that was also used by Zarqawi's militants. In
retaliation to these successful operations, the insurgents are increasing the
level and intensity of attacks in the highly populated areas of Baghdad.
Later, at about 0615 hours (local), a speeding car attempted to ram a checkpoint that had been set up in an area close to the Haifa Street trouble spot where fierce clashes with insurgents had occurred last Sunday. Soldiers opened fire and the car detonated, killing the two occupants of the car. The huge blast sent a thick plume of smoke into the air from the east side of the Tigris River. Ambulances rushed to the scene and US troops sealed off the area.
The attempting ramming of the checkpoint was a thrust of an ensuing battle that raged for hours between US-led Iraqi troops and insurgents in the Baghdad bastion of Saddam Hussein loyalists. Helicopters hovered overhead and US armor rolled towards the site of the fighting and heavy machinegun fire could be heard up to four hours after the blast. Some 63 people were arrested in the raids, including Syrians, Sudanese and Egyptians. The sweeps netted caches of weapons, including rockets, grenades and machineguns which were seized during the raids.
In the early morning hours of 18 September, at 0200 hours (local), Sheikh Hazem al-Araji, rebel Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr's Baghdad lieutenant, and his brother were arrested, at his home in the Baghdad Shiite neighborhood of Kadhamiyah, by US-backed Iraqi security forces. No immediate cause for the action was provided by the Iraqi government.
On 19 September, the new round of talks with the Baghdad City Council and al-Sadr representatives over a 12- point plan to restore peace to the Shiite slums, home to over two million people ended in a deadlock, with fighters loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr refusing American demands to disband and turn in weapons. The plan would also have Iraqi National Guard forces take over much of the security in the east Baghdad slum and limited the movement of US troops to overseeing construction projects.
In an interview with ABC's "This Week," Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi also indicated that disarmament was not negotiable along with the issue that al-Sadr must answer for alleged atrocities committed in Najaf before he can join the country's political process, due to culminate in nationwide elections in January.
Later in the day, on Sunday, an Iraqi militant group, the Mohammed bin Adullah Brigade, paraded 18 recently captured National Iraq Guardsmen in video footage broadcast by Al-Jazeera television with a threat to execute them in 48 hours if Hazem al-Araji, a follower of Shiite radical leader Moqtada Sadr for the Baghdad pilgrimage district of Kadhimiya, was not released. representative of Sadr in the movement's main Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City insisted it had no links to the kidnappers, but seized on the incident to assail the performance of the Iraqi interim government.
The threat from the previously unknown group was a rare resort to hostage-taking by militants from Iraq's Shiite majority. Nearly all of the previous abductions in Iraq's five-month-old hostage crisis have been carried out by Sunni Arab militant groups.
In a change of events, the eighteen Iraqi national guardsmen, threatened with death over the weekend in retaliation for the arrest of a top lieutenant of Shiite radical leader Moqtada Sadr, was freed and released at 1700 hours (local) in the Baghdad bastion of Sadr City. Reliable sources indicate that Moqtada Sadr's Baghdad lieutenant remains in custody.
On 20 September, at 0200 hours (local), pressure continued to build on sources of insurgent activity as a group of US Marines raided the office of Sayed Sadr and arrested Sheikh Ahmed al-Shaibani and Sayed Hosam al-Husseini and a number of other partisans of Moqtada al-Sadr in a predawn raid on the office of the radical Shiite cleric in the central Iraqi city of Najaf.
There was no immediate confirmation from Marines based in Najaf but a senior US military official in Baghdad indicated that he was looking into reports about the operation.
On 21 September, at 0400 hours (local). elements of an Iraqi National Guard
Brigade and multi-national forces kicked off raids which were conducted
throughout the day in nearly every neighborhood of central and eastern
Baghdad. The operations were aimed at making the streets of Baghdad safer, to
allow reconstruction efforts to flourish in the city. As many as 24 suspected
terrorists from the Baghdad Haifa Street area were taken into custody without
a single loss of life to Iraqi Security Forces or multi-national forces. Along
the terrorists, a wide array of weapons and munitions were seized during the
10-hour operation. Weapons captured by raids include: two rocket-propelled
grenade launchers; one 82-millimeter mortar system; two 60-millimeter mortar
systems; 11 AK-47 assault rifles; three multiple rocket launch systems and one
sniper rifle. Munitions captured include: 38 107-millimeter rockets; 17 hand
grenades; 12 RPG rounds; 26 mortar rounds (18 60mm, eight 82mm) and one
120-millimeter artillery round.
Heavy fighting came as US and Iraqi forces searched for weapons caches in the
Shiite stronghold. A US AC-130U gunship raked one area with heavy fire after
rebels loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr opened fire with Rocket
Propelled Grenades. One helicopter was hit by groundfire but managed to return
to its operating base and one tank was disabled by a roadside bomb. At one
point of the battle, US troops took to the slum roof tops to chase down rebels
armed with assault rifles, killing two and capturing three. Hospital officials
indicated that at least 10 Iraqis were killed and 92 injured during the
engagement. No casualties were reported by the military.
The soldiers of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle had to move to one of the rooftop
strongholds after their vehicle was hit by a Rocket-Propelled Grenade and
caught on fire. The bombardments lasted until the daylight with only limited
street fighting. In total, two Bradley Vehicles and one tank were disabled by
insurgent engagements on Wednesday and early Thursday. Military officers,
monitoring the fighting, estimated the Iraqi death toll for the two days at
50. Several soldiers suffered gunshot wounds, but all were expected to safely
recover. US vehicles, in full control, patrolled the slum streets Thursday
On 25 September, Iraqi security forces backed by troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division stormed the mosque Ibn Taymia Mosque located in west Baghdad to search for illegal weapons. The Supreme Association for Guidance and Daawa, a conservative Sunni clerical organization that runs the mosque is made of up of Wahabis, or followers of an austere brand of Sunni Islam practiced mostly in Saudi Arabia, is suspected of having influence over militants waging a 17-month insurgency in Iraq to oust coalition forces and destabilize the US-backed interim authorities. In accordance with procedures, soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division searched only the compound of the shrine and did not enter the mosque. The guardsmen of the Iraqi Security carried out the search of the mosque itself. No weapons were found during the raid.
On 27 September sweeps of Operation IRON FIST-2 continued as air assets of the Division engaged anti-Iraqi forces and positions in eastern Baghdad targeting militant hideouts in Sadr City, a hotbed of insurgents loyal to renegade Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. During the early morning hours the precision airstrikes destroyed four insurgent forces and several enemy positions. Residents indicated that explosions lit up the sky for hours before dawn. Mangled vehicles, debris and shattered glass littered the streets. Following the bombardments, secondary explosions were reported, destroying one civilian vehicle.
In a repeat performance, in the late hours of 27 September, a column of eight US tanks and seventeen Humvees creep up the dimly lit, trash-strewn streets into one of Iraq most tenacious bastions of insurgency - Sadr City. The evening expedition is actually a feint rather than an attack. The planners hoping the oncoming column of tanks and Humvees will draw out the militia to lay roadside explosives and expose themselves to be spotted from the air. The deadly accurate AC-130 gunship, loitering high overhead, can then destroy both the explosives and the fighters.
Above the seething slum of 2 million people, who make up roughly 40 percent of the population of Baghdad, unmanned aircraft known as Predators are spotting for the "insurgents" that the Americans hope will surface from urban hide-outs long enough to be "spotted". Down below, perhaps on rooftops or up dark alleys near the US forces, young men with mobile telephones are watching and warning their fellow insurgents ahead of the column, making surprise of engagement difficult in Sadr City.
The gun-mounted Humvees draw up expectantly in a semicircle in response to an alarm transmitted by the Predators overhead. An AC-130 gunship sails in, high overhead, its spectral outline faintly visible by the light of a three-quarter moon. Then it unleashes torrents of machine gun fire, sounding like a pneumatic drill juddering through the sky, raking an area around the Jolan Club, a ramshackle, abandoned sports complex said to be a favorite al-Mahdi hangout. Radio reports indicate no targets have been hit. Meanwhile, the Humvee-borne soldiers search a five-story building to find a smiling man guarding chickens stacked in freezers. They talk to a shopkeeper who agrees that violence in Sadr City is bad for business, but tomorrow will be another day.
On 28 September, Ft. Hood celebrated homecoming day at Cooper Field for the first elements of the 1st Cavalry Division that returned from serving their full year of duty in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM II, "B" Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment and "C" Company(-) of the 312th Military Intelligence Battalion. Both of the units had been called into action on short notice in September 2003, five months before the rest of the 1st Cavalry Division. "B" Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment had been attached to the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division and "C" Company, 312th Military Intelligence Battalion had been attached to the 82nd Airborne Division and had reinforced other Army and Marine units fighting in the volatile "Sunni Triangle" of Iraq. The returning soldiers, laden with gear and beaming with smiles as they were swarmed by family members who came from across the nation to greet them.
On 29 September, the first members of the 256th Infantry Enhanced Separate
Brigade (LAARNG), following urban warfare training at Ft. Hood, TX and desert
war games at Ft. Iwwin, CA, began deployment out of Alexander, Louisiana for
temporary staging and orientation in Camp Buehring, Kuwait before moving into
Iraq for duty and attachment to the 1st Cavalry Division. The "Tiger" Brigade,
at a staffing level of nearly 4,000, is composed of: "HHC", 256th Infantry
Brigade (Mechanized) (Separate) (LAARNG); "A" Troop, 108th Cavalry Regiment
(Armored) (LAARNG); 1st Battalion, 156th Armor Regiment "First to Fight"
(LAARNG); 2nd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized) "Steel
Lightning" (LAARNG); 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized)
"Bayou Bandits" (LAARNG); 1st Battalion, 141st Field Artillery Regiment (DS)
"Washington Artillery" (LAARNG); 199th Support Battalion (Forward) (LAARNG);
256th Military Intelligence Company (Direct Support); 1088th Engineer
Battalion (Heavy Combat) "Sapper" (LAARNG); "H" Battery, 202nd Air Defense
Artillery Regiment (ILARNG); 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment "Fighting
69th" (NYARNG) and elements of the Minnesota, Washington and Wisconsin Army
Reserve National Guard Units.
Hours earlier, a suicide bomber had killed two Iraqi police officers and a US soldier by blowing up his car near a US checkpoint at a crowded intersection in Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad. The bomb targeted a compound housing the office of the mayor, a police station and other buildings. Around 60 people, including women and children, were wounded. Another soldier was killed in a separate incident when a rocket hit a US logistics base near Baghdad.
On 01 October pre-dawn clashes erupting at 0300 hours and 0600 hours (local) in the squalid neighborhood of Sadr City and claimed the lives of nine members of Shiite radical Moqtada Sadr's Mehdi Army militia and wounded three civilians who were brought in to a local hospital. The US military indicated that there were few incidents over night and nothing that qualified as major fighting.
On 04 October, in parallel with attacks of the US Marines that targeted followers of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Fallujah and Ramadi along with the attacks of the 1st Infantry Division in Samarra to crush a raging insurgency and take back all of Iraq before elections scheduled for January, the 1st Cavalry Division continued the assault on the slum of Sadr City, a stronghold of firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Witnesses indicated that rapid-fire cannons of AC-130 aircraft pounded suspected rebel positions, but there was no immediate word on casualties and the US military indicated that it had no information on the fighting.
On 07 October US aircraft continued their strikes in the districts of Sadr City overnight to neutralize roadside bombs that regularly explode as American patrols drive through the area. Homemade bombs, some concealed on the road, others vehicle-born, are the biggest killer of US troops in Iraq. AC-130 gunships fired into the district's narrow and densely populated streets, which are littered with improvised bombs. The operation came amid talks aimed at ending weeks of clashes between US and Iraqi forces and followers of renegade Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the sprawling northeastern Baghdad slum.
As military operations continued, the Iraqi government was said to be nearing agreement with al-Sadr and his followers on a plan to end the fighting. The framework agreement calls for al-Sadr's militiamen to turn in their weapons in exchange for cash payments and immunity from prosecution for most of them. Iraqi police would take over security responsibilities in Sadr City and American forces would enter the district only with the approval of Iraqi authorities. A government delegation met with tribal leaders from Sadr city and representatives of the movement of al-Sadr to discuss points that needed to be clarified.
Followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr promised the government last weekend. they would hand over medium and heavy weapons for cash in a deal considered an important step toward ending weeks of fighting with US and Iraqi forces in Sadr City. Iraqi police and National Guardsmen will then assume security responsibility for the district, which is home to more than 2 million people. In return, the government pledged to start releasing al-Sadr followers who have not committed crimes, suspend raids and rebuild the war-ravaged slum.
On 09 October soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery and the 304th Battalion, Iraqi National Guard began Operation DIAMOND CUTTER by shutting down all roads leading in and out of the resistive neighborhood of the Al Rashid District of southern Baghdad. The objective of the mission was identify those responsible for 1) planting Improvised Explosive Devices, 2) conducting numerous murders of local nationals working for the 1st Cavalry Division and 3) shelling nearby Camp Falcon.
As the area was being sealed off, other teams began the search of homes for
weapons and material that would link the residents to the now-disbanded
militia of the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Mahdi Militia. The 4th
Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division , attached to the
5th Brigade Combat Team for the operation, searched the eastern half of the
neighborhood, while the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 5th Brigade
Combat Team searched the western half. The two battalions found more than 50
rifles and AK-47s, three hand-grenades, one Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher,
and detained seven suspected insurgents. The two battalions searched nearly
3,000 homes and businesses in the area that day, making it the longest and
largest search conducted by the 5th BCT to date.
Security screens were tight, with numerous checkpoints set up along the way as Iraqi troops were deployed on the rooftops along with US soldiers who also watched from a distance. The residents of Sadr City residents were very responsive, and the process went without any incidents. Iraq National Security Advisor, Kassem Daoud, indicated that police and national guardsmen would begin searching Sadr City the next day, securing the area so that reconstruction activity can start in the city.
On 14 October all companies of 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 5th
Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, along with elements in the 2nd
Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment conducted a large scale cordon and search in
the southern outskirts of Baghdad to minimize anti-Iraqi attacks during the
Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The mission, named Operation MUSTANG SOCKO,
sought terrorists and weapons in this rural sector, mainly populated by
members of the former regime. A significant weapons cache of ten 500-pound
bombs, 100 mortar rounds, seven rocket-propelled grenades, and a sundry of
small arms and other explosives was found in the Marine sector in the southern
most portion of the operation.
On 16 October two pilots of the 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment were killed in a crash, which happened when two OH-58D Kiowa helicopters collided and plummeted to a farm field just south of the Baghdad International Airport. A distorted cry for help came across the emergency radio shattering the chatter of all other communications and alerted two AH-64 Apache Longbow pilots of the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 4th Brigade who were flying a regular night reconnaissance mission around southern Baghdad. The call was from one of the downed pilots who explained that the pilots of the other helicopter had been killed in the crash and that he was trying to move to a defendable position but the other surviving pilot was injured and was unable to walk out of the surrounding farmland which had become a frequent mortar launching site for attacks of Insurgents on the Baghdad International Airport.
Once the crash site was located, the downed pilots were contacted and asked if they were ready for self-extraction. The response indicated that one of the pilots couldn't walk and they would need help getting out of their location. Using the burning helicopter as a beacon, the wingman circled the area to provide cover while the pilot of the other AH-64 Longbow landed his Apache approximately 100 meters from the crash site and, armed with a 9mm and a M4 Carbine rifle, set out to collect the downed pilots. Arriving at the crash site, the pilot found the two wounded crash victims along with the dead pilots who lay nearby in their crashed Kiowa.
The rescue operation of the wounded pair, who were carried back to the waiting Apache over the treacherous 100 meters, turned a little risky when the one semiconscious man was hoisted into the front seat of the Apache and the pilot strapped the other wounded flier and himself to the exterior of the two-seat gunship which was flown to safety about 15 miles to a Combat Support Hospital (CSH) located at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Falcon. In the meantime, ground troops moved into the crash site area and recovered the bodies of the dead pilots along with the helicopter.
On 18 October, Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi announced that the government launched the cash-for-guns program in Sadr City as part of a deal to end weeks of fighting in the Shiite district of Baghdad is going so well he wants to extend it to the rest of Iraq. The announcement came as fresh violence erupted in Baghdad and Mosul. Multiple car bombs over a two-day period claimed at least 12 lives, and a militant group, the Islamic Army in Iraq claimed to have beheaded two Macedonian hostages. Iraqi officials hope that Sunni Muslim leaders in the insurgent-torn city of Fallujah can be persuaded to negotiate a similar weapons buyback deal. But Fallujah, the focal point of the Sunni rebellion, presents a tougher challenge. Hopes that peace talks could resume there quickly were dashed when the city's chief negotiator, Sheik Khaled al-Jumeili, ruled out any quick resumption of talks despite his release Monday from US custody.
Fallujah, considered a major militant stronghold, has been under a wave of aerial and ground attacks by US forces in a bid to root out al-Zarqawi and his group, Tawhid and Jihad who has claimed responsibility for numerous beheadings and suicide bombings, including two attacks on Baghdad's Green Zone last week.If negotiations fail to restore government control to Fallujah, US and Iraqi military leaders are expected to launch an all-out assault on the city. Fallujah fell under insurgent control after the Marines lifted their siege of the city last April.
On 30 October the Army announced that the tour of duty for solders of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, and Headquarters Group of the 1st Infantry Division will be extended at least two months longer than planned, citing a need for experienced troops to provide security for the Iraqi elections scheduled in late January. The Army had originally scheduled those units for 10-month deployments, rather than the usual 12-month tours, to stagger the rotation of forces in and out of Iraq this winter to avoid overburdening transportation systems.
The decision appeared to mark the second time in recent weeks that soldiers of
the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division have had their Iraq deployments
extended. On 04 October the US military command in Baghdad had previously
announced that rather than complete its redeployment to Ft. Hood, Texas, in
December, the Brigade was to begin heading home in January. On Saturday the
Pentagon said these soldiers will begin their return in mid-February, with the
last ones due out by mid-March.
|The 256th Combat Team Vehicles Reaches Camp BlackJack|
By 31 October at Camp Victory North, the sprawling headquarters of the 1st
Cavalry Division, the mess hall and housing trailers were brimming to capacity
with the arrival of the 3,700 plus Louisiana-based 256th Enhanced Separate
Brigade, a National Guard unit that has been rolling into the Iraqi capital
over the past few days. On 04 November, the final stage of their overland
convoy arrived at Camp BlackJack, where the majority of the units will be
stationed to support the Division in maintaining security over Baghdad. The
newly arriving troops, brings the organizational level of the 1st Cavalry
Division to eight brigades with a combined staffing level of over 32,000
soldiers. The arrival of the 256th was supposed to have been timed with the
replacement and departure of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, which had
been scheduled to prepare to return to Ft. Hood, Texas in November, but the
Pentagon delayed the departure of the 2nd Brigade by two months to overlap
with the arrival of the 3rd Infantry Division which arrives for its second
tour of duty in Iraq in late January.
With global and US public opinion polarized over the war in Iraq, Bush vowed to reach out to "those who share our goals" and pointed to the war on terrorism he declared after the 11 September, 2001 attacks as a unifying force. President Bush indicated that he had not yet decided on whether to boost US troop levels in Iraq ahead of elections scheduled for January or resolved how much more money to seek, calling media reports of planned increases in soldiers and costs "pure speculation." "We're on the path to stability," he said. "These elections are important, and we will respond to the requests of our commanders on the ground."
On the home front, President Bush declined to say whether he would draw from opposition Democrats for his Cabinet or seek a consensus nominee for any vacancy on the US Supreme Court. The President vowed to press ahead with tax cuts, curbing lawsuits on health care issues, pursue education reforms, overhaul the US tax code, and partially privatize the government-run Social Security pension system.
In the past three nights leading up to 05 November, long convoys of American soldiers from Baghdad and Baqouba have rolled onto a dust-blown base on the outskirts of Fallujah, a city that has become the symbol of Iraqi resistance. As one of the Army Units on the move, the 2nd Brigade "Black Jack" Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division closed on the Fallujah area and established a new Tactical Operations Center to support the operations of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Forces to bring security and stability to the Al-Anbar Province. Once in position, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team along with the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 25th ID, 2nd Recon Battalion, USMC and the 759th MP Company, who were placed under their Operational Control (OPCON), was charged with sealing off all access roads to the city.
US Army and Marine commanders here have been coordinating plans either to
fight their way into the city or isolate it from the rest of the Iraqi Sunni
Muslim heartland. If they fight, American troops will face an estimated 3,000
insurgents dug in behind defenses and booby-traps. Military planners indicate
that there are about 1,200 hardcore insurgents in Fallujah, at least half of
them Iraqis. They are bolstered by insurgent cells with up to 2,000 fighters
in the surrounding towns and countryside.
On 07 November the initial attack on the outskirts of Fallujah began just after sundown, lighting up the minaret-studded skyline with huge flashes of light. Flares were dropped to illuminate targets, and defenders fought back with heavy machine gunfire. Flaming red tracer rounds streaked through the night sky from guerrilla positions inside the city, 40 miles west of Baghdad. An AC-130 gunship raked the city with 40 mm cannon fire as explosions from artillery lit up the night sky. Intermittent artillery fire blasted southern neighborhoods of Fallujah, and orange fireballs from high explosive airbursts could be seen above the rooftops.
In the morning of 08 November, intense fighting shook Fallujah as F-16
fighters screaming across cloudy skies, dropping bombs that sent up clouds of
black smoke. When air attacks eased, artillery shells rained down on Fallujah.
Cobra helicopters fired rockets and gunfire crackled as US forces peered
through binoculars at guerrilla targets.
By noon Marines, fighting their way into the city, secured an apartment
building in the northwestern corner of the city and began preparations,
clearing the way for a ground assault to retake the Iraqi city from rebels.
Artillery, tanks and warplanes pounded the northern edge of the district,
softening the defenses and attempting to set off any bombs and booby-traps
before ground troops moved in. Flares lit up the sky as tanks and infantry
unleashed a barrage of tank and machinegun fire on a railway station just
As the battle began, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry studied the battle progress in real time using photographs beamed back by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (pilotless aircraft) that they had launched over the city. After a tense day of scouting, at 1900 hours (local) under the cover of darkness, three companies from the 2nd Battalion charged into the Jolan district of Fallujah and breached insurgent defenses by plowing through a railway station on the outskirts of Fallujah's Joulwan district. The role of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry was among the most crucial in the attack. Their team of 650 troopers punched a hole into the city with two dozen Abrams tanks and 30 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Behind them came a flood of Marines and a contingent of Iraqi army troops fighting on foot. The Marines secured the railway station and took up their forward positions there after dark. The 2nd Battalion pushed into the city, continuing their attack while artillery, mortars and air assets continued pounding other parts of the city. They probed the edge of the city with their tanks and dared insurgents to shoot at them and expose their positions.
By the morning of 09 November, Army and Marine units had penetrated the center
of the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, fighting bands of guerrillas in the
streets and conducting house-to-house searches on the second day of a major
offensive to retake the city from Islamic militants. Heavy street clashes were
raging in other northern sectors of Fallujah. The military reported lighter
than expected resistance in Jolan, a maze of alleyways in northwestern
Fallujah here guerillas were believed to be at their strongest. All along the
route troops searched houses for weapons and munitions as the insurgents
retreated before them and examined adjoining alleyways, mindful of snipers
By midday, armored units had made their way to the highway running east-west through the center of Fallujah, locally called Main Street or Highway 10, and by the Americans "Michigan Avenue". This milestone represented a major accomplishment in the north-south drive across Fillujah. Reaching the highway, the forces consolidated their positions before crossing over into the southern part of Fallujah. The sound of bombardments and explosions eased off around 1615 hours (local) after a full night and day of intense fighting between US led forces and insurgents. Explosions could be heard across Fallujah after nightfall as troops and rebels exchanged sporadic fire.
By 10 November the US and Iraqi forces controlled Jolan with its historic labyrinths of crooked streets where Sunni militants and foreign fighters had rigged booby-traps and the neighborhoods of Jeghaifi, Mualimeen and Askali in the north side of Fallujah. In the clearing operations, Iraqi troops have found "hostage slaughterhouses" in the northern part of Fallujah where foreign captives were held and killed along with the black clothing that the insurgents used to wear to identify themselves during filming, hundreds of CDs and whole records with names of hostages.
The forces also held the Rawdha Muhammediya Mosque, headquarters of the insurgent fighters and the mujaheddin shura, the city's self-appointed government. Clashes erupted at flashpoint sites in the Sunni bastion, but other parts of the dusty network of rubble-strewn streets gave way easily to the invading US tanks and infantry as they rolled from north to south. US forces that pushed south through to the central highway of Fallujah overnight now control 70 percent of the city and were moving into the southern strip of territory where guerrillas are bottled up, "The heart of the city".
The insurgents were easily outgunned but tenacious in their fighting, attempting to hold strongholds. The assault pushed insurgents into Shuhada and other neighborhoods in the southern industrial part of the city, where they are fighting and hiding behind apartment buildings and crumbling houses, shooting at the soldiers during breaks in the artillery shelling.
On 11 November the Marines resumed artillery shelling of targets in Fallujah after an overnight lull pierced by sporadic attacks. Loud explosions rocked the city throughout the morning as gunfire reverberated across town in areas that still face some guerrilla resistance. Smoke rose above Fallujah as helicopters hovered overhead. Marines were seen perched on rooftops. Many buildings were heavily damaged with few signs of civilians.
The military estimated 600 insurgents have been killed in the offensive to
date, but acknowledged success in the city won't break insurgency over Iraq.
The huge Fallujah campaign has also sent a stream of American wounded soldiers
to the military's main hospital, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
Planes carrying around 90 wounded troops who will join 125 wounded soldiers
flown there earlier this week.
After sunset Thursday, under the cover of darkness, US soldiers and Marines
launched their main assault across the central highway into the southern half
of Fallujah after air and artillery barrages had pummeled the sector
throughout the day. The assignment of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry was to
move ahead of the Marines and find the hiding places of the insurgents and
destroy them to prevent them from ambushing the Marines. With the command
"advance, destroy everything you can", they move out. Within fifteen minutes they were
under heavy fire from Iraqi resistance in the last place the insurgents could
hide: the tight streets of the Shuhada district on the city's south side.
"Shuhada" translates as "martyrs."
On 12 November major effort was spent on "housekeeping and clearing" operations as heavy fighting resumed in the northwestern Jolan district of Fallajah, where resistance had dwindled in the previous 24 hours. Smoke rose from an ice factory on the edge of Jolan after rebels fired three rockets at US forces. Gunmen emerged on a rooftop beside a mosque as Marine tanks headed for the area.
The Army and Marine units, backed by FA-18 fighter aircraft and AC-130 gunships, moved to tighten their security cordon around the besieged city and turned back hundreds of insurgents trying to flee. US Forces positioned to the west near key bridges blocked rebels from crossing the Euphrates River and began pushing deeper into the southern reaches of Fallujah, cornering militants backed into smaller pockets of the city. US and Iraqi forces now occupy about 80 percent of the city and clearing operations in the north-east and north-west districts are continuing to find major caches of weapons and ammunition. In the last three days 40,000 tons of explosives, along with an elaborate network of escape tunnels, were found in the Jolan neighborhood, the heart of the insurgency.
Tank crews reported that they had driven rebels through a "ghost town" to a southern area which may be a stronghold for foreign militants led by al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In Southern Fallajah, insurgents, in trenches, met advancing US and Iraqi forces with a burst of bullets and rockets in what commanders described as one of the fiercest days of fighting since the battle to retake the city began five days ago. Marines and soldiers indicated that they encountered guerrillas had dug traditional defensive positions, in an area of 1,000 meters by 500 meters, from which they could pop up, shoot and quickly take cover.
By midmorning, in an another big battle in central Fallujah, about 200 to 300
insurgents came from southern neighborhoods to stage an assault at the Rawtha
Mohammediya mosque, which had served as the insurgents' headquarters. It ended
after two hours with their suffering heavy losses and the area is now back
under control by the Marines.
At midday, backed by tanks and artillery fire, US troops launched a major attack against insurgent holdouts in southern Fallujah, hoping to finish off resistance in what had been the major guerrilla bastion of central Iraq. All of Fallujah appeared engulfed in thick, black smoke as the crackle of machine guns and the flashes of fire from muzzles of American tanks arrayed around the city's southern rim. A single minaret stood out against the blackened southern skyline.
The national security adviser of Iraq, Qassem Dawoud, indicated that more
than 1,000 insurgents had been killed and at least another were 200 captured
during in the six day assault of Fallujah. Although eliminating the heavy
concentration of insurgents, one of the side effects of the military
operations of Fallujah is that many rebel fighters and leaders may have left
before the offensive launched on Monday, stepping up in guerrilla activity
across the Sunni heartland since, with fighting in Baquba, Tikrit, Hawija,
Samarra, Ramadi and parts of Baghdad.
On 14 November, Sunday, US and Iraqi forces hunted rebels in the devastated Iraqi city of Fallujah as fighting subsided after a ferocious six-day-old assault. US Marines swept through a last rebel holdout area in the southern quarter of the city that they see as a bastion for foreign fighters loyal to al-Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Tank and artillery fire shook Fallujah for much of the day but by nightfall the noise fighting had died away.
Bands of the insurgent rebels, surviving the heavy onslaught of tons of bombs and shells of the last seven days, are still roving neighborhoods. These holdouts are harassed by US and Iraqi forces who occupy, but have yet to subdue, the entire city. Behind these forces, Iraqi troops are engaged in the painstaking task of clearing weapons and fighters from every room of each of 50,000 buildings that makes up Fallujah.
In recapping the battle planning and execution, several conditions and pre-assault tactics contributed to the overall follow through and timely success of the operation:
On 15 November US forces resumed heavy airstrikes and artillery fire, with aircraft making more than two dozen bombing sorties in Fallujah and surrounding areas as ground forces are moving to corner the remaining resistance in the city. During a pre-dawn raid, one aircraft bombed an underground bunker complex of steel-reinforced tunnels in the very south of Fallujah, which appeared to have been used by rebels to mount attacks. The tunnels connected to a ring of facilities filled with weapons, an anti-aircraft gun, bunk beds, a truck and a suspected weapons cache.
Armored vehicles of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment spread out along streets throughout the Shuhada district and south Fallujah within the last rebel stronghold in Fallujah where scattered resistance remains. Marines hunted down insurgents by encircling neighborhoods in a search for remaining guerrillas who have survived the seven-day offensive. The insurgents in southeastern sections of the city are not coming out to fight. In a last ditch effort, they are laying in wait in groups of four or five inside buildings to ambush US forces searching house to house. In this type of situation the enemy has nowhere to run. Their backs are against the wall. Their only option is to "fight to the death". US troops and Marines are now working their way back from the southern part of the city toward the northern part, sweeping out pockets of resistance and recovering caches of weapons.
Late in the evening, in a summary briefing, it was announced that US troops have secured control of Fallujah, with more than 1,500 insurgents being killed in the offensive and an additional 1,000+ insurgents taken prisoner. Of those taken prisoner, about two dozen were from countries outside Iraq. However this victory was not without a cost in that 38 US troops (Marines - 28, Army - 8, Navy - 1, AirForce - 1) had been killed in action and another 320 wounded along with 6 Iraqi National Guard troops who were killed and 28 wounded in the operation. As of this reporting, there has been no evidence of any civilian casualties, but between 25 to 30 were treated for injuries. Although a hundred percent of the city is secure, US forces are still involved in fighting in portions of the city and are continuing sweeping house-to-house, south to north and east to west, in a final clearing operations.
The Iraqi Red Crescent convoy of four ambulances and four trucks carrying
supplies reached Fallujah General Hospital on the outskirts of the city, but
were unable to go further into the main section of Fallujah due to the
continuing level of hostilities. Civilians, within the battle perimeter who
need medical care, were told, through loudspeakers and leaflets, to contact US
troops in the area. The Red Crescent convoy then moved on to the south in
hopes of entering nearby Amiriah al-Fallujah, where there are civilians who
have fled the fighting. A second Iraqi Red Crescent convoy was expected to
travel from Baghdad to Fallujah with additional food and supplies.
The office of Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi indicated that only about 200 buildings out of 17,000 in Fallujah had sustained major damage. Lesser damage is widespread. Streets are littered with bricks, broken glass, toppled light poles, downed power lines, twisted traffic barriers and spent cartridges. Walls are full of bullet holes. Some homes have had holes blown in walls and doors knocked down doors to search homes and shops.
Most civilians appeared to have fled the city before the offensive. US and
Iraqi leaders gave early warning that the attack was coming. But some of the
residents were determined to stay through the fighting. A few families walked
out of town as the fighting subsided on Monday.
The attacking ground troops provided exact fire control coordinates in their requests for support to cover any concentrations of enemy threat that they encountered in their move forward. Laying in artillery shells to a one meter accuracy, enemy targets of command and control posts, snipers, bunkers, mortar teams and terrorist squads dug into bunkers were quickly taken out. The Battery also fired illumination rounds to provide higher visibility for detailed observations of enemy positions and smoke rounds to conceal ground troops on the move.
On 17 November Marines continued the calls for artillery coverage overnight
and intensified their attacks to ease what they called "clean-up operations"
in Fallujah. The detailed search of occupants that may be trapped in destroyed
buildings (both civilians and insurgents), continued while conducting screens
of security operations to clear the city of weapons and insurgents, as troops
hunted for guerrillas still fighting in the Iraqi city after nine days of
artillery and aircraft bombardment.
While all roads to Fallujah have been blocked, insurgents may still be able to return via old paths and crossing the narrow Euphrates River channels where thick papyrus reeds line both banks, as evidenced by the rush of warplanes streaking through the low-lying clouds shook the city and blasts sent smoke into the sky. The US military indicated that airstrikes Wednesday were concentrated in southwestern Fallujah, destroying enemy positions.
Aircraft launched over Iraq from the USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier,
stationed in the Arabian Gulf, are scaling back their missions over Fallujah
while keeping watch on cities where insurgents may flee. After averaging 38
missions a day over Iraq in the height of the Fallujah assault, the number has
dropped to 24 and is expected to continue at about that level for the next few
On Thursday 18 November, Lieutenant-General John Sattler, Commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Fallujah, declared that US forces had "broken the back of the insurgency" in Fallujah, but troops in the area still faced dangers in the city and guerrillas attacked elsewhere in Iraq.
The US-backed interim government of Iraq also declared the operation a success and held out the prospect of residents being able to return home within days, offering $100 cash to each family and compensation for damage to homes and businesses. While 10 days of fighting had deprived guerrilla groups of a safe haven, a spokesman for Prime Minister Iyad Allawi conceded that many rebels had dispersed, posing threats elsewhere that US and Iraqi authorities would have to counter.
Marine Intelligence reports warned of the "outstanding resilience" of an insurgency based around both former loyalists of Saddam Hussein and Islamists like Jordanian al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Guerrillas would continue to disrupt efforts to set up reliable Iraqi security forces and to hold an election in late January. That would put pressure on US forces, who have already had to return troops from Fallujah to other northern and western areas of the "Sunni Triangle", bounded by the cities of Baghdad, Ramadi and Tirkit where some in the once dominant Sunni Muslim minority fear elections will hand power to Iraq's Shiite majority.
On 20 November, the 1st Cavalry Division faced a wave of violence in areas of Baghdad as insurgents attacked a US patrol and a police station, assassinated four government employees and detonated several bombs. One American soldier died when his patrol came under a coordinated attack and nine were wounded during clashes that also left three Iraqi troops and a police officer dead.
Some of the heaviest violence came in Azamiyah, a largely Sunni Arab district of western Baghdad where a day earlier Iraqi forces, backed by US troops, raided the capital's main Sunni Abu Hanifa mosque as worshippers were leaving after prayers. Insurgents using rocket-propelled grenades and small arms attacked a police station early, killing one policeman. Smoke rose from burning shops along a commercial street. Helicopters circled overhead as ambulances were directed to the scene of the clashes. Nearby, a roadside bomb exploded as a US patrol passed in the Khadra area, wounding two troops. Also in the western part of the city, gunmen in a car chased down a vehicle carrying employees of the Ministry of Public Works on their way to work, opened fire and killed four of them.
In downtown Baghdad, a suicide bomber blew up his vehicle just after noon at an intersection on Saadoun Street, a bustling commercial street. One Iraqi civilian was killed and another wounded in the blast, which sent black smoke rising above the city center and set several cars ablaze.
On 21 November the Iraqi Electoral Commission confirmed the date to hold the national democratic election as 30 January 2006, but violence in Sunni Muslim areas continue to underline the challenge of holding polls on time. Iraqis will go to the polls to choose 275 members of the National Assembly, which, among other things, will draft a permanent constitution. The election is seen as a major step toward building democracy after years of autocratic rule.
The Shiite majority of Iraq, which was long oppressed under Saddam Hussein hopes the election will cement its influence, is insisting that the polls be held on schedule. But many Sunni Arabs want the election to be delayed and say they will boycott it if it goes ahead in January. Insurgents have threatened to disrupt the elections, and the US military indicates that it will raise troop numbers in Iraq by delaying the home-bound deployment of some units.
On 27 November the Electoral Commission of Iraq, in an apparent bid to head
off a possible election boycott, extended the deadline for registering
political parties in Sunni Arab areas where bloodshed is hampering preparation
for the January poll. The areas of Mosul, the third largest city of Iraq, the
Anbar province that includes Fallujah and the Salaheddin province that
includes Samarra and home town of Saddam Hussein, Tikrit, now have until 02
December to sign up.
The engineers deployed to six different sites, destroying the access roads and
bridges using tools engineers normally use on the battlefield: cratering
charges, mine-clearing line charges (MCLCs) and plastic explosives. In all,
the engineers used nearly 15 tons of explosives over the course of the
On 01 December Defense Officials announced that the ground troop strength in Iraq will be increased from 17 to 20 brigades or from a current staffing level of 138,000 to about 150,000 soldiers to provide extra security for Iraqi elections set for 30 January. The increase, which brings the force strength higher than during the initial invasion in March 2003, will be achieved by retaining thousands of soldiers in Iraq for short-term extensions of current yearlong deployments even after their replacements arrive this month and in early January for a previously scheduled rotation.
About 2,500 soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Ft. Hood, Texas will be included in this troop extension. In addition a temporary deployment of about 1,500 elite 82nd Airborne Division soldiers from Fort Bragg, North Carolina to Iraq for an anticipated duration of approximately 120 days along with some short-term deployments of additional specialized troops will support the increased security.
On 03 December the US military kicked off a buildup of forces in Iraq of 12,000 troops as the first elements of two battalions of the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers began departing Pope Air Force base, North Carolina, each with about 750 elite paratroopers to boost security for the Iraqi 30 January democratic elections. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Division, based at Ft. Bragg, will remain on duty, stationed in the Baghdad area of Iraq, for at least three months and temporarily assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. The 2nd Battalion will be attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division and the 3rd Battalion will be attached to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. 1st Cavalry Division. The mission of the 82nd in Iraq is to augment US Army forces providing security for the country's upcoming democratic elections.
Known for their ability to execute a strategic, forcible entry into any area
of the world within 18 hours notification, the 82nd Airborne Division was an
obvious choice to augment the operations of the 1st Cavalry Division in
Baghdad on short notice. This time they were given four days notification. On
04 December the first elements arrived at Camp Stryker near the International
Airport of Baghdad, picked up their armored vehicles and began movement to
their new home in the International Zone of Baghdad. Their prime mission will
be to provide security for US and other coalition officials, freeing up other
American forces to move into the Sunni Triangle and elsewhere to battle
The memorial, which commemorates the 1st Cavalry Division breakthrough, was originally erected in 1976 at the site of the breakthrough. In 1999 it was moved to a government reserve because the original site was on private land. The decision to restore and relocate the memorial was made after a veteran of the Division visited it recently and reported that the monument was falling into disrepair. Since then it has been restored and moved to a more accessible site beside two South Korean monuments to the 38th Parallel crossing, alongside State Highway 3, a few miles north of the town of Tongducheon, South Korea.
On 05 December a joint US-Iraqi cordon-and-search, Operation FALCON FREEDOM, netted several weapons and 20 suspected insurgents. Several hundred 5th Brigade Combat Team, Iraqi Soldiers, and Iraqi Ministry of Interior police officers searched three Al Rashid District neighborhoods, all east of the Al Dora Power Plant and along Highway 5 in Baghdad. Several weapons including three PKC machine guns and three rocket- propelled grenade launchers were found by Iraqi police officers. Numerous AK-47s were also seized. The 20 suspects detained were all of fighting age.Most were detained after a short firefight with Iraqi Soldiers and policemen. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment and 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment worked in tandem with the 304th ING Battalion, providing an outer cordon during the search.
On 08 December the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, Oregon National Guard sent home 60 of the 95 soldiers who have reached their 24-month deployment cap as established by a law enacted by Congress shortly after 11 September, 2001 which limits the active-duty obligation for Guardsmen and Reservists to 24 months within a five-year time span. Many of the soldiers were members of the 1st Battalion, 189th Infantry (ORARNG) who volunteered to fillout the callup of the 2nd Battalion,162nd. Thirty chose to stay in Iraq. Another five were sent back for rehabilitation after battle injuries.
The soldiers who qualified to return home served on the Sinai Peninsula as
part of a Multinational Observer's Force that was established in a peace
agreement brokered between Egypt and Israel in 1979. The soldiers returned to
their civilian lives after completing their deployment in Egypt, but were
mobilized again eight months later for duty in Iraq to fill out the 2nd
Battalion from Cottage Grove, OR. The soldiers have served and fought in some
of the most tumultuous areas of Iraq, including Sadr City, Adhamiyah and Taji,
losing eight soldiers and fifty-one wounded in action. Other elements of the
Battalion have fought in Najaf and in Fallujah with the 2nd Battalion, 7th
On 16 December, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), known as the "Black Jack" Brigade, of the 1st Cavalry Division returned to their usual base of operations at Camp Striker in Baghdad after assisting the 1st Marine Division in their efforts to restore peace and stability to former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah and the surrounding townships. Previously on 26 October, when portions of the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division and 256th Infantry Brigade took over the Black Jack Brigade's area of operations in western Baghdad, the 2nd Brigade had sent the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 15th Forward Support Battalion (FSB) and an artillery battery from the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment to Camp Fallujah. Subsequently on 23 November, the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment moved out and joined the rest of the Black Jack Brigade at Camp Fallujah two and a half weeks after the assault commenced.
Being tasked to the 1st Marine Division, most of the operations the Black Jack soldiers participated in around the Fallujah areas were joint operations involving elements of Marine units such as the 2nd Marine Recon Battalion and the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Army Infantry Regiment. Task organized down to the platoon-level with the Marines, three types of infantry were integrated in the operations: Marine Infantry, the Mechanized Infantry of the 1st Cavalry Division and the Striker Infantry of the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment.
On 23 December the 112th Military Police Battalion, 89th Military Police
Brigade, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division rolled up and cased
their unit colors during a ceremony at Camp Vanguard, Iraq in preparation for
heading home to their home base in Canton, Mississippi after a year long
deployment in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM II. Soldiers of the 112th MP
Battalion were responsible for the security of Iraqi interim government
officials within the International Zone and are being replaced by the 231st
Military Police Battalion, a National Guard unit headquartered in Prattville,
American officials have characterized the November battle as a fight to
liberate Fallujah and have said the people returning have generally welcomed
being free from the grip of the insurgents although the conditions are poor.
Life has slowly improved in recent days as more people go out in the streets
and vendors appear selling fruits and vegetables. People have running water
and electricity for several hours every day. US troops continue to patrol some
parts of the city to search for weapons caches and guerrillas who have
The purpose of the operation was to fortify the palace so it can be used as a base from which to conduct aggressive operations against the insurgents. During the first night, while snipers kept a lookout from the rooftops of nearby buildings, Kiowa Warrior helicopters circled overhead, Bradley Fighting Vehicles rumbled through the surrounding streets as combat engineers from the 82nd worked to build up the palace's defenses. Engineers used cranes to ring the grounds of the palace with massive protective concrete barriers. They also removed trees, set up fighting positions, strung concertina wire and covered the top of the building with camouflaged netting.
The insurgents in the area didn't exactly roll out the welcome mat for their new neighbors. They attacked repeatedly throughout the operation with small arms fire and mortars. Over the following days, the paratroopers continued to reinforce the palace. They stacked hundreds of sandbags in front of the doors and windows, put a machine gun nest on the second floor balcony and established multiple observation posts throughout the area. They also found the time to scrounge up sofas, chairs and other furniture from abandoned houses nearby to make the palace a little more comfortable.
By the end of the week, the mission was accomplished. Although they were still
without heat, electricity and running water, most of the paratroopers seemed
happy with their new living arrangements. Local insurgents may also have been
imagining the same thing. In the days after the palace was occupied and
patrols began hitting the streets, the number of attacks on US forces fell off
dramatically. The paratroopers from "B" Company know they still have a long
way to go before Haifa Street is totally pacified, but they have confidence in
their ability to get the job done.
This latest operation, following a long campaign in November and early
December to root out insurgents that had moved from Fallujah to the southern
sector of Baghdad and northern areas of Babylon, expands and focuses on
eliminating the use of the areas by insurgent forces. The North Babil region
is a new area that has been recently infiltered and used by insurgents as a
haven. Operation TRIPLE PLAY allows the Cavalry and Marines to consolidate
their resources again to clear the area and ensure that no safe haven exists
for the insurgents to rest, band together, establish needed logistics and
regroup to use any of the area or local communities as a platform for
By the end of the operation in Salman Pak, which lasted two days, several terrorist and insurgent targets had been captured and a large weapons cache that included rocket-propelled grenade rounds, RPG launchers, mortar rounds, AK-47 rifles, hand grenades, bomb-making materials and body armor, had been recovered. In order to prevent the escape of those targeted by the raids, no one was allowed to leave town unless it was a medical emergency.
In the predawn hours of 02 January, 2005 several thousand Troopers of the 2nd
Battalion, 12th Cavalry; 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment; Delta Troop, 9th
Cavalry Brigade Reconnaissance of the 1st Cavalry Division and Marines of the
2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit initiated Operation RIVER WALK,
increasing the pressure on insurgents intimidating the residents in Northern
Babil and threatening to disrupt fair elections scheduled later this month.
Moving into positions in the air and on the ground throughout northern Babil
to search for insurgents operating in the area, Troopers and Marines conducted
cordon and knock as well as cordon and search operations in many areas of
north Babil. Eighteen individuals suspected of insurgent activities were
detained and several weapons caches were discovered.
While one of the purposes of RIVER WALK was a general search of the area,
another part was designed to take out specific targets early in the operation.
The Task Force believed anti-Iraqi insurgents had moved into the area of North
Babil after recent military operations in Fallujah and Baghdad put them on the
run. To accomplish this, elements of the battalion's Blackhawk Company, along
with their attached 10th Platoon, Scouts Battalion of Estonian light
infantrymen, moved in on specific targets in the area where they got a tip on
a suspected weapons dealer. A search of the home and grounds of the suspect
yielded a cache loaded with hundreds of mortar rounds and other explosives,
along with over 70,000 assault rifle rounds and a variety of illegal weaponry
and implicating electronic equipment. Seven suspects were detained during the
On 03 January the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division held a fond
farewell ceremony at the Warrior Pad of Camp Taji for a limited number of
solders of the 1st Battalion (Attack), 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Infantry
Division. Deployed to Iraq in early January 2004, soldiers of "Lightning
Attack" had spent two months at the Baghdad International Airport before
relocating to become the first residents of Camp Taji.
Originally intended to be a color casing in preparation for redeployment home,
the ceremony was modified as a farewell to those soldiers going home because,
with elections in Iraq looming on the horizon, more than 100 members of the
1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment volunteered to extend their tour, as an
integral part of the Warrior's lethal agile team, in support of security
concerns. In a gesture rarely seen outside organic Cavalry units, the 4th
Brigade Commander, Colonel James McConville presented the entire unit with a
certificate officially adding the Battalion to the rolls of the "Warriors
Order of the Golden Spurs".
After a brief welcoming ceremony on the Division's parade field, families rushed into the arms of their loved ones. Most of the soldiers were anxious to leave after the initial welcome home hugs. Also waiting to greet the returning Soldiers were five Houston Texans cheerleaders. Texans cheerleaders have been coming to Ft. Hood regularly since before the war started.
On 09 January the Soldiers of Blue Platoon, "B" Company, 1st Battalion, 8th
Cavalry Regiment, 5th Brigade Combat Team embarked on a raid that proved to be
their most successful in their 10 months of previous duty here. The target,
identified by an informant, was a residential home in the Al Doura
neighborhood of Baghdad. Thanks to the intelligence level of the source, the
platoon knew exactly what to expect when entering the house.
The list of suspicious items kept adding up: several handfuls of C4 explosives, bags of nails and marbles for shrapnel, tear gas grenades and gas masks, dozens of disassembled remote control cars, 30 cell phones, 50 Sony Playstations. A beret and armband from the former Iraqi regime's Special Forces gave a clue to the terrorists' former employer.
As an indication that the Iraqi citizens are becoming more involved in identifying insurgents operating in their neighborhoods, on 11 January, local residents provided information on a suspected Improvised Explosive Device and car bomb maker. Following up, the 91st Engineer Battalion currently attached to the 2nd "Commando" Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division conducted a raid in western Baghdad, capturing an individual who possessed several illegal weapons.
On 12 January the string of finding insurgent weapon caches and clearing continued as "E" Company, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, attached to Task Force Baghdad, conducted a cordon and search operation in the town of Lutayfiyah, south of Baghdad, and captured a weapons cache from the residence of suspected insurgents. Later in the day 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division conducted a series of raids in central Baghdad, finding four separate weapons caches and detaining four suspected insurgents during the five hour mission. No armed resistance was encountered during any of the operations
On the morning of 12 January TASK FORCE 1-9 kicked off Operation COPPERAS COVE, named after a small town outside of Ft. Hood, TX, in their quest to bring peace and stability to the volatile Al-Karkh district neighborhoods of Karkh and Sheik Marruf, both of which are known for their hostility-the infamous "Haifa Street" are adjacent to the International Zone of Baghdad.
The operation lasted approximately four hours and involved nearly every unit in TASK FORCE 1-9 Cavalry., including several attached units, such as "B" Company, 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, and "C" Company, 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment of the 39th Army National Guard Brigade out of Arkansas. Almost immediately after arriving in their sector for the operation, "C" Company (Crazy Wolf), 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry raided a mechanic's shop suspected of being used by insurgents to store weapons.
Several hours later, Crazy Wolf found a second weapons cache, this one with a little more variety than the first: ten 82mm mortars, a mortar-tube base-plate and a mortar traverse and elevation wheel. They also discovered three hand grenades, a bag of unknown synthetic material, four pounds of TNT, a roll of detonation cord and various other materials involved in the making of improvised explosive devices, such as wires and batteries. "C" Company], 1st Battalion, 153rd found a few smaller caches as well, mainly small arms and ammunition.
On 16 January, continuing their operations in the Latifiyah area of north Babil, the 3rd Platoon (Roughriders) of Company A, TASK FORCE 2-12 conducted a search in a farming village and came up with the detainment of an improvised explosive device (IED) manufacturing cell. The find contributes to the four-week streak of TASK FORCE 2-12 in finding weapons caches and detaining anti-Iraqi forces in this previously unpatrolled area along the Euphrates River. So far the Roughriders platoon has contributed to the streak by finding over nine significant weapons caches and detaining dozens of suspects during continuous operations in the area that started when the Task Force arrived late December.
Taking down a cell of IED makers might have been a lucky find, but the
Roughriders used their infantry skills to make it happen. They rolled up in
Bradley Fighting Vehicles under the cover of darkness taking the neighborhood
by surprise and sealed it from escape. The team's next tip came when an
elderly man in the village pointed the men out as bad guys. When the names of
these men were checked against a list of known anti-Iraqi forces by an
interpreter, a close match was found. With the help of their interpreter,
the Roughriders made a positive identification of the men, and took another
IED maker off the streets of Iraq.
On 19 January elements of the Iraqi SWAT team, a Reconnaissance platoon of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Force and US Army troops began a fresh offensive aimed at disrupting insurgent activity ahead of national elections later this month by kicking off Operation CHECKMATE in a pre-dawn raid near Jabella, about 50 miles south of the capital.
They swarmed the target, a crop of houses believed to shelter a number of militants and a stockpile of weapons and munitions. Of two dozen military-age men initially questioned, 15 were detained, including a suspected former intelligence officer in Saddam Hussein's regime. The raid force, joined by an additional team of Marines called in to assist in the search, also uncovered a small weapons cache, including 11 rifles and shotguns and 1,500 rounds of ammunition.
In the coming days, many more such raids are planned, as intelligence gleaned
from one mission drives follow-on operations. Despite a recent drop in
insurgent activity in the local area, the commander of pro-Iraqi forces in
northern Babil Province said he has no intention of letting local militants
At approximately 0815 hours (local), a third car bomb exploded southwest of
the Baghdad International Airport. Two Iraqi security guards died and three
others were injured. The fourth attack came at 0830 hours (local), near the
southern checkpoint to the Muthana Airfield. Two Iraqi Army Soldiers and two
Iraqi civilians died in this attack. One Task Force Baghdad Soldier was
wounded. Despite loss of life, a spokesman for the 1st Cavalry Division
indicated that none of the suicide bombers hit their intended targets as all
of the car bombers had been stopped by security forces before they could reach
their intended targets.
The operation meant a lot to the Soldiers of the Task Force, who have been in theater for 14 months, and are scheduled to redeploy early February. It's the biggest weapons cache they've found during their tour, which included turns in Abu Ghraib, Fallujah and most recently Latifiyah.
Many of the armaments were found by Soldiers of the Task Force's attached Estonian, "Stone" and Iraqi Army platoons. On the second day of the operation, Estonian Soldiers found one of the operations more impressive caches using metal detectors and shovels; seven of nine Frog-7B 1,000 kg. warheads. By the second day of the operation the Task Force was finding so many caches that they hired a local Iraqi with a bucket loader to help them dig. In nine hours they had found nearly 700 cases of machine gun ammunition and over 150 spools of detonation cord. On the third day an engineer group came out with some heavy equipment.
The finds continued in great quantities, in that the Task Force's Explosive
Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team ran out of C-4 explosives, used to destroy the
caches, on the second day of the operation. It's impressive to see the EOD
team use a month's supply of C-4 in a matter of days. EOD's supply of C-4 was
replenished and the controlled explosions continued until all caches were
They are protected by flak vests, Kevlar helmets and black ski masks to conceal their identity from insurgents who could recognize them and possibly threaten or kill them or their families. None of their names are used in this report for security reasons. Currently, the main concern of the 303rd Battalion is to ensure a safe place for Iraqis to vote at the 24 polling stations in their area of operation on 30 January. They will be providing security in the streets surrounding the polling stations, as well as the polling stations itself.
Most of the soldiers of the 303rd Battalion are prior-service members, but
wanted to remain in the military to help build a peaceful land for their
people to live. One sergeant said protecting the people of Iraq and ensuring
their safety was one reason he wanted to stay in the Iraqi National Guard. He
indicated that the new government will bring humility to the country, so they
can experience the taste of real freedom.
On 29 January nearly 150 troops from the 1st Cavalry Division Band, soldiers from III Corps and 13th Corps Support Command, who had joined on their return flight, returned to Ft. Hood after a full one-year deployment to a homecoming ceremony and a cheering crowd of family and friends. Cold weather pushed the welcome home ceremony indoors, where well-wishers soon filled the bleachers. Many waved flags or carried homemade signs expressing their joy at their loved ones safe return. Some families even painted messages of support on their car windows.
On 30 January, as scheduled, over 5,200 Iraqi polling centers opened on a chilly, dark morning at 0700 hours (local) amid high security for the first free election since 1953 and the first of the post-Saddam Hussein era. From a ballot that lists 111 parties, coalitions and individuals, voters will elect a 275-member transitional parliament that will serve for one year, produce a new executive staff and, most crucially, oversee the drafting of a new constitution. A separate ballot lists candidates for councils in the 18 governorates, or provinces of Iraq.
In anticipation of an increase of attacks by terrorists, either directly on the occupation forces of the Iraqi electoral process, the 1st Cavalry Division had increased its level of staffing by the attachment or assignment of additional force elements. By election day, the staffing level of Task Force Baghdad had risen to more than 39,000 uniformed members including active duty, reserve, national guard Soldiers, US Marines, and International Coalition Partners or 220 percent over their pre-deployment staffing level.
To minimize violence, Iraq was under a draconian security lockdown. Borders
were sealed, airports closed and only official vehicles allowed on the streets
Polling places were protected by three tiers of security; local police at the
polling site, Iraqi National Guard units manning nearby roadblocks and US
military personnel located at critical support bases throughout the
neighborhoods as backup. With helicopters flying low and gunfire close by, at
least 200 voters stood calmly in line at midday outside one polling station in
the heart of Baghdad. Inside, the tight security included at least four body
On 02 February insurgents struck back with a vengeance following a post-election lull, waylaying a minibus carrying new Iraqi army recruits, firing on Iraqis heading for work at a US base and gunning down an Iraqi soldier in the capital. At least 18 people were killed in incidents starting Wednesday night. The insurgents had eased up on attacks following Sunday's elections, when American and Iraqi forces imposed sweeping security measures to protect the voters.
In the deadliest incident, insurgents stopped a minibus south of Kirkuk, ordered Iraqi Army recruits off the vehicle and gunned down 12 of them. The rebels allowed two of the soldiers to go free and ordered them to warn others against joining the Iraq US-backed security forces. The assailants identified themselves as members of Takfir wa Hijra, an Islamic group that emerged in the 1960s in Egypt, rejecting society as corrupt and seeking to establish a utopian Islamic community. Elsewhere, gunmen fired on a vehicle carrying Iraqi contractors to jobs at a US military base in Baqouba north of the capital, killing two civilians and injuring six.
During the week of 04 February, influential figures among Sunni and anti-occupation factions began to signal their willingness to take part in the process that has followed the election, a recognition by some that the vote may have created a new dynamic force for reconsideration. The Association of Muslim Scholars, one of the most powerful groups, has indicated that it would abide by the results of the ballot, even if it viewed the government as lacking legitimacy. Thirteen parties, including a representative of the Association and other parties that boycotted the vote, agreed Thursday to take part in the drafting of the constitution, which will be the parliament's main task.
The leading Shiite candidate to become Iraq's next prime minister welcomed overtures by groups that boycotted the national elections and declared that he and others were willing to offer "the maximum" to bring those largely Sunni Arab groups into the drafting of the constitution and participation in the new government. However Adel Abdel-Mehdi, the current finance minister and a powerful figure in the coalition expected to dominate Iraq's parliament, rejected a key demand of those groups -- an announcement of a timetable for the withdrawal of the 150,000 US troops currently in the country.
As the groups begin to parley, another issue placed on the table by Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and another top cleric staked out a radical demand that Islam be the sole source of legislation in the country's new constitution. The role of Islam has been at the heart of months of debate between rival parties and factions as well as the US-led occupation authority which administered Iraq until last June.
The role of Islam was a particular sticking point when an interim constitution
was drawn up under the US-led occupation. After often acrimonious debate and
the threat of a veto by US administrator Paul Bremer, the final version
completed in March last year said that Islam should be "a source" (rather
than "the source") of legislation.
The climax of the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrations usually falls on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Mardi Gras in French means "Fat Tuesday." Many soldiers in Iraq get Sunday's off, if their duties allow, so it made sense to hold the parade early. Uniform regulations were suspended for a few hours as soldiers donned jester caps, feathered masks, capes and lots and lots of beads.
Krewe of Bonaparte, which organizes one of the main parades in Lafayette, LA, collected or donated more than 300 boxes of beads, masks and decorations after one the soldiers' relatives made an appeal on a Louisiana radio station. High Pressure Integrity Inc. of Broussard, LA paid the postage to mail it all to Iraq. But from the costumes on hand Sunday, it was clear that many of the soldiers had brought their Mardi Gras best with them when they were deployed last year.
The remaining elements of the 1st Cavalry Division are heavily focused on their security mission while awaiting the results of the Iraqi elections. With the results of the elections nearly complete, the Division is in process of finalizing plans to head back to Ft. Hood, TX. The main body of the 2nd Brigade, which was originally scheduled to return before Christmas, is currently in transit to Kuwait to turn in equipment and is expected to hit US soil in its entirety by the beginning of March. The remainder of the Division is scheduled to begin movement home in mid-February.
The Division is focusing on a smooth Transition Of Authority to the 3rd Infantry Division currently home based at Ft. Stewart, GA. This will be the second deployment for the 3rd Infantry Division - as it was a part of the initial invasion into Iraq in 2003. Lead elements of the 3rd Infantry Division are already in place at Camp Victory planning to take over the security missions as well as the various reconstruction projects, including sewage and water lines, a state-of-the-art landfill, power substations and a program educating citizens about health hazards that the 1st Cavalry has been spearheading.
On 10 February another 178 soldiers, mostly advance party members of the 1st Cavalry Division who will coordinate the return of the Division, were welcomed back to Ft. Hood TX after spending a year deployed in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM II. Their plane touched down about 1300 hours (local) at Gray Army Airfield on West Ft. Hood. They were greeted by excited family members about an hour later after arriving in six buses at Cooper Field parade ground. Division officials indicated that the majority of the next units to arrive in the coming weeks will be from the 2nd Brigade, which deployed in January 2004. About two flights a week are expected. The pace is expected to pick up going into March as the all the remaining brigades are scheduled to return home by the middle of March.
On 12 February cheering families welcomed another group of 1st Cavalry Division soldiers back from Iraq. The aircraft, carrying the troops, arrived at Robert Gray Army Airfield about 1330 hours (local). An hour later, as they marched across the parade field of the Division toward the excited crowd waiting in front of the headquarters building at Ft. Hood, the drizzle that had been threatening the festivities turned into a steady downpour. However it had no effect on the tremendous homecoming celebration each received.
On 13 February the long awaited Iraqi election results were made public. The Shiite Muslim ticket received more than 4.075 million votes, or about 48.2 percent of the valid 8.5 million cast ballots for 111 candidate lists in the landmark 30 January election, giving the long-oppressed group significant power but not enough to form a government on its own. A Kurdish alliance was second with 2.175 million votes, or 25.7 percent, and Prime Minister Allawi's list finished third with about 1.169 million, or 13.8 percent. A ticket headed by the country's president Ghazi al-Yawer, a Sunni Arab, won only about 150,680 votes - or 1.8 percent.
The election commission indicated that parties have three days to lodge complaints before the results are considered official and assembly seats are allocated. The Shiites will likely form a coalition in the 275-member National Assembly with the other top vote-getters, the Kurds and Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's list, to push through their agenda and select a president and prime minister. The president and two vice presidents must be elected by a two-thirds majority of the Assembly.
The new premier will then be tasked with choosing a cabinet that has to be approved by a majority in parliament. According to the interim constitution, the new National Assembly has to write a permanent one by 15 August, but the parliament speaker and a majority of the chamber can decide on a non-renewable six-month extension. If the initial deadline is met, the country's new basic law will be submitted to a referendum on 15 October before polls for a new constitutionally-elected government are held on 15 December.
To keep the hunt for terrorists "On Target", the US Central Command publishes an updated list of the 29 most-wanted supporters of insurgent groups in Iraq, their alleged roles, and the rewards offered for them. Legalizing the "rouge" status of the terrorists, the Iraqi Government has issued arrest warrants for all on the list, which included the following individuals:
On 15 February attached units of the 1st Cavalry Division joined elements of the Division in a set of raids on suspected insurgents across central Iraq in an effort to end the frequent bombings and ambushes taking a high toll on Iraqi security forces. West of Baghdad, the 256th Infantry Brigade, Louisiana National Guard detained another 10 suspects during a four-hour operation that concluded before dawn. Around the notorious Haifa Street of Baghdad, insurgents and troops exchanged automatic-weapons fire in a gunbattle that lasted about 15 minutes. In an area 25 miles south of Baghdad, a sweep through Latifiyah netted 35 suspected insurgents. Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division brought in three suspects after raids in central Baghdad that ended just before midnight.
On 17 February the first wave of the main body, 233 soldiers from the 3rd
Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, 2nd Combat Brigade, having been deployed 14+
months, arrived at Robert Gray Army Airfield at about 0930 hours (local). The
flight was the first one to come directly from Kuwait without a customs stop
in either Bangor, Maine or Dallas, Texas. Once off the plane, the soldiers
boarded buses that took them directly to the manifest site where they turned
in their weapons and scanned their identification cards to officially end
their combat tour of duty. Their buses picked them up again and delivered them
to a crowd of loved ones, bearing banners, cameras and roses who greeted them
with hugs and kisses. Each soldier gets an immediate 3 day pass before
attending 10 half-day reintegration training sessions. At the end of the
sessions, each receives an optional a 30 day pass to spend time with their
families before rejoining their unit.
For months, a group of Louisiana National Guard Soldiers of the 256th Brigade Combat Team, also known as Task Force Bengal, has been training Soldiers of the 40th Infantry Brigade of the Iraqi National Guard on combat and staff operations. Coalition Forces will continue to advise the brigade, but the areas will be under complete Iraqi control.
The ceremony was shadowed by clouds as well as mourning over sacrifices made by ING soldiers during the democratic elections. Following the Transfer of Authority (TOA), Major General Peter Chiarelli presented a plaque to Jaleel in memory of those men who gave their lives on 30 January to ensure that all Iraq was free to cast their vote in the first democratic election. Fourteen members of combined security forces, including ING Soldiers and Iraqi Police, were killed trying to protect their people during the election.
On 25 February at 1330 hours (local), following a stopover in Shannon, Ireland
and Bangor International Airport, the aircraft carrying the last members of
the 2nd Brigade touched down at Robert Gray Airfield. The long-awaited flight
came 23 days after the troops arrived in Kuwait. The soldiers and their gear
were inspected by customs in Kuwait.
Under Saddam, al-Hassan served as head of the dreaded General Security Directorate, which was responsible for internal security, especially cracking down on political parties that opposed Saddam. Al-Hassan had been accused of torturing and killing political opponents when was head of the body. He later became a presidential adviser, the last post he held in the former regime.
He appears as the Six of Diamonds in the set of playing cards issued by the US military authorities to help capture the most wanted leaders of Saddam's former regime and is No. 36 on the revised list of the 55. Her was also recently listed among a group of 29 most-wanted supporters of insurgents in Iraq with a $1 million bounty on his head. Friday's capture was the 45th fugitive of the most wanted list to be placed in US custody. Those still at large are listed along with their priority as follows:
This deployment of the 3rd Infantry Division is its second tour of duty of Iraq since taking part in the invasion in 2003, spearheading coalition forces attacks as it fought its way to Baghdad. The First Team has had major elements in Iraq since relieving the 1st Armored Division in 2004. Now, after more than a year serving as Task Force Baghdad headquarters, 1st Cavalry Division is now heading back to Ft. Hood, TX for a well-deserved break. Symbolic of the final step in the Change of Command, with the famous giant crossed-swords statues looming over the parade grounds, the colors of the 3rd Infantry Division were uncased as the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division were furled and cased to be taken back with the Division to Ft. Hood.
On 04 March the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Calvary Division passed responsibility for the International Zone to the 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division in a Transfer Of Authority ceremony at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Prosperity, Iraq. In the transfer the 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division replaced two Brigades, the 3rd BCT and the 5th BCT mainly because of its increased capabilities at the brigade and battalion level. In its new assignment, the 4th Brigade will cover a large area of operations. It will be responsible for the International Zone, the seat of government power and the area south from the Tigris River to the Baghdad International Airport.
On 06 March the 39th Brigade Combat Team, composed of almost 4,000 soldiers
from 47 towns throughout Arkansas, began redeployment from Iraq to the
embarkation port in Kuwait and the long road back to Ft. Sill, OK where they
will undergo orientation and be demobilized before returning to Little Rock,
AK. The 39th Brigade also included the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Task Force,
its lone active-duty element, along with other Army Reserve Components from
nine other states and a Macedonian special forces platoon. Counting a
five-month training-up stint prior to the overseas deployment to Iraq, most
troops will have been away from home for about 18 months. On 09 March the 39th
Brigade Combat Team officials quietly passed the control of the Taji
Operational Area of Responsibility to the 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division in
a low-profile Transfer Of Authority ceremony at Camp Taji, Iraq. Their
operational area extended about 20 kilometers north of Taji and south into
Baghdad, down to Sadr City and east of the Tigris River.
Also on 08 March 250 members of the 153rd Infantry, 39th Infantry Brigade began arriving at Ft. Sill, OK from the nearby Lawton Airport. The bus convoy drove to the Rhinehart Physical Fitness Center, where families and military officials gathered inside to welcome the soldiers back to the states. After getting off the buses, the soldiers lined up in formation and marched into the gym before being released to their families. The soldiers who arrived at Ft. Sill must remain for seven days of demobilization before they can go home or take special buses that will drop them off at armories across Arkansas. Once back in Arkansas, they will receive a three-day pass to spend time with their families before having to return to the armories for four more days of processing and paperwork before completing the transition to their civilian lives.
On 14 March the 1st Cavalry Division welcomed home 1,800 soldiers arriving on half a dozen flights to Ft Hood. Flights arrived throughout the day and into the evening, with hundreds of families and friends crowding the field waiting to see their loved ones. Many of the groups were trailing units such as the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, that marched across Cooper Field to the loud screams of the onlookers, completing the organizational return of the 1st Brigade. Major General Peter Chiarelli, the Division Commander, briefly welcomed the soldiers home before releasing them to the waiting crowds of relatives and friends.
On 15 March, at approximately 2148 hours (local), personnel from the 39th
Brigade Combat Team consisting of the trail party and a security element of
the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, Oregon National Guard left Baghdad, Iraq,
thus completing the 39th Brigade Combat Team's Mission during Operation IRAQI
On 23 March additional units of the 1st Cavalry Division comprised of 200 soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment and the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment arrived home to Ft. Hood shortly after 1000 hours and were well received at Cooper Field by a screaming crowd of family and friends.
The 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment spent much of its year attached to the 39th Infantry Brigade, an Arkansas National Guard Unit, in Iraq performing patrols through two Shia insurgencies in Sadr City. During that period, the soldiers engaged countless enemies and participated in several firefights throughout the city as well as playing a significant role in the taking down the cities of Najaf and Fallujah.
After briefly welcoming home the soldiers, the Division Commander, Major General Peter Chiarelli, released the soldiers to their families to enjoy a three-day weekend. Later in the afternoon, the First Team gathered for a second welcoming home ceremony for soldiers of 13th Signal Battalion, 8th Engineer Battalion, 312th Military Intelligence Battalion, 15th Finance Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Brigade Combat Team, and the 5th Brigade Combat Team.
On 25 March thirteen buses departed Fort Lewis, Washington loaded with nearly seven hundred citizen-soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, Oregon Army National Guard from 10 armories located along the coast and the Interstate-5 Corridor. As the busses crossed the Oregon-Washington border, they were joined by an Oregon State Police escort.
The 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry spent a year in Iraq, assigned to the 39th Infantry Brigade conducting stability and support operations in and around Baghdad, Taji and including Sadr City, one of the most explosive communities in Iraq until Muqtada al Sadr, an influential cleric in the region, ordered his followers to cease opposition to coalition forces. During the deployment, soldiers from the battalion participated in the pivotal battles for Fallujah and Najaf, and the assisted in the round up of insurgents and weapons caches in the Babil area south of Baghdad.
On 28 March more than 100 members of "A" Company, 28th Signal Battalion
(PAARNG), formally assigned to the 39th Infantry Brigade, arrived home in the
afternoon to a crowd of friends and family who have awaited their return from
Iraq for more than a year. The 115 soldiers stepped off the flight of the
American Airlines 757 to be greeted with handshakes from commanders, a color
guard and salutes from local veterans before assembling in formation inside
the 911th Air Force Reserve Base's Hangar 418 amid deafening cheers from the
It was a scene that had been repeated 70 times in the last two months, but this flight was special. This was the final flight carrying 1st Cavalry Division troops home from Operation IRAQI FREEDOM II. In more than two years, 1st Cavalry Division was once again whole and at home at Ft. Hood in Central Texas. Greeted by cheers and a rainbow of welcome-home banners, the final 182 soldiers to return to Ft. Hood marched across Cooper Field and into the arms of their families and teammates.
While the flight of Saturday was the final welcome home for this round of ceremonies, not all of the soldiers of the First Team are back in Central Texas yet. A small unmanned aerial vehicle platoon from the 312th Military Intelligence Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division is still in Iraq and will remain there for the next two to three months.
Having the Area of Responsibility for stability and support operations in and
around the capital of Iraq, Baghdad, the 1st Cavalry Division did much to
rebuild Iraq during its more than yearlong tour there, including sponsoring
14 Iraqi police academies, rebuilding 600 schools and completing more than 70
electrical projects. During their deployment, approximately 1,500 of its
member soldiers were wounded and 170 were killed. A memorial honoring the men
and women who gave their lives in support of the mission of the First Team
will be dedicated later this year.
Speaking to a crowd full of America's combat veterans, including some 1st Cavalry Division soldiers still in the desert camouflage uniforms they wore during the recent deployment to Iraq, President Bush thanked the troops and their families for the sacrifices they endured to make the world a better place.
Bush indicated in his comments that a statue of Saddam Hussein that stood in Baghdad was pulled from its pedestal to the ground on the day American Commanders declared that the regime of Saddam no longer ruled in the country. "The toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad will be recorded, alongside the fall of the Berlin Wall, as one of the great moments in the history of liberty".
The crowd of over 25,000 remained somber and silent for much of the speech as Bush talked about the plight of Iraqis and soldiers who have aided them. They let out affirmative "Hooahs" loudly as Bush mentioned various base contingents who had contributed.
President Bush wrapped up his visit with lunch with the soldiers stationed at
Ft. Hood, the largest active-duty armored post in the military. The President
made his way through the mess hall serving line, piling a plate with fried
chicken, collard greens and macaroni and cheese. Later, he met privately with
the families of the soldiers who were killed in the recent actions before
leaving the base to board Air Force One and return to Washington, DC.
The Soldiers were led by III Corps and Fort Hood Commander Lt. General Thomas
Metz and his command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey. The
Soldiers were from the 1st Cavalry Division, 13th Corps Support Command, 3rd
Signal Brigade, 504th Military Brigade, 89th Military Police Brigade and
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, III Corps. The group also included
Soldiers from the Army Reserve and Texas Army National Guard, based out of Ft.
Worth, Texas, who marched with their III Corps counterparts. Also
participating were four AH-64 Apache gunships that conducted a flyover during
the 30-minute pre-race salute. Adding an appropriate ceremonial touch was the
4th Infantry Division Ironhorse Band and color guard. The band played a
concert of military songs and marches for race fans prior to the welcome home
ceremony. Following the emotional event, the Soldiers and their families were
escorted to a specially constructed grandstand in turn three. From that
exclusive position, they watched the action-filled 500-mile race as they
munched on food and drink, all provided free of charge courtesy of the
|Uncasing The Colors Marks Official Return Of The Division|
On 25 May the 1st Cavalry Division marked the official return from Iraq by uncasing its colors in a ceremony held on Cooper Field Parade Grounds. More than 2,500 soldiers, representing all of the units of the Division, were in attendance. The colors had been cased since 27 February when the Division transferred the authority of the Baghdad Mission of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM II to the 3rd Infantry Division. During the ceremony the many accomplishments and sacrifices of the Division while in Iraq were highlighted. Deployed under the designation of Task Force BAGHDAD, the Division established and operated from 40 Forward Operating Bases (FOB) throughout the Iraqi capital city. Carrying out their mission, they came in direct contact with the terrorists, battling enemy forces more than 935 times, which included subversive attacks by small-arms fire, mortar, Rocket-Propelled Grenades and Improvised Explosive Devices.
During the deployment 2,508 combat badges and 175 medals for valor, including two Silver Stars along with 1,900 Purple Hearts, were award to 1st Cavalry soldiers. The ceremony also served as a grim reminder of the cost of defending the freedoms of the country in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM-II as the cannons were fired to honor the loss of its 169 members who gave their lives in their service.
On 08 June, long before the sun rose, the 1st Cavalry Division was holding the final welcoming home ceremony for a group of troopers returning from Iraq, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle platoon of the 312th Military Intelligence Battalion, who had been deployed in Iraq for the last 12 months on a special detached mission. Sixteen Soldiers from the platoon composed the last group of First Team troopers to return. Four others from the platoon, still on their way back to Ft. Hood on two other flights carrying the equipment of the platoon, followed the main group. The platoon had deployed to Iraq last June, after the bulk of the Division, and remained there for several months after the Division returned to Ft. Hood. The group was originally expected to return 05 June, but their departure flight to Ft. Hood was bumped back several times.
On 14 June anniversary celebrations of the Congressional resolution that
created the 230th "American Continental Army" in 1775 were in full swing at
Ft. Hood, TX, across the United States and in deployed operations across the
world. At the Pentagon celebration in Washington, DC, Defense Secretary Donald
H. Rumsfeld praised Soldiers serving for the United States. Highlighting the
modular organizational changes currently being made by the Army. he said "the
Army's story is America's story. The Army continues to change with the times,
making it more mobile, flexible and more innovative as it tackles future
challenges in executing its mission". At Ft. Hood, thousands of Soldiers
gathered to participate in a post-wide run conducted by all major Divisions
which ended with several birthday cake cutting ceremonies. True to military
tradition, the oldest and youngest Soldier cut the birthday cake upon
completion of the run.
The unveiling, during the 58th annual reunion of the 1st Cavalry Division Association, came nearly 40 years after 20 July, 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson announced to the United States that he had ordered the "Airmobile Division" to Southeast Asia. In less that two months, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) arrived in South Vietnam at the seaport of Qui Nhon. It was newly organized with nine infantry battalions that were airmobile, an air reconnaissance squadron, and six artillery battalions. A linchpin of the organization of the Division was the 11th Aviation Group which was made up of three aviation battalions.
Within two months after arriving, the Division engaged in the first major
battle between United States and North Vietnamese forces in the Ia Drang
Valley. Later in 1968, units of the Division relieved the embattled US Marines
at Hue during the Tet Offensive. The Division was awarded the Presidential
Unit Citation and 25 of its troopers received the Medal of Honor during the
seven year campaign.
Recalling the 11 September, 2001 attacks and suggesting that the United States faces an enemy that has made Iraq the central front in the war on terror as fighters have been captured from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and other nations. He described the insurgents in raw terms, calling them "ruthless killers who commit savage acts of violence. Despite their violent campaign, the terrorists are no closer to achieving their strategic objectives."
Marking the first anniversary of the transfer of power from the US - led coalition to the interim government of Iraq, President Bush cited advances in the past year. These included Iraq elections of this year, on 30 January, that drew 60 percent of the 14 million eligible men and women voters; improvements to roads, schools, health clinics and basic services like sanitation, electricity and water; and gains in the number and quality of Iraqi security forces who "are proving their courage every day."
He expanded on the new steps the military is taking to prepare Iraqis to take over the major role of the anti-insurgency battle, conducting operations together with Iraqi units, embedding US transition teams inside Iraqi units and intensive management training inside the Iraqi Defense and Interior Ministries. The President also noted that more countries had stepped forward with assistance and that the United Nations is helping Iraqis write a constitution and conduct their next elections. Iraq faces the next milestone in its rocky transition to democracy on 25 August, the deadline to produce a draft of a new constitution.
In his closing remarks, President Bush sought to bolster troop morale by asking all Americans to mark the 04 July holiday by flying the flag, writing letters to soldiers, or helping a military family with someone deployed.
Perhaps Shakespeare said it best - "All is well that ends well" or will this turn out as in "Lawrence of Arabia", where, under the leadership of a British liaison officer who rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Thomas Edward (T.E.) Lawrence, the Mideast Arab Territories gained their liberation from the Turks and won the war with the Otterman Empire.
The lawyers and diplomats, who later came wearing silk hats and carrying brief cases, instead of helmets and weapons, forced the retirement of T.E. Lawrence. In the aftermath of World War I, they faced tribal uprisings, terrorist attacks and a jihad proclaimed from the Shiite holy city of Kerbala and nearly lost control of Iraq in the quarrelling over their self interests in the spoils. The situation stabilized in 1921, only after the British had suffered over 2,000 casualties.
As you journey through the history of the 1st Cavalry Division and its assigned elements, you may find it interesting enough to send a message to your friends and extend them an invitation for the opportunity to review the rich history of the Division. We have made it easy for you to do. All that is required is for you to click on the Push Button below, fill in their eMail addresses and send.
|The TITLE and URL of this WebSite are automatically read, formatted and entered into your standard eMail form.|
Note - The eMail Message is processed and transmitted On-Line to the
addressee(s) via your Internet Provider.|
Need a gift for an Alumni of the 1st Cavalry Division?
eMail Your WebSite Comments.
Return to "MyOwnPages"©.
Revised 07 Jan '13 SpellChecked