Capt. Dan McConnell
2nd Bn., 14th Inf. Regt. 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) battalion adjutant
CAMP DRAGON, Iraq — The year was 1969; members of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment “Golden Dragons,” were conducting boat operations along the swamps and waterways of Vietnam. An After Action Report, dated March 10, 1969, stated the purpose of the operations were to “destroy enemy forces, interdict movement and uncover supply caches.”
Thirty-seven years later, the Golden Dragon Soldiers are conducting boat operations in combat for the first time since Vietnam. Soldiers from Task Force 2-14, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), will be conducting waterborne operations along the Euphrates River - similar to what the unit did in Vietnam.
This time, the focus of the Golden Dragons will be to prevent the insurgents’ ability to cross the Euphrates River into the battalion’s area of operations and to search for enemy weapons caches on nearby islands and the shoreline on the far river bank which was previously inaccessible.
“Our unique partnership with the 502nd Engineers and its floating bridge MK II boats allow us to apply an innovative approach to surprise and envelop terrorists and prevent them from continued smuggling of weapons and foreign fighters into the Euphrates River Valley tribal lands.” said Lt. Col. John Valledor, commander of 2-14 and native of Fort Drum, N.Y., as he described the aim of the Golden Dragons’ waterborne operations.
The Euphrates River has been an active crossing point for insurgents since the Golden Dragons seized the large Yusufiyah Thermal Power Plant complex southwest of Baghdad, a former safe haven and base of operations for the Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Soldiers of Task Force 2-14 quickly established a strong presence in the area about a month ago, drastically reducing the enemy’s ability to organize attacks against the local Iraqi citizens and coalition forces in the area.
The Golden Dragons continue to use all available means to restore peace in the region setting the stage for a seamless and peaceful transition of authority to the Iraqi Army in the future.
Soldiers from 2-14 constantly interact with the local population in order to defeat the emplacement of roadside bombs, gain actionable intelligence on the insurgency, and find weapons caches. Taking to the water is just the next step for the Golden Dragons in their pursuit of the enemy.
Maj. Joel Smith of Brisbane, Australia, the battalion operations officer, describes the effect the Golden Dragons are having on the area.
“The seizure of the power plant by the Golden Dragons has blocked insurgent movement along the Eastern Euphrates River Valley. Our presence forced the anti-Iraqi forces to flee to the west side of the river,” he said. “These boats will give us the freedom to reduce the last remaining insurgent safe haven in our area and demonstrate to the people of Iraq that we take every measure to eliminate AIF presence in their country.”