Thursday, January 18, 2007

Iraqi, U.S. Soldiers clear village, find caches

JANABI VILLAGE, Iraq — Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment Military Transition Team have been working – as has the entire 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) – to get the Iraqi soldiers trained to enable them to take over Iraq’s security themselves.
So the success of the recent joint operation Jan. 15 which put the entire 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division together with Soldiers of the 2-15 and the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, was a victory not only against terror, but for the soldiers themselves.
“This is the best Iraqi army unit I’ve worked with,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Myers, a native of Gasport, N.Y., who serves on a MiTT, to one of the Iraqi soldiers. “You guys are motivated.”
Some troops air-assaulted into the village under cover of darkness, while the main force convoyed to the village, marching in at first light to search houses and fields, seeking weapons caches and suspected terrorists.
Over 600 troops participated in the operation.
“It went very well for such a large operation,” said Capt. Art Stringer, a native of Dardanelle, Ark., and the Field Artillery Effects Trainer, who planned much of the mission.
“It was a complex operation – the joint air assault, and a large ground assault. Once on site, we used Task Force Iron Claw, engineers and explosive ordnance disposal, and they all combined very well,” Stringer said.
“Any time you can let the Iraqis test their boundaries, it’s good,” he said of the IA involvement. “It’s their battle space, and it helps them build confidence in themselves and in the U.S. forces.”
The operation, two weeks in the planning, netted 87 detainees, 12 of whom were on the IA blacklist, and several large caches of weaponry, which included rocket-propelled grenades and launchers. A large cache of improvised explosive device making materials was also recovered, which included cell phones, wire and other hardware.
One of the IEDs discovered was a pipe six inches in diameter and 42 inches long, filled with homemade explosive. A detonation cord was implanted in it as a fuse.
“We’re talking about a catastrophic IED,” Stringer said of the device.
Some residents directed the troops to the homes of suspicious people.
“We got information on two of the guys on the blacklist,” said Myers. The squad he was with interrogated a man who gave them the information.
“The Iraqi Soldiers are very motivated,” Myers said. “They’re doing a lot better than they were at first; they’re doing more complex missions. They need some more experience with map reading and such, but they did an excellent job creating a secure perimeter. They’re doing well.”
1st Lt. Bobby Temple, a native of Atlanta, Ga., concurred.
“They’ve got good situational awareness,” he said. “Our navigational and communications assets are still essential to them - they don’t have global positioning systems or even maps, but they’re doing better. And once they’ve been to a place, they can get there again, no problem.”
The Iraqi army took a very active role in the searches and planning, Stringer said.
“The mentorship the U.S. forces are giving the Iraqi soldiers is very helpful. We’re seeing a great increase in their ability from the hard work of our guys,” he said.
“Without the effort of the Iraqi army being reciprocated, we couldn’t do this.”

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