January 13th, 2007 06:20 EST
Iraq Security and Coalition Forces conduct major offensive
KIRKUK — As the first morning light peaked over the desert horizon, helicopters landed onto fields outside their objective.
Simultaneously, dozens of tactical vehicles crawled into position. The air and ground assault into this deceptively quiet region of the Kirkuk Province was under way, and would yield impressive results.
Recently, hundreds of Iraqi Security and Coalition Forces isolated, cleared and assessed eight villages in the northern part of the Rashaad Valley just outside Kirkuk, during a joint, coordinated air and ground operation.
The Rashaad Valley borders the southern end of the city of Kirkuk. The valley is home to thousands of Iraqis in dozens of small villages.
The northern end of the valley is partially wedged between two roadways that provide primary access into Kirkuk. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried under and beside these roads are frequent hazards. Those responsible for much of the IED activity live among citizens within the targeted villages, according to Capt. Jonathan Graebener, company commander, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
“There’s a lot of enemy activity in the form of IEDs and other criminal cells that operate in the area,” explained Graebener. “Additionally, this particular location doesn’t receive a lot of attention from the government in terms of infrastructure repair and other basic needs because of the poor security situation,” he continued.
“The goal was to go into these villages to disrupt, detain and capture IED cells and networks, and to make an assessment of the eight villages for future civil military operations.”
This complex mission required the coordination and synchronization of hundreds of Iraqi Security force and Coalition force personnel, and dozens of assets.
The Iraqi Army’s 2nd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 4th Army Division set up pre-dawn blocking positions around the objectives to monitor traffic in and out of the area while more than 100 officers with the Iraqi police’s elite Emergency Services Unit integrated with Coalition forces to conduct the air and ground operation, according to Capt. Ryan Nacin, battalion task force fire support and assistant plans officer, 2-35.
“Alpha company 2-35 was the main (Coalition force) effort for both the air and ground operation,” said Nacin. “However, (among other specialty units attached to us) the operation included our battalion command and control element, a quick air reaction force platoon from Bravo Company, a mortar platoon from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, a security element from Delta Company and route clearing teams from our Brigade Special Troops Battalion,” he said.
In addition to these ground elements, aviation attack, reconnaissance and troop transport assets were provided by 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, and equipment and personnel from 25th CAB’s 2nd and 3rd battalions.
“One goal was to clear (the area) of the overt enemy presence which included IED emplacer cells. Doing so will create a more permissive environment for us to work in,” said Lt. Col. Michael Browder, battalion commander, 2-35.
“The other piece is the civil military operation,” continued Browder. “We linked up with village elders, leaders and other people of influence to develop a better sense of these towns to assess their needs.”
Such assessments revealed that some of the primary issues were as simple as fixing a broken water pipe to better supply clean water and refurbishing existing schools and health clinics.
“The whole operation was successful on many levels,” said Browder. “We captured and detained a number of people of interest. We detained a number of IED emplacers which helps us identify the IED cells in the area. We cleared and recovered several IEDs from roads. We made contact in every village. We conducted our civil affairs assessments. And we collected enough evidence to put some IED cell members in jail for a long, long time.”
(By Spc. Mike Alberts, 3rd Brigade Public Affairs)