November 17th, 2007 04:22 EST
Operation Marne Courageous
BAGHDAD – Operation Marne Courageous began Nov. 16 in a joint effort of Coalition Forces, Iraqi Army and Concerned Local Citizens near the border of Anbar province to drive out al-Qaeda in Iraq.
More than 600 Coalition Forces, approximately 150 Iraqi Army Soldiers, and approximately 70 Concerned Local Citizens went into two villages neighboring the border of Anbar province to lay groundwork for a coalition presence.
Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), were joined by IA Soldiers in the air assault on the Sunni villages of Owesat and al Betra, west of the Euphrates River and approximately 15 miles southwest of Baghdad.
Troops were transported in four helicopter lifts across the Euphrates, utilizing two CH-47 Chinook helicopters and eight UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. A Marine reconnaissance platoon, as well as Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, stationed in neighboring Anbar province, secured the landing zone.
Once on the ground, the U.S.-Iraqi force was supported by an air-weapons team of Apache and Kiowa helicopters, while the Concerned Local Citizens assisted in securing the outlying perimeter.
While U.S. and Iraqi forces moved through the villages, other troops set to work constructing a bridge across the Euphrates to allow for the transport of materials and supplies to build a patrol base in the area. The base will allow for a sustained Coalition presence in the area of Owesat, part of Baghdad’s southwestern “belts.”
No enemy fighters were killed or captured during the assault.
Prior to the air assault, U.S. F-16 fighter jets dropped two 2000-pound bombs on an island in the Euphrates that was believed to be used by AQI as a staging ground for attacks. The bombardment was part of a “terrain denial” strategy, cutting off a potential AQI escape route and denying the enemy a location to regroup.
The operation’s main strategic thrust is to clear AQI extremists from the area of Owesat, establish a coalition presence, and develop a Concerned Local Citizens program in the area as a bulwark against further enemy activity.
Army Col. Dominic Caraccilo, commander of the 3-101st Abn. Div. (AASLT), described the mission to journalists Nov. 11. “We’re going to put a footprint there. We’re going to establish a forward operating base,” he said.
The mission was also conducted because Coalition Forces believe the al-Qaeda fighters operating in the area were involved with the May 12 attack which resulted in two missing U.S. Soldiers, Pvt. Byron Fouty and Spc. Alex Jimenez belonging to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). The 3-101st Abn. Div. (AASLT) took over the mission of 2-10th Mtn. Div. (LI) at the end of October.
“The Soldiers who were captured and still missing from the 10th Mountain are now part of the Rakkasan unit, and also part of the Task Force Marne unit. And the mission I have is to exploit every avenue to try to identify where they are,” Caraccilo said.
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