January 29th, 2008 02:45 EST
Operation Marne Thunderbolt in southern Iraq garners High Praise
by Staff Sgt. Amanda Callahan
447th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AFPN) -- Air Force and Army officials synchronized to eliminate threats to ground forces in southern Iraq in what was called a "relentless pursuit of the enemy" during Operation Marne Thunderbolt in January.
Aircrews of F-16 Fighting Falcons, B-1B Lancers, Navy F/A -18 Hornet pilots, Army 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers and Iraqi forces integrated with Army intelligence to shape the battlefield to protect Army ground Soldiers who came to the area.
Maj. Gen. David Edgington, the director of Air Component Coordination Element, Multi-National Force-Iraq spoke with reporters about the Air Force's role in Operation Marne Thunderbolt during a Multi-National Division - Center hosted round-table lunch here Jan. 27.
During the lunch, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commanding general of the MND-C, emphasized the joint component of today's combat zones.
"It is a joint battlefield," he told reporters, outlining the coalition's three main goals of blocking accelerants of violence into Baghdad, securing the population, and defeating sectarian violence.
"We turned to our brothers in the U.S. Air Force," General Lynch said, to assist with intelligence gathering and target mapping via multiple intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets such as the MQ-1A Predator.
Both generals also acknowledged that operational success is dependent on the ability of warfighters to team up in the joint environment. General Edgington said, "At the captain level, at the master sergeant level -- it is inspiring to see how the services work together to get the mission done."
He described how the Air Force uses intelligence in operations to shape the battlefield for an Army advantage, recounting one mission where Air Force's B-1B Lancers and F-16 Fighting Falcons disposed of improvised explosive devices, which were a significant threat to ground forces.
"The Air Force provides air components to synchronize with joint-force commanders," General Edgington said. "We develop target sets to figure out what targets we're able to strike that will make the battlespace safer for ground troops who follow."
The general explained that with today's technology, much consideration is given to the types of munitions used on specific targets, as well as ways to reduce or eliminate collateral damage.
"Technology has advanced to where we can now drop bombs with great precision," he said.
Targets included house-borne and deeply buried IEDs.
"We hit the targets [the Army] asked us to hit to make it more safe for them to achieve their mission," General Edgington said. "By taking out IEDs with airstrikes, we're saving the lives of Soldiers on the ground."
The emphasis on precision strikes and focus on reducing civilian casualties has also helped battlefield commanders gain ground with the local population, often called concerned local citizens, or CLCs.
"Concerned local citizens have stepped up because they are tired of the violence and want to secure their areas; they want to be legitimate members of society, and they want their children to go out and play soccer without fear."