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Task Force Observe, Detect, Identify, and Neutralize (Task Force ODIN)

On 15 December 2011, Operation New Dawn formally ended in Iraq, with the bulk of US military forces in Iraq being withdrawn. Task Force ODIN had been inactivated either prior to, on, or about this date.

Task Force ODIN (Observe, Detect, Identify, and Neutralize) was a battalion size Task Force of approximately 300 personnel. It was activated in Iraq in 2007 with a mission to provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to US Army commanders in order to better detect and act against insurgent forces. It was subsequently expanded in size and scope.

Initially, Task Force ODIN's major components included a Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) company operating Warrior and Shadow UAS and a fixed wing aircraft company operating C-12R aircraft. Both sets of aircraft are equipped with special mission packages specific to the mission. In addition a platoon of analysts is also part of the unit to provide real time and post mission analysis of imagery provided by Task Force aircraft.

At the time of its creation Task Force ODIN was the only unit operating the Warrior UAS in the US Army. It was capable of flying sorties around the clock with versatile Electro-Optical/Infrared, or Synthetic Aperture Radar payloads, and carrying both Laser Range-Finder Designator and Laser Target Marker. Warriors flew 6000 hours in support of all Multi-National Divisions in the first 7 months of OIF service.

Task Force ODIN's C-12Rs were retrofitted as either Aerial Reconnaissance Multi-Sensor (ARMS) or Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (MARSS-II) platforms. B Company was further equipped with the addition of several unique off-the-shelf collection systems, which are contractor owned and operated. Among these, Constant Hawk, a modified Shorts-360 airframe, provided a forensic backtracking capability for analysts in their effort to detect the origins of specific anti-Iraqi or anti-coalition attacks. Highlighter was another C-12 based package which provided change over time in terrain beneath a selected route of flight. This technology could provide much-needed early IED warning for approaching coalition convoys.

The Task Force was created as part of a number of initiatives to help defeat the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), increase the survivability of US Army units engaged in that mission, improve the usage of resources therein, and also to give more access to ISR assets, primarily UASs, to lower echelon commanders in the field. Missions conducted by US Air Force Predators in support of US operations in Iraq were assigned by high headquarters, whereas Task Force ODIN was made available to Brigade level commanders, and fully integrated with direct action assets such as OH-58D Kiowa Warriors and AH-64D Apaches, which could also be called in to strike targets detected by elements of the Task Force.

General Richard A. Cody ordered the creation of Task Force ODIN in secret in 2006, with the unit coming into being in August 2006. Cody created the Task Force as part of a number of initiatives to fight the threat of IEDs in Iraq. "Task Force Odin provides a current example in Iraq that reveals how reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition improves survivability," General Cody said in a statement.

In February 2007, Task Force ODIN was assigned to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division then deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In May 2007 Cody discussed the Army's Task Force ODIN at a conference of the Army Aviation Association of America, which worked on manned/unmanned teams that went after improvised explosive device (IED) bomb makers, insurgents who placed bombs and suicide bombers. Task Force ODIN was built around a C-12 airplane and Warrior UAS with special mission packages in them, and a common operating system that was built to allow a common operating picture between Combat Aviation Brigades (CAB) and ground units. This combination allowed persistent surveillance on the battlefield as AH-64 Apache and OH-58D Kiowa helicopters no longer had to patrol at night and troll for insurgents placing IEDs. This increased CAB and convoy crew survivability and increased operational ready rates for the helicopters.

"We are on the cusp of fully understanding how to get 'persistent stare' by the way Task Force ODIN is managing different sensor packages - manned and unmanned - and by the way brigade commanders are using the Shadow UAS," Cody continued. "This was just a piece of paper and a few briefings 12 months ago. Task Force ODIN is really showing us why we need to put UASs inside the CABs and move very quickly to a common ground station for air-ground coordination. Any time you can see the enemy and he doesn't know you're watching is a good thing - but not good enough. You also must be able to do something about it and that's what we've been able to do."

Throughout the conference, nearly every speaker had good things to say about Army UASs in general. "UASs are making a major impact on success of taking down terrorist cells and saving thousands of Soldiers' lives," Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) Kenneth O. Preston explained. "They are giving us eyes in places we've never had before. They're helping us monitor for IED placement and helping to keep major supply routes clear."

Task Force ODIN was formally activated, despite having been in operation for several months, in July 2007. After the deperature of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade from Iraq in September 2007, the Task Force was attached to the unit that replaced it, the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. The change led to a change in command and the unit being redesignated as Task Force ODIN II. The Task Force mobilized and deployed a new team for each rotation, leading to a change in designation.

As of November 2008 individual elements of the Task Force were said to have grown to approximately 400 personnel, allowing for the deployment of complete elements at multiple locations. An element destined Afghanistan was eventually activated as a separate entity known as Task Force ODIN - Afghanistan.

Also in late 2008, Task Force ODIN II was replaced by Task Force ODIN III. During its year-long tour in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Task Force ODIN III flew more than 29,000 hours and made history in February 2009, when one of the unmanned aerial vehicles they were operating became the first armed MQ-1C Warrior Alpha system to fire missiles in combat.

In August 2009, Task Force ODIN III was replaced by Task Force ODIN IV, comprised of select individuals selected from across the active Army, Reserves and National Guard to fill slots as pilots, analysts and support operations personnel. Task Force ODIN IV was attached to the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade.

With the establishment of Task Force ODIN - Afghanistan in 2009, the original Task Force ODIN in Iraq was also sometimes referred to as Task Force ODIN - Iraq (Task Force ODIN-I).

On 20 July 2010, a team from the Naval Research Laboratory arrived in Iraq to support ground troops in counter-IED (improvised explosive device) operations, using an airborne multisensor instrumentation suite as part of Project Perseus. After arriving in Iraq, the Project Perseus team commenced the performance of 34 flights, approximately 6 to 7 hours each, under the direction of Task Force ODIN, using a modified NP-3D aircraft from the US Navy's Scientific Development Squadron One (VXS-1).

On 8 September 2010, by order of the Secretary of the Army, a Meritorious Unit Commendation was awarded to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, US Army Composite Aerial Operations Activity; Company A, US Army Composite Aerial Operations Activity; and Detachment, 2nd Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment, all elements of Task Force ODIN, for the period from 24 October 2006 to 14 October 2007.

On 24 March 2011, by order of the Secretary of the Army, a Meritorious Unit Commendation was awarded to the US Army Composite Aerial Operations Activity and the US Army Reserve Company, US Army Composite Aerial Operations Activity, for the period from 14 August 2009 to 15 July 2010.




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