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Graphic - Center for Army Lessons Learned


On Point

The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom

Chapter 3

The Running Start


In this Chapter:



We were expecting jubilation, not RPGs!
Captain Robert L. Smith
Commander, A Company
2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry
Missiles are cheap; soldiers are expensive.
Colonel Charles A. Anderson
Chief of Staff
32d AAMDC


An Unlikely Flotilla - The Army at Sea No one would confuse the US Army's Mechanicsville Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 2027 with a "greyhound of the sea," but it is indicative both of the maturity of joint operations and the Army contribution to joint operations at sea. At 1800 on 20 March 2003, Mechanicsville, previously redesignated as coalition Vessel 2027, sailed with the US Navy High Speed Vessel (HSV) X1, Joint Venture, and a flotilla of US Coast Guard boats. The HSV led the LCU and a convoy of Coast Guard boats into Iraqi waters, becoming the first coalition vessels to enter Iraqi territorial waters in the North Arabian Sea. The Mechanicsville sailed with Navy special operations personnel embarked and a mixed crew of US Army Reserve and Regular Army mariners under command of Vessel Master (Skipper) Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2) Mia Scotia Perdue. The Mechanicsville headed into harm's way to support a direct action seizure of two gulf oil platforms to prevent the Iraqis from destroying them.


Figure 38. Landing Craft Utility at sea

The Mechanicsville served multiple purposes, including diverting Iraqi attention from US Marine Corps operations on the Al Faw Peninsula and providing support to naval special operations forces. For the next eight days, Mechanicsville, ultimately joined by the US Army Vessel Large Tug (LT) 1974, Champagne Marne, served as the forward operating base for operations in and around the platforms. It performed a variety of tasks from cross-decking cargo and refueling the USCG Walnut to providing a staging area for enemy prisoners of war. Its evacuation of an injured Coast Guard sailor is emblematic of the joint and coalition nature of OIF. To evacuate the sailor, Mechanicsville called the USS Tarawa for air evacuation support. The Tarawa then sent an Australian helicopter to take the injured sailor to the Navy hospital ship, USS Comfort.


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Summary of Events

Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict.
President George W. Bush
17 March 2003

My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.

On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war. These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign.
President George W. Bush
Address to the Nation
19 March 2003

President Bush made the decision to launch OIF on 16 March 2003 and issued an ultimatum with a 48-hour deadline on the 17th. That decision was the beginning of the end of 12 years of cat-and-mouse between Saddam Hussein and the international community. CENTCOM's and the services' years of hard work and preparation in the Southwest Asia (SWA) theater gave the president the flexibility to make that announcement - to draw a line in the sand - with a credible military force ready and able to enforce that decision. While regional and European governments attempted last-minute diplomacy, the United Nations and international aid agencies, anticipating war, cleared out of the future combat zone. America's strategic goal was embedded in the president's numerous addresses - establish a free, democratic, prosperous, and nonthreatening Iraqi state. The first step in achieving that goal was removing Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime, by force if necessary.

The path from 17 March to Iraq's new future started at the berm along the Kuwait-Iraq border and ended in Baghdad, the regime's seat of power and control. To accomplish this, the coalition focused on the capital city as the key to removing the regime. Crossing the berm and pushing north into Iraq was the first task. Coalition troops breached the berm on the 20th of March and conducted a series of maneuvers and attacks to secure the Rumaila oil fields and to set the conditions for their march up-country.

The running start began with the president's decision to execute the "decapitation strike" on the 19th of March, intending to kill Saddam Hussein and the senior regime leadership in one fell swoop. Subsequent Iraqi attempts to sabotage the oil fields led CENTCOM to begin the coalition's ground forces border crossing 24 hours earlier than originally planned.

Over the next few days, coalition aircraft averaged between 1,500 and 2,000 sorties a day, with about 50 percent of those flown in support of CFLCC or on-call missions. During these early days of the campaign, the US Air Force launched 100 air-launched cruise missiles. Coalition warships also launched another 500 cruise missiles. Coalition air attacked senior Iraqi leadership, air defense systems, surface-to-surface missiles, and artillery batteries to


Figure 39. Running Start sequence of events


Figure 40. Running start maneuver overview (Click on Image to Enlarge)

reduce the threat to coalition air and ground forces in Kuwait. The full wrath of coalition air power was on display during the night of "shock and awe," 21-22 March. As maneuver forces advanced, the air component shifted emphasis toward close support missions beginning on the night of 22-23 March.1

Major Combat Operations of the Running Start

In the first four days of ground operations, 20-23 March, the 3rd Infantry Division spear- headed the V Corps' drive into Iraq. The initial stages of ground operations included three critical events:

  • Breaching the berm at the border with Kuwait
  • Seizing Tallil Air Base and areas around An Nasiriyah
  • Isolating As Samawah

Breaching the Berm

Completing a difficult night breach of a 10-kilometer (km)-wide obstacle belt, the division moved three Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) and a large portion of corps units north into Iraq. Crossing the berm was a major combat operation. Erected to defend the Kuwaiti border by delaying attacking Iraqi troops, the berm now had the same effect on coalition troops heading the other way. Breaching in the presence of Iraqi outposts required rapid action to deny the Iraqis the opportunity to attack vulnerable coalition units while they were constrained to advance slowly and in single file through the lanes in the berms. Finally, orchestrating the movement of literally thousands of vehicles through a relatively small number of openings required detailed planning and rehearsal, all adjusted quickly to meet the accelerating timetable.

Colonel Pat Donohue, V Corps operations officer, and Lieutenant Colonel Pete Bayer, G3 of the 3rd ID, coordinated, synchronized, and orchestrated the breach. Donohue, commander of Operations Group Bravo (OPS B) of the Battle Command Training Program (BCTP), on loan to V Corps, led the breach planning for V Corps. The 3rd actually had to execute the breach and accommodate not only its troops but corps and CFLCC units as well. Pete Bayer's practical approach to planning, along with his appreciation of 3rd ID's role in the fight, led to a palpable attitude of cooperation in planning and executing the breach. Bayer and 3rd ID accommodated the requirements of a host of other units that also needed to pass through the bottleneck at the breach. The importance of the detailed planning of the movement through the berm cannot be overstated. This initial uncoiling would set the tone for the entire operation. The tasks included staging and coordinating the movement of 10,000 V Corps vehicles through these passage lanes and integrating the movement of TF Tarawa's convoys within the V Corps' serials. Although marines also breached to support I MEF, TF Tarawa's units needed to cross with 3rd ID to facilitate their operations in the An Nasiriyah area. V Corps and I MEF collaborated, as did their subordinate units, to ensure that this operation was executed to near perfection. Any mistake in the sequence of unit departures or routes could have taken days to overcome.2

Seizing Tallil and Crossing Sites over the Euphrates

After breaching the berm, the 3rd ID attacked more than 140 km to secure objectives in and around Tallil Air Base just outside of the Euphrates town of An Nasiriyah. CFLCC needed Tallil Air Base to provide a site for the logistics and aviation facilities necessary to support the long march up-country. Seizing Tallil Air Base was an important moment not only because the CFLCC needed the base, but also because it was adjacent to An Nasiriyah, the first Iraqi city the corps would encounter. The soldiers would glean some sense of how the Iraqi soldiers and civilians would react. Additionally, V Corps required 3rd ID to seize a crossing site on Highway 1 over the Euphrates River northwest of An Nasiriyah and defeat elements of the 11th Iraqi Infantry Division within their zone. As rehearsed in multiple CFLCC drills, V Corps seized the Highway 1 bridges intact west of the city at Objective CLAY. Never assigned the mission to clear An Nasiriyah, the 3rd ID blocked the town, secured the bridge northwest of the town and handed it off to the I MEF's Task Force Tarawa on 23 March.3

Isolating As Samawah The 3-7 Cavalry Squadron of the 3rd ID made the corps' first substantial contact with the paramilitary forces about 210 km north of the berm in As Samawah and got a glimpse of the future fight to secure the lines of communication (LOCs) and possibly Baghdad itself. Fighting in As Samawah, Umm Qasr, and Basra all served to illustrate that the Iraqi army would fight and that not all Iraqis assumed the coalition forces were liberators. At the same time, the 101st Airborne Division conducted three sequential operations to extend Army attack aviation's reach as far north as southern Baghdad. All of this was completed by 23 March.

The Darkest Day

By any definition, 23 March 2003 proved a dark day for the coalition forces fighting in Iraq. CFLCC's maneuver units fought from As Samawah to the Al Faw peninsula. The Iraqis' initial tactical surprise had dissipated and their defense, as it was, crystallized. Coalition ground troops fought a determined enemy, while supply convoys moving forward over difficult terrain literally ran a gauntlet of ambushes. Several things went wrong on the 23rd. In the air war, the Patriot missile, which until that moment seemed to function perfectly, destroyed a British Tornado fighter-bomber, killing its two-man crew. In An Nasiriyah, TF Tarawa fought a sharp engagement with the enemy, losing 18 of its own, with many others wounded.4

Early that morning, one of two serials of the 507th Maintenance Company of the 5th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery (Patriot), drove into An Nasiriyah. Between 0700 and 0830, the 507th ran into a hail of fire, during which the Iraqis killed 11 soldiers, captured seven, and wounded nine, to include some of those captured. One of those captured, Private First Class Jessica Lynch, became the object of a dramatic rescue later in the campaign. The 507th's story tells much about the fog, friction, bravery, and carnage of combat and is described in the next chapter.

The day closed with the 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment's unsuccessful deep attack against the Medina Division near Karbala. There, the regiment lost two aircraft (one to hostile fire), had two aviators captured, and saw literally every AH-64 Apache helicopter come back riddled with holes. Worse, the targeted Medina units remained relatively unscathed from the attack. The Army's vaunted deep-strike attack helicopters appeared to have been neutralized by the Iraqi air defense tactics.

Taken together, these incidents had a palpable effect on the morale of the higher-echelon headquarters. To loosely quote one planner, "We all knew Baghdad would be a hard and ugly fight; but if it was this hard before we even got close to the city, how hard would the fight really be and did we have enough force?"5 That question was on the minds of people literally all over the world. Yet, however grim things may have seemed on the 23rd, the "running start" set the conditions for the subsequent march up-country and was critical in extending CFLCC's operational reach into Baghdad.

Supporting and Parallel Operations

As V Corps advanced north toward Baghdad, I MEF, supported by the 1st (UK) Armoured Division, conducted amphibious and ground operations toward Basra and successfully secured the oil infrastructure. US Marines seized the port of Umm Qasr to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance supplies, while US and Royal Navy minesweepers began to clear the waterways leading to Umm Qasr of mines. UK forces succeeded in preventing any reinforcement of Basra and, along with the Marines, secured the southern oil fields. Special forces troops operated throughout the theater. In the west, Joint Special Operations Task Force-West worked to reduce the theater ballistic missile (TBM) threat to Iraq's neighbors. In the north, Joint Special Operations Task Force-North, along with Kurdish troops, maintained pressure on the northern Iraqi forces.

Throughout it all, CFACC continued to degrade the regime's ability to command and control its forces and provided exceptional CAS to the coalition ground forces in contact. Coalition air forces roamed the skies over Iraq at will, providing CAS, interdicting enemy forces, and striking strategic targets across all of Iraq. Coalition ground forces maneuvered with impunity, knowing that the coalition determined what flew. Coalition air attacks were responsive, accurate, and precise.

In addition to operations on the ground and in the air, several related and associated actions took place that either enabled the fight or prepared the battlefield for future operations. Those actions ranged from the anti-tactical ballistic missile fight to efforts to meet logistics requirements of units in the field.

The events over the next five days reflected Lieutenant Generals McKiernan's and Wallace's constant balancing of rapid maneuver against the need to secure the LOCs and ensure the forces did not reach a culmination point due to logistics shortfalls. Factors playing on this balancing act included the scope and distance of the operation and the reality of initiating combat operations before the logistics base was fully established. That they were successful in achieving this balance is a testament to the depth and breadth of planning; the command's clear sense of operational and strategic objectives; and of course, the hard work and dedication of the soldiers on the ground.6 At the end of this series of operations, V Corps had uncoiled nearly 400 km into Iraq and was ready to take the fight to Baghdad. What followed was an operational ground maneuver at impressive speeds.7

Triggering the Running Start

On 19 March 2003, "D-day," Phase II "Shaping" operations started. Combat operations began with a combined F-117 and Tomahawk Missile strike to decapitate the regime by killing the leadership and forcing an early disintegration of the Iraqi defenses. According to open media reporting, the decision was based on highly perishable intelligence reporting that Saddam Hussein and several key subordinate leaders were gathered together in a known location. Unsure if such an opportunity would present itself again, the president authorized the strike. Although the strike failed, it presaged the remainder of the phase's operations and resulted in major ground operations preceding the initiation of the air campaign.

Concurrent with the decapitation strike, other operations occurred across Iraq. In the south, SOF secured gas and oil platforms and other key objectives. CFLCC conducted reconnaissance and screening operations along the border. V Corps and I MEF units continued to prepare for combat operations. In the west, special operations troops prepared to secure key airfields and facilities and moved to preempt the Iraqis' use of WMD and tactical missiles. In the north, SOF worked with the Kurdish opposition to fix Iraqi forces on the Green Line as well as to deter


Figure 41. CFLCC common operational picture, D-day, 19 March 2003

Turkish intervention. Across the entire theater, CFACC attacked strategic targets, including leadership, air defense systems, and other Iraqi military systems.

Making the Call - Starting Phase III: Decisive (Ground) Operations

Yes. I'm sure.
Major David Carstens
Making the call that the oil well
sabotage had started

Early on the morning of 19 March, a small group of intelligence analysts located at Camp DOHA, Kuwait, made the key intelligence call that launched the ground war on the 21st. Protecting and preserving the Iraqi oil wells was one of the coalition's strategic objectives. In fact, it was so important that detecting indications of sabotage was a "priority intelligence requirement," or PIR for McKiernan. A commander designates a question as a PIR because the answer to that question will drive a critical decision. The intelligence system then focuses its collection and analysis capabilities to answer the question. Determining if the oil wells were in danger of destruction - before they were destroyed - was a vital question and difficult to answer. The decision on when to start the ground war rested on that answer.

The responsibility to answer the question fell on the Joint Analysis and Control Element (JACE) Joint Term Fusion Cell (JTFC), led by Colonel Michael Gearty, a seasoned military intelligence officer with experience in both tactical and strategic intelligence. The JACE, the CFLCC's focal point for intelligence collection and analysis, drew on subordinate, theater, and national intelligence to develop a comprehensive picture. Moreover, the JACE controlled

Intelligence Supporting Operational Decisions
The JTFC monitored imagery and noted that the oil stopped flowing during the night. Normal flares stopped burning and were replaced by fake flares designed to confuse intelligence sensors. The JTFC oil team had studied the fields so thoroughly that they were not fooled by these dummy flares and understood that these activities were indicators that rigging for demolition was under way. At about 1000 on 19 March, General Franks talked with Lieutenant General McKiernan to determine if the attack could launch on the night of the 20th, 24 hours earlier than planned. McKiernan said that the CFLCC could launch early, but the CFACC reported that they could not move the air attack forward on such short notice. Franks gave the order for CFLCC to go, and I MEF attacked to seize the oil fields on the night of the 20th (morning of the 21st in local time). V Corps launched simultaneously. The I MEF achieved tactical surprise and quickly secured the oil fields, preventing the Iraqis from igniting more than a few small fires.
From the "C-2 Evolution Study"
Prepared by Lieutenant Colonel Steve Peterson

collection in-theater to ensure McKiernan's questions would be answered. As a small section within the JACE - ultimately growing to about 40 analysts - the JTFC was originally conceived as a cell that could draw on all sources of intelligence to provide a coherent and complete intelligence assessment.8 However, because the entire JACE was so consumed in maintaining the current intelligence picture in the run-up to the war, eventually no element was looking at long-term issues and intelligence problems.

The JACE proved unable to develop the expertise and perspective necessary to fully understand the most complex issues.9 The JTFC evolved to fill that analytical gap - a cell that provided a long-term, all-source focus on very specific issues: the defense of Baghdad proper, targets and objectives designated for special site exploitation (looking for chemical or biological weapons), Republican death squads, hydrology, and of course, the oil fields.10

Because the JTFC was a new concept, it required strong, focused leadership at all levels to succeed. Major David Carstens, an intelligence officer with 15 years of experience, who had honed his skills during deployments to Haiti, the Balkans, and Afghanistan, led this team. In 25 months of deployments between September 1999 and February 2003, Carstens developed an uncanny ability to see intelligence from the combat soldier's perspective - clear and focused.11

Assuming his position as the JTFC production manager on 4 December 2002, Carstens instituted an aggressive training plan to ensure the team of analysts had the requisite skills and backgrounds in their assigned areas. With Colonel Gearty running interference and keeping the administrative requirements to a minimum, the JTFC matured. Major General Marks also demonstrated patience and forethought in developing and protecting the JTFC, enabling it to grow into one of the standout intelligence organizations in the war.

The JTFC and Major Carstens were quickly recognized as experts in the theater, and they and their products were in high demand. For example, Carstens personally spent more than 20 hours with Lieutenant General Wallace, briefing the estimate of the Iraqi defense of Baghdad one on one.12 Moreover, the JTFC's intelligence products, aggressively distributed across the theater, were universally considered some of the best in the theater. As an example of successful reach operations,13 infantry brigades in Iraq executed operations using products developed by this small organization, although it was three echelons removed from the brigades and operated far to the south in Camp DOHA.14

In the months prior to the war, CFLCC received frequent reports of the Iraqi oil wells being set afire, causing the headquarters to react accordingly. Generated by sources or analysts unfamiliar with oil well operations, none proved accurate. Generally the reports stemmed from analysts who mistook normal "burn-offs" of combustible gasses as sabotage. After several mistaken reports, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Henry Crowder instituted a deliberate training plan whereby the JTFC analysts met with oil industry experts and worked with video and pictures of the burning oil wells from DESERT STORM. The JTFC analysts learned to differentiate between normal burn-off and sabotage. Crowder trained a mix of soldiers with a variety of unrelated specialties to be expert analysts of oil field imagery.15

This training bore fruit on the morning of 19 March. Images from a Predator UAV showed oil well fires with pressure-backed flames reaching 60-310 feet into the air - a much different flame than a typical maintenance burn. Major Carstens called Colonel Rey Velez, the officer in charge of the JACE, with an initial report. Velez then called Major General Marks, and the report "spun around the world for about 30 minutes."16 In that time, Mr. Cliff Fowler, CENTCOM's civilian expert on the oil fields, confirmed the read. Colonel Steven Rotkoff, the deputy C2, and Marks, the CFLCC C2, called Carstens back at approximately 0830, and the following conversation ensued:

"Dave, what do you think this is? Do you think it is the beginning of the sabotage we talked about?"

"Yes sir."

"Dave, I just want you to be sure because we are getting ready to launch 60,000 Marines across the border."

"Yes. I'm sure."17

Shortly thereafter, McKiernan issued the order to execute G-day 24 hours earlier than originally planned.

A True "Running Start"

CENTCOM originally planned to initiate air operations (A-day) 16 days before the start of major ground combat operations (G-day). This would have afforded more time for the ground forces to complete their deployments and prepare for operations. However, Marks had been one of the primary advocates of an early attack to seize the oil fields to prevent their destruction. Rotkoff had even suggested a "G before A" approach as the best way to achieve tactical surprise. Colonel Kevin Benson, the CFLCC C5 (plans), developed and forwarded to the CENTCOM staff a series of position papers advocating adjusting the G-A day sequence. Over time, the plan evolved to a 15-hour gap between A-day and G-day. As these discussions progressed, CFLCC alerted I MEF and V Corps to the potential for a short-notice start, and they prepared accordingly.18 The decapitation strike reversed that gap so that the ground war actually started two days before formal air operations began.19

Moving the start of the ground campaign ahead of the air attack resulted in CENTCOM achieving tactical and operational surprise. The premise for G-day preceding A-day from the onset was that A-day would trigger the destruction of the oil fields. As long as they were operating, the southern fields generated close to $50 million a day for Saddam. Because of this, the CFLCC intelligence officers expected Saddam to wait to the last possible minute to put them out of action - particularly if he was unsure if or when the attack would come.

In addition to allowing the CFLCC to seize the oil fields intact, executing G-day before A-day seems to have put the Iraqis off their game from the start. Seizing the oil fields, while important, is almost ancillary to the greater achievement of desynchronizing any plans the Iraqis might have had. As Colonel Rotkoff noted, "Surprise Matters! - it is incumbent on leaders to find a way of introducing surprise despite the massing of 250,000 soldiers on the border." In fact, the air component struck the first blow when a target of opportunity arose against the regime's leadership. The real difference between DESERT STORM and OIF is that to attain operational surprise, G-day did not follow a lengthy air campaign in OIF. Instead, the air component, blessed with more precision munitions than during DESERT STORM, proved able to attack targets successfully with fewer munitions and no longer needed a discrete air campaign to set the conditions CENTCOM and CFLCC desired. Accordingly, this enabled CENTCOM and CFLCC to break the "operational pattern" set in DESERT STORM. "`G before A' was this war's equivalent of the `left hook' of DESERT STORM."20

A second great contrast with DESERT STORM is that CENTCOM ordered G-day prior to completing the flow of forces into the theater. Ground operations commenced while follow- on forces continued to flow into the theater. When 3rd ID's main body crossed the berm on 21 March, it was the only Army division ready to fight out of the four that the original plan required. The remaining units were still moving into the theater, linking up with their equipment, or moving forward to attack positions.

The 101st Airborne Division, completing the last stages of its deployment, moved into the assembly areas just cleared by 3rd ID but would not be ready for commitment until 22 March.21 The 1st Armored Division was still in the preparation stages, and the 4th ID's equipment remained afloat in the Mediterranean Sea. The 3rd ACR had weeks before it expected to enter the theater, as did the 2nd ACR (L). Three of the 7th UK Armoured Brigade's four battle groups had completed their integration, but the last one was not expected to be ready until 21 March.22 The support forces, from logisticians to military police, were in similar states of deployment.

With a clear understanding of the strategic situation and of the CFLCC `s combat power, General Franks made the deliberate decision to start the ground fight before some of the designated forces were available and ready for combat. He balanced the strategic, operational, and tactical benefits of a rapid, early advance against the risk inherent in not having sufficient combat power to achieve the campaign's objective at the start of operations. The tensions within this balance affected the campaign's execution and are a defining characteristic of the entire operation.

Quite apart from whether there were adequate combat forces, the repercussions of starting the war with an immature logistics, long-distance communications, and transportation capabilities surfaced. As the soldiers and marines leapt forward, the logisticians, communicators, and transporters struggled to keep up. Meticulous planning for fuel, water, and ammunition

Ordering the Early Start
(DECL IAW USCENTCOM OPLAN 1003-V, Classification Guidance, 31 October 2002)
CENTCOM FRAGO 09-009 (DTG 200433Z March 2003):
"This FRAGO promulgates early attack, planned operational timing in support of CFC Operations in the ITO [Iraqi Theater of Operations]."
CENTCOM FRAGO 09-009, Subject: CFC FRAGO 09-009,
200433Z March 2003
CENTCOM FRAGO 09-012 (DTG 201121Z March 2003):
"Execute CENTCOM FRAGO 09-009 (DTG 200433Z March 2003) with the exception of A-Day... that continues on time line for 1800Z, 21 March 2003. The following are major timing events:"

  • D-Day/H-Hour: 19 MARCH/1800Z.
  • On D+1 at 1700Z Aerial Recon into Southern Iraq.
  • On D+1 at 1800Z Ground Recon in the South.
  • On D+1 at 1900Z Seize GOPLATS [gulf oil platforms], Al Faw Manifold.
  • On D+2 at 0300Z, G-Day: Seize southern oil fields; Brigade Recon; Main attack
CENTCOM FRAGO 09-0012, Subject: CFC FRAGO 09-012,
201121Z March 2003
CFLCC EXORD:
"Mission. CFLCC attacks to defeat Iraqi forces and control the zone of action, secure and exploit designated sites, and removes the current Iraqi regime. CFLCC conducts continuous stability operations to create conditions for transitions to CJTF-Iraq."
CFLCC EXORD, Subject: EXORD to COMCFLCC OPORD 03-032,
CFLCC Cobra II OPLAN Conversion to CFLCC OPORD Cobra II,
190900Z March 2003

paid off, yet at a cost. Delivery of just about every other commodity, to include repair parts, suffered as a consequence of inadequate means, limited ability to track supplies, and lack of an effective distribution system. These challenges became significant as the fight progressed toward Karbala and southern Baghdad.

Securing the Oil

As noted, preserving the Iraqi oil fields was a major strategic objective to protect Iraq's future and to prevent a replay of the DESERT STORM environmental disasters. The oil production facilities included the oil fields in southern Iraq and the oil platforms in the Gulf of Arabia. Poised, the marines rapidly secured the oil fields, supported by Army rocket artillery firing 13 unitary and an additional 44 standard ATACMS rounds.23

An aggressive Army-executed psychological operations (PSYOP) campaign supported the goal of preserving the oil fields. In addition to radio broadcasts and other uses of public information, the coalition executed a deliberate leaflet program to encourage the defending Iraqis to protect the petroleum production and processing facilities within Iraq. The combination of the PSYOP leaflet program and accelerating G-day prevented Iraqi forces from repeating the kind of environmental catastrophe they visited on the region in 1991.


Figure 42. PSYOP leaflets distributed to protect the oil fields


Figure 43. LT-1974 USAV Champagne Marne

To prevent Iraqi sabotage, the coalition not only seized oil fields in Iraq, but also used SOF to seize the gulf oil platforms, which required complex and integrated joint operations, including SOF, Navy, Coast Guard, and Army forces. The opening vignette describes how Army watercraft supported the special operations direct action to secure the oil platforms. Additionally, the Army tug Champagne Marne supported these operations.

The Marne, a large tugboat that operated throughout the region, earned the Navy Commendation Medal for its work in clearing derelict vessels from key navigation ways in the North Arabian Sea. On the evening of 21 March, the Marne, captained by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jay Dehart, led two Navy 1600-class LCUs through the coalition warship screen beyond the most-forward mine sweepers and linked up with the forces that had secured the Mina Al- Bakr oil terminal. Establishing communications with prearranged flashing light signals, the Marne secured a lighterage working platform to the structure at 2309. With 24 Coast Guard security personnel aboard, the Marne then moved on to the Khor Al-Amaya platform to do the same, finishing the work by 0034 on the 22nd. After dropping the security team at the second platform, the crew picked up 22 marines and transported them to one of the Navy LCUs. The Marne completed the troop transfers and returned through the mined waterway, crossing back through the coalition warship screen at 0630 on the 22nd.24

Once the marines and SOF captured the oil wells and gulf oil platforms, the original fires were confirmed as sabotage, albeit an unsophisticated attempt. The wells were rigged with two explosives - the first to destroy the "Christmas tree" rigging and the second to set the oil on fire. The JTFC was unsure if the rigging of the demolitions was so poor because the Iraqis thought they had more time (given the expected 30-day air campaign) or if they were trying to preserve the oil for the future and were only making a token effort. Regardless, of the more than 1,000 oil wells in the south, only nine were set afire, and all were extinguished by the end of April.25

Enemy Response - TBMs and Patriots

The 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command's (AAMDC's) hard work in setting up comprehensive anti-tactical ballistic missile (ATBM) coverage paid off in the early hours of the war. When the fight started, there were 27 US Patriot batteries and five coalition Patriot batteries in Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, with additional batteries in Israel and Turkey. This marked the culmination of 12 years of hard work developing the right technology, training the crews, and training and supporting allied Patriot units. Moreover, years of successful diplomacy allowed the US and the coalition to establish coverage, protect the allies, and ensure continued regional support as the campaign unfolded. Now, with reasonable assurance of protection from TBMs, regional allies were far more ready to provide the support necessary for a successful campaign.

Patriot saved the 101st.
Major General Dave Petraeus, Commander, 101st Airborne Division





Iraq responded to the decapitation strike with the first of 17 TBM attacks on coalition forces. At 1224 on 20 March, an Ababil-100 surface-to-surface missile streaked out of Al Basra, targeting the 4,000 soldiers and 100 helicopters of the 101st at Tactical Assembly Area (TAA) THUNDER. This launch broke the pattern Iraq


Figure 44. Patriot missile launchers protecting key facilities

established in the first Gulf War, when all TBMs were launched at night - affording the Iraqis a measure of self-protection and taking advantage of more favorable temperatures and winds for chemical weapons employment. The USS Higgins, an AEGIS destroyer off the coast of Kuwait, detected the launch, providing a 90-second warning. D/5-52 ADA, one of the three SHORTSTOP batteries deployed to extend TBM protection to the Army formations, destroyed the missile. This was the first of five TBM attacks on that first day.

The Iraqis fired a second missile, aimed at Camp DOHA and the CFLCC headquarters, at 1330, from the vicinity of Al Basra. E/2-43 ADA, firing the newest PAC-III missile, destroyed it just 3 miles from the camp. Of the other three Iraqi missiles fired, two fell harmlessly in the Arabian Gulf or Kuwaiti desert and US Patriot missiles destroyed the other one.

Missile Strikes on the Headquarters
During the [briefing], they're giving the Battle Update Assessment [BUA] Brief, sure enough, you can pick it up on the [Air and Missile Defense Work Station], [we] got early warning from AEGIS . . . there's another ABABIL [missile] coming right at us, impact point Doha. The CG, I'm talking about Lieutenant General McKiernan, said "everybody put their mask on" and they sat there and they continued with the BUA. There was so much confidence in this weapon system that nobody moved. Then suddenly, you heard the walls rumble and you heard the sound of those missiles take off, and there it went, two more missiles in the air. Then you heard a loud explosion. This time pieces of metal actually fell on the roof of our headquarters. That was a high-five moment.
Colonel Charles Anderson
Chief of Staff, 32nd AAMDC

Terrain Description

This early phase of the ground war started in the soft sands of the Kuwaiti-Iraqi desert and closed in the Euphrates River valley. Throughout the fighting, soldiers had to contend with the best, and worst, of each type of soil and hydrology. Crossing the berm into Iraq led directly into soft, shifting sands that were 2-4 feet deep, wreaking havoc with movement timelines and convoy operations. Moving north and west toward the river valley, the ground firmed up but was heavily compartmentalized by waddies and gullies that were difficult to see and impossible to drive through.

Due north of the berm lay an area soldiers described as "the far side of the moon," because it was so broken and difficult to traverse. However, there was generally freedom to maneuver once out of the constricted and rough terrain. Within the river valley, the terrain became complex and canalizing. Many farms, villages, and small groupings of houses broke up the ground and impeded movement. Generally constructed of the soft concrete and cinder blocks common to the region, buildings in the area rarely reached three stories. The farm fields were muddy and soft, crisscrossed with irrigation ditches and small canals. The primary highways ran roughly parallel to the river and were generally improved paved roads. The secondary roads were narrow, in various states of pavement and repair, and frequently bore no resemblance to the map as far as trafficability and routes. In short, units operating in the river valley found themselves compelled to rely on the road network.

The Enemy Disposition

The Iraqi leadership focused defensive planning against expected coalition actions in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley (Highways 1, 6, and 7) and on defending Baghdad proper. Iraqi dispositions reflected a clear expectation of the coalition main effort along Route 6 in the east through Umm Qasr. Saddam's generals planned to conduct a defense in depth, using the oil fields as sanctuaries. They embedded forces in the vicinity of gas/oil separation plants to shield them from coalition strikes and to ensure control over these key facilities. Forces were generally arrayed to defend key routes and population centers.

To defend Iraq, Saddam and his military leaders fielded 17 regular army (RA) divisions and six of the better-equipped and better-trained Republican Guard (RG) divisions. In Baghdad, the Special Republican Guard (SRG), a force of approximately 15,000 soldiers, had the specific task of defending key sites and repressing popular unrest in Baghdad. In addition to these conventional forces, Saddam organized a host of paramilitary and militia forces, including the infamous Saddam Fedayeen and Ba'ath Party militia. Iraq fielded no significant naval or air forces following their destruction during Operation DESERT STORM. However, the RA and RG forces had a few rotary-wing aircraft to conduct ground-attack or airmobile operations.

Southern Iraq: Kuwait to Baghdad

Iraqi defensive preparations along the Kuwaiti border were minimal. In the main, they consisted of a string of border observation posts offset several km north of the complex ditch- berm-wire obstacle that ran along the border. Clearly designed only to provide early warning, the outposts lacked the manpower, armor, or artillery required to conduct a defense.

IRAQI Ground Forces from ODS to OIF
Operation DESERT STORM

  • 950,000 troops serving in 60 divisions.

  • Republican Guard estimated at 150,000

  • Over 5,000 tanks, 5,000 APCs, and 3,000 artillery pieces
Operation IRAQI FREEDOM

  • 280,000 to 350,000
    troops serving in 17 divisions

  • Republican Guard estimated at 50,000 to 80,000 troops.

  • Over 2,200 tanks, 2,400 APCs, and 4,000 artillery pieces
Figure 45. Comparison of Iraqi ground forces in ODS and OIF


Figure 46. The Iraqi initial disposition
(Click on Image to Enlarge)

On 19 March, Iraqi ground forces were in position to defend the Tigris-Euphrates Valley, weighting the eastern (Highway 6) approach to Baghdad with six divisions. Beginning at Basra, Iraqi formations echeloned along the Highway 6/Tigris River avenue of approach, with the 51st Mechanized Division south of Az Zubayr, supported by reinforcing armor to the southwest of the city. The 6th Armored Division defended from just north of Basra, with the 18th Infantry Division in Qurnah, the 14th Infantry Division in Qurnah and Al Amarah, and the 10th Armored Division in Al Amarah. Farther up the Tigris River, the Baghdad RG Division concentrated at Al Kut, its brigades echeloned from northwest to southeast.26 Along the western Euphrates (Highway 8) approach, the 18th Infantry Division positioned the 704th Brigade in the Rumaila oil field, along with elements of two RA armor brigades and an RA mechanized infantry brigade. The 11th Infantry Division defended An Nasiriyah and As Samawah to the southeast on the approaches to An Nasiriyah.

  • Irregulars and Popular Forces
  • The list of anticipated paramilitary forces included:
  • Saddam Fedayeen, "Saddam's Martyrs" - fanatically loyal but relatively poorly trained paramilitary forces
  • Al Quds - local militia, many of whom are Ba'ath Party members or responsive to Ba'ath Party direction
  • Ba'ath Party militias; loyalists from the security services
  • Intelligence services
  • The Lions of Saddam youth organization

These organizations prepared to fight as irregulars rather than as standing conventional forces. The regime used many of these troops in the south, with approximately 2,000 operating in Basra. Some assumed responsibility for defense of the urban areas along Highway 8 and the Euphrates Valley, to include An Najaf (12,000-14,000 fighters) and Karbala (2,000-3,000 fighters). Additional irregular forces operated in An Nasiriyah, As Samawah, and elsewhere.27 Unanticipated and not accounted for, other (non-Iraqi) paramilitary fighters entered the country and turned up among the combatants.

This extensive use of paramilitaries may have reflected an Iraqi plan to rely on a "popular army" and on an effort to generate popular support for the defense of key urban areas. There were references in the Iraqi open press to Black Hawk Down and indications that the Iraqis were preparing elements of this "popular army" to engage coalition forces in that manner.28 There were significant amounts of cached arms and ammunition to support just such an effort - the regime clearly planned for their use, or at least intended to telegraph such a plan to observers.29

Conclusion

V Corps and I MEF attacks across the border into Iraq demonstrated effective operational planning, flexibility, and agility. After building on 12 years of theater preparation, followed by approximately nine months of planning, preparing, and deploying into the theater, coalition armed forces sought to liberate the Iraqi people, preserve Iraq's natural resources, and supplant a 30-year dictatorship. The ensuing campaign quickly achieved the first of several national goals - securing the Iraqi oil fields to preserve the future prosperity of the country. At the tactical level, the first 72 hours marked a lightning advance of over 400 km (in the case of Objective RAMS) to secure the first two primary objectives. Yet the coalition did not merely attack from Kuwait. Special forces operated against the Iraqi western and northern areas, undermining the regime, supporting US allies, stabilizing the Kurdish Autonomous Zone, and protecting Iraq's western neighbors from Scud launches. So, in addition to forces advancing from Kuwait, Iraq faced mounting pressures from its other three borders, and in the center, from relentless coalition air attacks.

Violating virtually all of the traditional wisdom about how to prepare for a campaign of this scope, the V Corps and I MEF forces appear to have achieved operational and tactical surprise when they started their attack before all of the "necessary" forces had arrived and without a lengthy air effort. Accepting the inherent risks, General Franks and Lieutenant General McKiernan understood the necessity and value of attacking early and aggressively. The running start appears to have thrown the Iraqis off of their defensive plan, and they were never able to regain their footing. Coalition forces moved farther and faster than any Iraqi - and even many in the coalition - believed possible. The force was on its way to Baghdad.

Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy, and the Iraqi defenders offered a few surprises of their own. The widely expected mass capitulation of the regular army never materialized. Generally, they did not surrender or even vigorously defend. Instead, the majority of Iraqi soldiers just melted away, offering relatively light, if any, resistance. Yet, it was unclear whether this was a deliberate tactic to preserve the force, the result of the extended PSYOP campaign, the result of the ongoing attacks on their command and control systems, the result of their fear of coalition combat power, or simply as close as the soldiers could come to a formal capitulation given the tight control imposed by the layers of security services.

More surprising, the Fedayeen and other paramilitary forces proved more of a threat than anyone had expected. While the paramilitaries were always considered part of the enemy capabilities, the intelligence and operations communities had never anticipated how ferocious, tenacious, and fanatical they would be. The attacks were never able to interrupt the coalition's advance, but they did disrupt operations in An Nasiriyah and As Samawah and inflicted the first startling casualties of the war.

The "darkest day," 23 March, marked the soldiers', marines', airmen's, and the American people's true baptism under fire - when all were reminded that the liberation of Iraq would not be accomplished without spilling coalition blood. Clearly, at least some element of the Iraqi nation was willing to close with and engage the overwhelming American ground forces. Worse, they were attacking in a manner that avoided traditional American strengths - high-technology, stand-off weapons. An Nasiriyah and As Samawah offered the first inklings of how the Iraqis would attempt to defend through the conclusion of major combat operations and after.

Iraqi tactical ballistic missile strikes on coalition forces and facilities in Kuwait came as no surprise. In a pleasant and confidence-inspiring surprise, the coalition's Patriot missiles were 100-percent effective in destroying threatening inbound missiles. The Patriots' success cemented the support of America's regional allies and lent the ground commanders the confidence to maneuver aggressively against the Iraqis. Thus, with the fight joined and several successes already under the coalition's collective belt, the world watched and waited for the first major force-on-force engagements closer to Baghdad. The scope, scale, and character of the Iraqi defense were just becoming apparent, and no one yet knew how the fight would play out. The threat of chemical weapons was palpable as missiles streaked southward and coalition forces raced northward.

Camp PENNSYLVANIA - The Alleged Murder of Two Officers
Two days prior to crossing the border into Iraq, in what it believed to be a secure location in its desert encampment in Kuwait, the 1st BCT, 101st Airborne Division, was preparing for combat operations when it suffered an emotionally devastating nighttime attack on the soldiers who operate the tactical operations center (TOC). The attack on the sleeping men, however, was not due to enemy action; it was apparently perpetrated by one of their own. Captain Christopher Seifert, the assistant brigade S2, and Major Gregory Stone, the air liaison officer, were killed in the attack. Their deaths and the injury of 14 other staff members shocked the brigade to its core. In this attack, every staff section received injuries, but losing Captain Seifert was particularly devastating to the S2 Intelligence section. Seifert was a well-liked and respected officer within the staff and among subordinate battalions. An outstanding officer, he possessed all the strengths of character and professional competence that anyone could hope for in a subordinate. Perhaps most significantly, Seifert was the perfect counterpart to the brigade S2, Major Kyle Warren. They complemented each other's strengths and weaknesses. In eight months, they built a relationship based on mutual respect and admiration.

Captain Seifert was, as Major Warren recalled, his tall center around whom the rest of the team revolved. Losing him in the final hours before war affected the S2 section so deeply that it literally took most of the war for the section to recover. Warren, like most Army officers, had built his team around his strongest officer. Seifert was a meticulous operator who did not tolerate sloppy work. He was also an expert on intelligence systems who knew how to leverage the architecture to meet requirements. As the intelligence planner, Seifert maintained a forward look to support planning.

Although this was his official capacity as the senior intelligence captain, there was more to it than that. Captain Seifert carried a natural air about him that expressed confidence, know-how, and a passion to train. Seifert's death affected the S2 section in several ways. The first was obviously the loss of the soldier. The war was literally two days away and Major Warren knew he had to maintain the section's focus on the fight while dealing with a host of emotional and operational issues. Warren simply asked his team to "take commands from the tower" and to trust his leadership in the days to come. The only way they could move forward - figuratively and emotionally - was with a strong unity of effort. Anything less than a total commitment would have been a disservice to Captain Seifert and Major Stone.

Major Warren reflected on how to deal with a death that is so close and personal and yet still maintain the focus to fight. Captain Seifert's personal items were a reminder of the magnitude of the unit's loss. His uniforms with his nametape sewn on, his books, and personal photos were still with the section, and these had to be packed and sent home, and Warren still had to write a letter to Seifert's widow, Terri. Some of Warren's soldiers were just plain afraid and struggled to sleep through the night. Warren recalls how God gave him strength to get through it. He was blessed to have a strong NCOIC and to have had the composure that was truly "beyond himself."

The day following the attack, the Army's Criminal Investigation Command conducted its investigation, followed the next day by a short memorial service. Upon its conclusion, the BCT mounted its vehicles and, following 3rd ID, began its attack into Iraq toward the city of An Najaf. Within 60 hours, they were in combat. Here, they faced a deliberate foe in the streets of An Najaf, a city of 800,000 citizens. The S2 section had to describe and predict an enemy who held nearly every asymmetric quality as the brigade committed to the urban fight.

A replacement S2 planner arrived on the third day of the An Najaf fight, and the section began the arduous task of training a new team. Rebuilding the team focused on reworking SOPs and shifting Captain Seifert's work to others. Scores of things that resulted from his death were a constant challenge, like finding the threat studies he had produced, operating intelligence systems, and maintaining the high standards that Captain Seifert so diligently enforced. The brigade excelled in the fight for An Najaf, proceeded to Al Hillah, Karbala, and continued to execute SASO in northern Iraq. In Major Warren's words, "it certainly was not pretty, but Captain Seifert would have been proud of the results."

Compiled from interviews with Major Kyle Warren,
1st BCT brigade intelligence officer,
101st Airborne Division

Back to Top

Crossing The Bern


They are coming to surrender or be burned in their tanks.
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf
Iraqi Information Minister
"Baghdad Bob"


Figure 47. CFLCC common operational picture, D+2/G-day, 21 March 2003

The first task of the ground war was to penetrate the 10-km-deep defensive linear obstacle complex along the Kuwait-Iraq border. Literally a line in the sand, the berm was a combination of massive tank ditches, concertina wire, electrified fencing, and of course, berms of dirt.

The breaching operation required four major tasks: reducing the berms, destroying the defending Iraqi forces along the border (mostly observation posts), establishing secure lanes through the berm, and then passing the follow-on forces through to continue the attack into Iraq. The division planned eight lanes. In coordination with the Kuwaiti forces, the 1st and 2nd BCTs would conduct the actual breaches. Once the lanes were clear and the security zone was established, the division cavalry and the 3rd BCT would pass through and press the attack north. The 1st and 2nd BCTs would follow, expanding the division's presence on Iraqi soil.

Reducing the Berm

As noted, the deliberate breaching operation had been carefully planned and rehearsed. Still, the decision to execute early rippled through the force so that, by the time word reached the brigades and battalions, they ended up moving directly from the attack positions to the border. The 1st BCT's Task Force (TF) 2-7 IN, for example, was assigned the mission to assist


Figure 48. Kuwait-Iraq berm cross-section


Figure 49. Berm to first tank ditch, Kuwait-Iraq border

in preparing the berm approaches in support of 1st BCT's breach (along Lanes 5, 6, 8A, 9, and 10). On 19 March 2003, the task force occupied an attack position less than 11 km from the border. As it moved into the attack position, TF 2-7 believed it would be there for 24-48 hours, but literally as it arrived, the BCT commander ordered the reduction teams forward.30


Figure 50. 3rd ID border breach scheme of maneuver


Figure 51. Iraqi border lanes and observation posts

The TF 2-7 IN reduction team consisted of two combined arms company teams to secure, assist, and supervise the Kuwaiti nationals actually reducing berms.31 The Kuwaitis plowed in the berms, filling the tank ditches with the dirt. Armored combat earthmovers supporting TF 2-7 IN reinforced and constructed roads across the tank ditches. The plan called for tracked vehicles to use the newly constructed roads, while wheeled vehicles crossed on armored vehicle-launched bridges. Once this work was completed, there was a clear, marked route crossing the border. Positioned on the border and poised for war with all inspections complete, drills rehearsed, and rounds chambered, TF 2-7 IN was ready for war.32 Similar actions occurred at each breach lane for both BCTs.

Preparing to Breach the Berms
The first critical mission of the war was the breach of the border obstacles. Lieutenant Colonel Ed Jackson, commanding the 54th Engineer Battalion, was responsible for the breaching operations. The entire operation had been rehearsed in detail before the attack, with all the key leaders in the division driving through a full-scale mock-up of the border and the lane marking system. Coalition engineers were prepared to reduce the series of obstacles, creating lanes through the berm, tank ditch, wire fence, electrified fence, wire fence, second berm, tank ditch, and then the third berm 10 km from the start point. The whole complex was colloquially known as "the berm."

Along each lane, combat engineers and MPs manned traffic control points, with construction equipment and recovery vehicles nearby to repair damage or remove any blockages. As units passed through the border, control of the crossing transitioned from division (937th Engineer Group) to corps (130th Engineer Brigade and the 864th Engineer Battalion), allowing the 3rd ID headquarters to focus on the advance north. Following the passage of the main body, the 864th Engineer Battalion would close all but two lanes. These lanes would be left open for follow-on forces.

As combat operations drew near, the Kuwaitis decided that they wanted to be the ones that breached the obstacles at the Iraq-Kuwait border. This was a very prestigious mission, and they would be able to accomplish it under the guise of border maintenance. This would also allow them to limit the amount of damage to the obstacles. With the help of Colonel Gregg Martin, commander of the 130th Engineer Brigade, and Captain Chris Miller, V Corps liaison officer for the border reduction, Kuwaiti civilians began breaching the obstacles. At one point, they suspended operations when the press heard about the project, but restarted after the press moved on to other issues.

On 20 March, the day before coalition forces would cross the border, the Kuwaiti heavy equipment operators were trying to finish the last obstacles in each of the 12 lanes. Problems with the language barrier, haul assets for the dozers, and fuel were making the task a difficult one. Colonel Martin was personally escorting dozers from lane to lane to ensure that the work would be done prior to crossing the line of departure. His goal was to get maximum effort from the Kuwaitis, because anything they did saved valuable engineer resources to use later in the fight. As darkness approached, there were still four lanes in the marines' zone to the north that were not complete. Colonel Martin pushed the dozers forward and picked locations for the last four breaches. It was dark by the time the last lane was completed and the opening shots of the war were fired. There was now nothing between Iraq and the Kuwaiti operators and US engineers but a berm and tank ditch that had now been breached. As the Kuwaitis refueled and moved out of the area, the 3rd ID MLRS and 155mm rounds were flying overhead in preparation for the attack on the border guard posts.

Based on "Victory Sappers: V Corps Engineers in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM"
by Colonel Gregg F. Martin and Captain David Johnson;
and interviews with Colonel Martin, commander, 130th Engineer
Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Fehnel, commander, 864th Engineer Battalion,
and Colonel Hildenbrand, commander, 937th Engineer Group.

Destroying Iraqi Border Opposition With the conditions set to pass through the berm, coalition forces shifted their efforts to denying the Iraqi leadership early warning of the actual invasion. The corps developed a deliberate fire and maneuver plan to destroy the thin line of Iraqi observation posts and covering forces rapidly and simultaneously. Once the corps breached the obstacle, the lead units intended to rush forward to destroy any remnants of the Iraqi forward forces.

Artillery and PSYOP Support

Sometimes Even a Nonlethal Attack Can be Lethal
"The cause of death was a box of leaflets that fell out of a Combat Talon aircraft when a static line broke. The box impacted on the Iraqi guard's head, and 9th PSYOP Battalion may have achieved the first enemy KIA of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM."
Lieutenant Colonel Carl Ayers, commander of
the 9th PSYOP Battalion, describing the death
of an Iraqi border guard in western Iraq

Five artillery battalions supported the breach, firing simultaneously against 11 targets with a total of 458 artillery rounds.33 The direct support battalions, assigned to provide artillery fires primarily for their respective BCTs, fired from positions that facilitated their ability to move with the units they supported. Thus the artillery could provide fires for the infantry and armor units during the breach and on through the attack.

For example, the 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Battalion (1-9 FA), fired the opening rounds of the ground war in direct support of the 2nd BCT. The division artillery assigned the battalion four targets and directed that a "battery six" (36 rounds) be fired against each of them. The battalion fired 132 rounds and destroyed three of its four assigned targets - observation posts in the southern portion of the crossing sector.34 They engaged the fourth target, an observation post, with only limited results due to probable target location error. Attack helicopters and ground elements of TF 3-15 IN combined to destroy the target. Rocket fires from 1-39 FA Battalion (MLRS) and the 2-4 FA Battalion (MLRS) augmented the entire effort. The 1-39 FA, for example, delivered 63 MLRS strikes deep into Iraq, shaping the battlefield by destroying critical command and control nodes and enemy headquarters.

The psychological operations leaflet effort, somewhat less successful than the oil well preservation campaign, attempted to convince the Iraqi forces to capitulate. Prewar intelligence indicated that the Iraqi army might be susceptible to an aggressive campaign to promote capitulation or mass surrender. Unfortunately, the surrender leaflets did not work as well in OIF as they did in DESERT STORM. Of course, one major difference between the two wars was that during DESERT STORM, Iraqi soldiers suffered through an extensive bombing for a month before receiving ground forces. As a result of the bombing, those forces were far more receptive to the surrender appeals. In DESERT STORM Iraqi troops were not defending their homeland, and the motivation to stay - and die - in Kuwait was arguably much weaker.


Figure 52. PSYOP capitulation leaflet

Crossing the Line of Departure
Before we were going to LD, I arranged for what we called a Patriotic Oath Service. It was the last time that TF 1-64 AR would be together until we met in Baghdad. I arranged for the 3rd ID band to be present and our Brigade Chaplain, who offered the invocation. I gave the Oath of Office to the commander, LTC Schwartz. In turn, he then gave the Oath to the officers in the task force. After the completion of the Oath, he gave the Oath of Enlistment to all the soldiers. After that, the Commander and Command Sergeant Major spoke to the task force, reaffirming our mission. We ended with a prayer offered by me. This was a very moving service which built cohesion in the task force and reaffirmed our commitment to our vocations as soldiers.
Chaplain (Captain) Ron Cooper,
TF 1-64 AR

The leaflet effort to induce capitulation was a high priority prior to breaching the berm. But, due to the speed of the subsequent ground advance, the program did not have adequate time in which to work. "In many cases, efforts to deliver capitulation instructions to units failed outright, or the target audience did not easily understand messages that were delivered."35 Moreover, the regime conducted a massive counterpropaganda campaign against this PSYOP operation. The regime threatened death to soldiers who deserted or surrendered. Although the 3rd ID would eventually take in some 2,600 EPWs, there was no massive capitulation of entire units. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that many of the Iraqi regular forces deserted their units and abandoned their equipment. Although it is still too early to determine with precision the efficacy of the PSYOP effort, it clearly did not have the effect anticipated.

Shaping Operations

In addition to using artillery to reduce the Iraqi outposts, Lieutenant General Wallace moved to preclude either a counterattack or defense by the Iraqi 11th Infantry Division, located in the vicinity of Tallil Air Base. The 11th ID was the closest Iraqi ground unit to the breach points. To eliminate this threat, Wallace tasked the 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment (AHR) to destroy 11th ID's artillery and armor in the vicinity of An Nasiriyah and Tallil Air Base. The 11th AHR is a lethal and agile force of 21 AH-64As and 21 AH-64D Longbow Apache36attack helicopters, augmented with an additional 18 AH-64Ds from 1-227th Aviation Battalion out of the 1st Cavalry Division. The regiment was V Corps' most powerful and agile deep-strike capability. The 11th and its Apaches were designed to penetrate deeply into enemy terrain to destroy enemy formations before they can affect the battle. Destroying the Iraqi 11th ID would provide the 3rd ID freedom of maneuver and secure its eastern flank.

The 11th AHR launched on time, with two UH-60L Black Hawks providing command and control and personnel recovery and two CH-47Ds providing fuel support. As they crossed the border, the UH-60 and CH-47 pilots reported poor visibility from the dust and haze, even though they were using their night vision goggles. The AH-64 crews, however, could continue on by using their advanced Pilot Night Vision System, which employs thermal sights that could see through the haze. Lieutenant Colonel Michael J. Barbee, the commander of the 6-6 Aviation Squadron, aborted the mission since the UH-60s and CH-47 s needed for command and control and refueling could not continue safely.37

After the aborted mission, morale sank. Some pilots had compared this attack to the 101st Aviation Brigade's legendary deep attack in Operation DESERT STORM; they, too, were going to be heroes. Their frustration continued to build, adding to the 11th AHR's collective desire to get into the fight, and possibly played a major role in the unsuccessful deep attack later in the war. In any case, the 3rd ID crossed the border without the 11th AHR having destroyed the threat to its north and east.38

Securing Lanes

With the preparatory actions in motion, the division was set to penetrate the berm along the eight lanes assigned to the 1st and 2nd BCTs, with the marines crossing through the remaining four lanes to the east. They all acted in parallel to bring the maximum combat power to bear on the Iraqis simultaneously. The 2nd BCT's breaching operations are an excellent example of the deliberate breaches done across the entire border obstacle.

The 3rd ID ordered the 2nd BCT to establish three lanes through the obstacle (Lanes 10A, 11, and 12) to support movement of the division cavalry squadron, followed by substantial elements of the division and V Corps. Task Force 3-15 IN, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Twitty, led the 2nd BCT's breaching operations. The task force consisted of two organic mechanized infantry companies (Alpha and Bravo, 3-15 IN), one attached tank company (Bravo Company, 4-64 AR), one engineer company (Alpha Company, 10th EN), and a PSYOP team. The task force organized into two elements. Lieutenant Colonel Twitty led Team China, composed of tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles. The remainder of TF 3-15 IN, all the wheeled logistics and administrative vehicles, formed Team Dragon, led by the battalion executive officer, Major Denton Knapp.39

After 19 days of intense rehearsals at Camp NEW YORK, the task force completed its final preparations early on 20 March, expecting to breach on the 22nd. B/3-15 Infantry opened the lane through the Kuwaiti side of the border defenses and established an outpost to maintain visual contact with the Iraqi border observation posts.


Figure 53. Crossing sign, 2nd BCT, 3rd ID, entering Iraq

While waiting, the soldiers assumed mission-oriented protective posture (MOPP) 4, wearing all of their chemical protective clothing, in case the Iraqis responded with a chemical or biological weapon strike.40 At 1224, a Patriot missile fired from D/5-52 ADA, located at Camp VICTORY, intercepted an inbound Iraqi missile about 15 km from Camp NEW YORK. Throughout the day, the Iraqis fired a total of five surface-to-surface missiles. Each time, the soldiers donned their protective masks and hunkered down in trenches. As elsewhere on the battlefield, unit chemical officers used point-of-impact data calculated from the Patriot missile battery and AN/TSQ-36 and AN/TSQ-37 Firefinder radars and automatically transmitted across the battlefield via the ABCS.41 With this information, the chemical officer added the effect of the wind and determined the possibility of any chemical contamination reaching the unit. However, in this case, the missiles were targeted at Camp DOHA, and the TF 3-15 IN returned to MOPP 0 and resumed preparations for combat.42

Soldiers Looking Out for Soldiers
As the 603rd continued to move north beyond As Samawah, it passed two soldiers walking along the road. They were in the middle of nowhere, walking north. The convoy stopped and picked up the soldiers and took care of them until their commander recovered them personally. The two soldiers were cooks on the commanding general's mess team who had somehow become separated from their unit.
603rd Aviation Support Battalion
unit history

Less than 3 hours later, at 2100, the direct-support artillery battalions began 20 minutes of 155mm fire directed on Iraqi border observation posts. TF 3-15 IN crossed the line of departure (LD) at 2120, with Bravo and Alpha Companies in the north and south, clearing lanes 10A and 11, respectively.43 Alpha Company "Gators," under the command of Captain Joshua Wright, drew first blood when, at 2138, it engaged and killed seven Iraqi soldiers at observation posts 18 and 19. In the course of the breaching operation, the task force destroyed three observation posts, four tanks, three armored personnel carriers, and five trucks. It then established a 10-km-deep security zone and prepared to pass 3-7 CAV, the corps refuel package, and the rest of 2nd BCT through the lanes.

Following the successful passage of lines, the 2nd BCT followed 3-7 CAV north. To facilitate movement and to clear the breach quickly, Colonel David Perkins, the BCT commander, split his BCT into two groups. Perkins moved armored vehicles, accompanied by the minimum required support vehicles such as tankers, as a separate grouping that he called Heavy Metal. Perkins' executive officer led Rock and Roll, composed of all of the wheeled vehicles.44

Passing Follow-on Forces

Conducting the passage of lines was far from routine. Several of the lanes were not as trafficable as expected. Moreover, the sheer physics of pushing the 10,000-plus V Corps vehicles through eight functioning lanes led to some early problems. For example, the 450 vehicles of the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Rich Knapp, were rerouted to lane 5 instead of 8A shortly after starting movement. Due to the size of the convoy, communication from the lead vehicle to the trail vehicle exceeded FM range, and the simple act of passing the change of route proved difficult. With hard work and only a bit of confusion, the battalion made the adjustment. Similar little dramas played themselves out elsewhere in the breach - almost nothing goes as planned, even in the most routine evolutions in combat zones. As the 603rd convoy drivers finally exited the passage lane, they drove by a dead Iraqi soldier on the road and they knew they were not in Kuwait anymore. For the next three days, the ground convoy encountered rugged desert terrain, traffic jams, fatigue, and more. Other units across the battlefield faced similar challenges.

Trafficability Past the Berm - the 603rd ASB's Story
The 3rd Division provided the 4th (Aviation) Brigade with three heavy equipment transporters (HETs), which were to be used to move the bucket-loader and forklift assigned to the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion. During mission planning, the 603rd Battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Knapp, decided to leave two of the HETs empty so that they could be used to recover vehicles and equipment during the road march.

Shortly after clearing the passage lane through the berm, recovering the HETs became the sole focus of the recovery team leader, the support operations officer, the battalion commander, and the three wrecker crews. As the brigade convoy continued north to Objective BULLS, the radio call "HET stuck, grid XXXXXXX" would become all too familiar.

In the space of about 3 miles of open desert, the three HETs were each recovered more times than any of those involved can remember. It became a mindless drill and a remarkable display of human endurance. HETs have a lot of wheels and that means a lot of digging when they get stuck up to the axles. Each recovery involved various combinations of shovels, wreckers, snatch blocks, and other HETs. Several times a 10-ton wrecker left the ground, bouncing as it strained against its winch cables. At that point, more sand was shoveled and another wrecker was added. Self-recovery with another HET using its winch worked sometimes, until the cables became hopelessly snarled from the strain. On occasion, some HETs became stuck 50 meters from where they were just freed from the clutches of the Iraqi desert.

The 603rd moved slowly across the desert throughout the night. While moving, it discovered a stuck HET from another unit and helped to recover the vehicle. The HET and crew joined the 603rd convoy. It took nearly 24 hours to travel 30 km from the attack position to Objective BULLS.

603rd ASB Unit History

Corps units passed bumper to bumper through the breach for two days and began the long, tiring movement north.45 The combat elements led, with 3-7 CAV in the west, 2nd BCT moving north in the desert, and 3rd BCT driving straight north after passing through 1st BCT. The rest of V Corps followed, traveling over 100 km, sometimes in 600-vehicle convoys moving at only 3-5 miles per hour along a single main supply route (MSR). Nonetheless 3rd ID reached attack positions from which it attacked its first objective, Tallil Air Base, Objective FIREBIRD, in 24 hours.

Extending Aviation's Reach

While 3rd ID forces moved north, the 101st Airborne Division maneuvered to extend the corps' reach into Iraq. The 101st, as an air assault division, is built around three infantry brigades and two helicopter brigades, providing lift and attack capabilities and allowing the division to lift maneuver formations great distances with tremendous flexibility. The 101st, in extending its own reach north, would also establish the infrastructure for the rest of the corps' aviation assets. Getting the aviation as far north as possible was the key to reaching out and shaping future battles early. Naturally, fuel is the key to aviation availability. Thus, while much of the 3rd ID's and 11th AHR's attack aviation supported the breaching operations, the 101st prepared for the next phase of combat by pushing the fuel and attack helicopters forward.

Ghosts of 1991
Earlier in the evening of 20 March, the brigade reconnaissance troop, Bushmaster, reported enemy vehicles in TF 2-7 IN's sector. They believed that T-72 tanks were firing on their vehicles. This report reached the task force and everyone keyed up for contact, contrary to what the most recent intelligence reports claimed.

The brigade reconnaissance troop reports turned out to be grossly false and inaccurate. In the darkness, the thermal sights of the scouts had picked up hot spots, largely from fires, earlier artillery explosions, and a day's worth of sun beating down on hulks. Bushmaster fired on the "T-72s" as they crossed the border.

Hours later, the rising sun cleared up the confusion, revealing T-55 hulks remaining on the battlefield from the 1991 conflict.

TF 2-7 Infantry Unit History

The corps' concept of the operation centered on the desire to position 101st combat power near Baghdad quickly. To accomplish this, the division integrated ground and air operations to move fuel points as far forward as possible.

As Figure 54 illustrates, the 101st planned air assault operations to set up a "daisy chain" of support locations - Rapid Refuel Point (RRP) EXXON, Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) SHELL, and Forward Operating Base (FOB) 5. Establishing EXXON and SHELL would extend aviation's reach to the Karbala Gap and southern Baghdad. To sup- port these long jumps forward, four CH-47D Chinook helicopters from A/7-101st AVN (159th Aviation Brigade) would conduct FAT COW operations to help reach SHELL. FAT COW operations use the CH-47D helicopters' internal 800-gallon tanks to refuel other helicopters, allowing the small, armed OH-58D helicopters from 2-17 CAV to move forward to the edge of their range, refuel, and establish security.

Sir, Blades are turning (230853ZMAR03), should have liftoff for AASLT to SHELL in the next 3 minutes.
E-mail from Captain Tim O'Sullivan,
101st Airborne Division battle captain

On 20 March 2003, the RRP EXXON team of fuel and ammunition handlers crossed the berm and entered Iraq under the control of TF 2-187 IN. It took almost 16 hours to travel the 200 km to their release point. They arrived at EXXON, already secured by an air assault, and established a 12-point RRP within 1 hour of arrival. The service support troops built a fully operational fuel system supply point (FSSP) within 31/2 hours of arrival. This marked the first step in extending the reach of attack helicopters into central Iraq. Eventually, the corps would establish FARPs across the entire country, enabling the attack helicopters to strike virtually every corner of Iraq, as shown in Figure 56.

To provide security to the helicopter fleet, the 101st attached 136 door gunners to the 159th Aviation Brigade alone. The gunners came from the three maneuver brigades in the 101st Airborne Division after they had received a 40-hour block of formal training on aviation operations and aeromedical factors. Attaching infantry as door gunners not only supported security but also facilitated maintenance. With infantrymen serving as door gunners, only one crew chief flew with the aircraft during missions. The second crew chief remained behind and conducted ground maintenance on aircraft not assigned a mission. Thus, the division maximized the availability of its most maneuverable and responsive asset.46


Figure 54.RRP EXXON and FARP SHELL concept
(Click on Image to Enlarge)


Figure 55. 101st Airborne Division FARP operations


Figure 56. Final Iraq-wide FARP disposition Attacking North to Tallil Air Base
(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Attacking North to Tallil Air Base

The 1st BCT, 3rd ID, led by TF 2-7 IN, passed through the berm and started its maneuver north as one of the lead combat elements. As TF 2-7 IN moved through the lanes, engineer soldiers stood atop the berm, welcoming the task force into Iraq, waving enormous American flags. Traveling north through the Iraqi desert, the task force passed small Bedouin encampments. The families emerged from their small tents as the vehicles thundered by. Confused adults stared and excited children waved happily. This was the extent of contact south of Highway 1.

Day slowly faded into night and TF 2-7 IN continued north into the darkness. Moving through the desert in a modified wedge formation, the task force was flanked by the remainder of 1st BCT. With TF 3-69 AR on one side and TF 3-7 IN on the other, the BCT continued attacking north. Shortly after darkness swallowed the formation, an order came down to switch on "white light" headlights for driving. Now, moving with three task forces abreast, 1st BCT, along with other division elements, made the Iraqi desert resemble a crowded Los Angeles freeway. Even though it facilitated movement, attacking deep into Iraq with thousands of pairs of high beams blazing into the night was counter to years of training.47 The 1st BCT moved north to the Jalala Airfield, just to the south of Tallil, and then passed the 3rd BCT through to the north. The 3rd BCT would attack in zone to defeat the Iraqi 11th ID in the vicinity of Tallil Air Base (An Nasiriyah), seize the air base, and then seize the Highway 1 crossing site on the Euphrates River in support of the I MEF advance.

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The Fight at Tallil Air Base

Tallil Air Base is situated southwest of the town of Tallil and adjacent to An Nasiriyah, at the bend of Highway 1 where the highway turns northward to cross the Euphrates River. The Battle of Tallil opened this critical LOC for the corps and the Highway 1 bridges for I MEF. The attack at Tallil also supported the deception story that the corps' main effort would be east of the Euphrates River. The V Corps operations order directed Major General Buford "Buff" Blount's 3rd ID to seize the air base to develop a logistics support area (LSA) to sustain the corps as it moved north. Securing the air base also provided a position to block Iraqis from interdicting Highways 1 and 28 from the town of Tallil.

Accordingly, Blount assigned the mission to 3rd BCT (the Hammer brigade) and its four maneuver battalions. Colonel Daniel Allyn, commanding the 3rd BCT, designated Tallil Air Base as Objective FIREBIRD. Blount also required the brigade to seize and secure the Highway 1 bridge over the Euphrates River (Objective CLAY) to continue the attack north. The 3rd ID would eventually hand over the bridge to I MEF. At 0600 on 21 March, "MARNE 66" (the 3rd ID assistant division commander for maneuver, ADC-M), Brigadier General Lloyd Austin, authorized the brigade to initiate the attack to seize Tallil Air Base.


Figure 57. Tallil and An Nasiriyah
(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Prior to crossing the line of departure, estimates of the enemy varied from a strong defense in depth to a complete collapse. Units assigned to the 11th ID of the Iraqi Regular Army constituted the bulk of enemy forces in the vicinity of Objective FIREBIRD. The 3rd ID designated the 11th ID's garrison northeast of the airfield as Objective LIBERTY. The three brigades of the Iraqi 11th ID occupied positions east and northeast of An Nasiriyah, defending the approaches to town rather than Tallil or the air base. Other Iraqi forces that could threaten the 3rd ID included 21st Tank Regiment in the vicinity of An Nasiriyah and paramilitary forces, including Saddam Fedayeen. Intelligence did not assess the defenses as robust. Surveillance by SOF inserted prior to G-day reported on the Highway 1 bridge (Objective CLAY) and the area around Objective FIREBIRD. The immediate defenses around Objective CLAY included a dismounted infantry company defending the Highway 1 bridge, a T-55 tank company at the air base, an infantry battalion northeast of Objective FIREBIRD positioned to block the southern approaches to Tallil (on Objective LIBERTY), and about 25 vehicles on and around the airfield itself.48

If I had tried this attack at the NTC, I would not survive the after-action review.49
Colonel Daniel Allyn
Commander, 3rd BCT, 3rd ID
commenting on the attack into Objective FIREBIRD

The Approach

Strung out from the congested choke point through the berm, 3rd BCT had not closed all of its units and supply trains when the lead elements reached Assault Position (AP) BARROW (southeast of Objective FIREBIRD), at 1045 on 21 March. Fatigue also became a factor as the brigade closed on BARROW. Colonel Allyn, for example, recalled that he slept for about half an hour at the assault position and really did not rest again until 24 March. The troops did not rest either. Lieutenant Colonel John Harding, commanding Allyn's direct support artillery, recalled that at one point the battalion moved only to discover that it had left a battery asleep by the side of the road.50

Tired or not, the brigade's advance guard cleared BARROW of a small Iraqi force consisting of a few trucks and fighting vehicles. Despite the fact that 3rd BCT did not have its units and supply trains closed up, Brigadier General Austin ordered the brigade to attack at 1145 with available forces. Colonel Allyn quickly executed his planned combined arms attack, employing ground maneuver, fires, and attack aviation. The essence of his plan was to envelop the air base from the south and northeast, with TF 1-30 IN attacking from the south and TF 1-15 IN moving to a blocking position in the northeast. TF 2-69 AR would attack to seize the bridge across the Euphrates - Objective CLAY. Allyn issued a warning order to 1-10 FA to prepare the objective with fires while the remainder of the brigade closed on AP BARROW.51 Allyn was concerned that the brigade's approach to FIREBIRD might be so aggressive and so close to the Iraqis that they would be compelled to fight rather than capitulate, as anticipated. Accordingly, his subordinate battalion commanders devised plans to position themselves to either accept a surrender or fight, as appropriate.52

The 3rd ID provided further support from the 4th Brigade's attack aviation. Attack helicopters from 1-3 Aviation attacked targets in advance of 3rd BCT, destroying one SA-6 air defense missile system, two tanks, and six BTR-70 infantry fighting vehicles. The attack helicopters emerged nearly unscathed despite having to avoid shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles. However, small-arms fire wounded one aviator.53


Figure 58. The 3rd BCT scheme of maneuver, Tallil Air Base
(Click on Image to Enlarge)

The 3rd BCT attacked at 1400, with the brigade reconnaissance troop leading and reconnoitering the zone, moving up Highway 1. The troop made contact with the enemy 25 minutes later - a small party of approximately 20 soldiers emplacing land mines. The cavalrymen drove the enemy off, killing one soldier, capturing four others, and destroying one of their four trucks. The captured soldiers claimed they had come from Tallil Air Base but were leaving because they knew the Americans were coming.54

At 1540, TF 2-69 AR, supported by 1-10 FA, using the same route as the reconnaissance troop, advanced north to seize Objective CLAY SOUTH, the southern side of the Highway 1 bridge crossing the Euphrates River. The task force reported contact with Iraqi dismounted infantry about 5-6 km outside of Objective FIREBIRD and began receiving Iraqi artillery at 1645. In what would become de rigueur all the way to Baghdad, the armor task force and the artillery fought off dismounted infantry and fired counterbattery and suppressive fires all along the route to CLAY SOUTH. The Iraqis defended from vantage points along roads and from overpasses and highway ramps. TF 2-69 reported contact with tanks and dismounted infantry on CLAY SOUTH at 2115. By 2350, the task force secured the southern objective. Throughout the fight, 1-10 FA responded to calls for fire against enemy vehicles and infantry positions, later firing the first sense and destroy armor (SADARM) munitions of the war in support of TF 1-15 IN at Objective LIBERTY, destroying a T-55 tank.55


Figure 59. The 3rd BCT at Objective FIREBIRD, blocking positions set
(Click on Image to Enlarge)

With TF 2-69 AR en route, TF 1-15 IN and TF 1-30 IN departed BARROWS by 1826. The 1-41 FA and 1-39 FA (MLRS) had arrived and occupied firing positions from which they could support the assault. By 2200, TF 2-70 AR, the BCT reserve under Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Ingram, closed on Position Area (PA) TROOP, 6 km outside Tallil, completing the brigade's positioning for the final attack on the air base itself. TF 2-69 AR secured the bridge, while TF 1-15 IN occupied Objective LIBERTY to block movement between Tallil and the air base.56

The Attack

Shortly after midnight on 22 March, B/1-15 IN occupied a position from which they could block the northeastern approach to Objective FIREBIRD. An hour later, the company reported soldiers and armed men in civilian clothes accompanied by tanks and pickup trucks mounting automatic weapons evacuating Objective FIREBIRD south of its blocking position. Bravo Company, 1-15 IN, engaged and destroyed several of the fleeing vehicles, including two T-55 tanks. The Iraqis appeared to be abandoning the airfield before the ground attack even started. B/1-15 IN then returned to its blocking position to support TF 1-30 IN's pending attack. Leaving B/1-15 IN in its blocking position, the rest of TF 1-15 IN advanced toward Objective LIBERTY at 0143. B/1-64 AR identified five tanks occupying dug-in defensive positions within Objective LIBERTY. The tank company destroyed the closest four tanks with direct fire from the M-1 tanks; the fifth was destroyed with SADARM rounds after the scouts located and targeted it with their newly fielded Long-Range Advanced Scout Surveillance System (LRASSS).57

TF 1-15 IN secured Objective LIBERTY at 0551, suffering only one soldier wounded in action. The task force destroyed five tanks and killed several dismounted soldiers and also captured more than 200 EPWs, including an Iraqi brigadier general who commanded the regional air defenses. The brigadier carried with him Iraqi war plans for operations from Kuwait to Turkey and information about the senior Iraqi leadership.58

Tanks! Out.
Captain Dave Waldron's tank team (B/1-64 AR, attached to TF 1-15 IN) moved closer to Objective LIBERTY. This was part of Lieutenant Colonel Charlton's plan to put units into position to be able either to accept a unit's surrender or to engage a unit that was combative. Charlton did not know what the situation was, or what the enemy forces were, in Objective LIBERTY, so he sent up the heavy team to look. What Waldron's tankers found gave him the first shock of the night.

As soon as B/1-64 AR moved to where it had line-of-sight to Objective LIBERTY, it discovered that the Iraqis had moved an armored force into prepared fighting positions around the perimeter. These tanks were hot spots in the thermal sights of the M1 Abrams, proof that their engines were running and they were combat-ready. The message Waldron sent was short and sweet. It didn't need to be any longer; everyone who heard it knew exactly what he meant. Charlton remembered the message vividly. It came over the radio loud and clear, "Dragon 6, Knight 6. Tanks! Out." With that, the fighting kicked into a higher gear.

The Iraqis in the tanks dug in around Objective LIBERTY never had a chance, not that B Company was planning on giving them one anyway. With the superior fire control and night vision sights of the Abrams main battle tank, the ancient T-62s of the Iraqis were sitting ducks. They could still be dangerous, especially to the infantrymen in their Bradley Fighting Vehicles, but the Abrams made quick work of them.

As soon as Waldron sent his short contact report to Charlton, he issued a platoon fire command to his lead platoon. With his tank adding its firepower to the four others in the platoon, in less than 30 seconds after the radio call, the massive 120mm cannons on five tanks roared in unison. The firing continued for 2 minutes as the gunners and tank commanders traversed left and right, seeking out and destroying the tanks and other vehicles dug into supporting positions around the perimeter. In less time than it takes to tell, they destroyed four T-62 tanks, several other armored vehicles, and some trucks that were moving behind the bunkers.

Derived from interview with Lieutenant Colonel John Charlton,
Commander, TF 1-15 IN

As TF 1-15 IN concluded the attack on Objective LIBERTY, TF 1-30 IN breached FIREBIRD's (Tallil Air Base) southeast perimeter berm at 0411. Following intense artillery (192 rounds of high explosive ammunition) and attack aviation strikes, and concealed by 97 rounds of artillery-fired smoke, TF 1-30 IN seized its objective against light resistance. The task force cleared the airfield and brought in a sensitive-site exploitation team, which confirmed that the Iraqis had no chemical weapons stored in bunkers on the base.59

Consolidation

Fighting through the night of 21-22 March, the 3rd BCT concluded this action late in the morning of the 22nd. TF 2-69 AR moved north across the bridge, seizing Objective CLAY NORTH by approximately 0500 and securing a route across the Euphrates. TF 2-70 AR, the BCT's reserve, relieved TF 2-69 AR at 1330. TF 2-69 AR moved south to rendezvous with 1st BCT to support its forward passage of lines through 3rd BCT. With Tallil Air Base secure and routes from An Nasiriyah blocked, the fighting shifted to the outskirts of the town itself, where 1-10 FA engaged two counterbattery targets identified by the Firefinder radars. Having secured the objectives and set blocking positions between Highway 1 and An Nasiriyah, the 3rd BCT and 3rd ID had met all of their mission objectives. The 3rd BCT then began the process of handing off the bridge at CLAY to TF Tarawa in the early hours of the 23rd. Once that was completed, 3rd BCT moved out to secure the LOC as far as As Samawah.60

Handling the Enemy Prisoners of War (EPWs)

The Battle of Tallil presented the 3rd ID with its first substantial numbers of EPWs. Handling the prisoners was a major task that the division and corps had been working for months. This would be the first test of that effort. At 0900 on 22 March, Captain Joe Hissom, the 3rd MP Company commander, led the advance party of Task Force EPW to AP BARROW and established the first EPW collection point. Shortly thereafter, the main body arrived and received and processed the first three Iraqi EPWs. All three prisoners had gunshot wounds. The 274th Medical Detachment (Forward Surgical Team) treated all three and performed surgery on one of them.61

While processing the prisoners at BARROW, Lieutenant Colonel John Huey, 3rd Infantry Division provost marshal, received a message from 3rd BCT asking for assistance with the prisoners taken at Tallil Air Base (Objective FIREBIRD). Huey and a small advance party moved north on MSR TAMPA to take control of the prisoners, established a hasty collection point, and accepted 3rd BCT's prisoners. The following morning at 0900, TF 1-30 IN of the 3rd BCT cleared a building complex planned as the location of Division Central Collection Point HAMMER. Task Force EPW occupied the complex in the early afternoon.


Figure 60. The 274th Medical Detachment (Forward Surgical Team) located near An Nasiriyah


Figure 61. Division Central Collection Point HAMMER

By the morning of 24 March, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Vanderlinden, the 709th MP Battalion commander, arrived at Tallil Air Base, coordinated and effected a relief-in-place with TF EPW. This freed Task Force EPW to continue movement north following the 3rd ID brigades. However, Vanderlinden quickly realized that he did not have adequate combat power to relieve Task Force EPW and conduct his second mission of escorting critical logistics convoys to the fighting forces. The only available forces at his disposal were two platoons and the company headquarters of the 511th MP Company from Fort Drum, New York, all of which had arrived ahead of the unit equipment.

Lieutenant Colonel Vanderlinden decided to commit this force to conduct the EPW mission at Tallil. On 24 March, Captain Travis Jacobs, commander of the 511th MP Company, led 80 soldiers in six Black Hawk helicopters from Camp PENNSYLVANIA to Tallil Air Base, with only their weapons, rucksacks, a picket pounder, and two days' supply of food and water.62 They immediately augmented the 709th MP Battalion and effectively relieved Task Force EPW. The 709th MPs renamed the collection point Corps Holding Area WARRIOR. With limited equipment and supplies, the 511th MP Company expanded the collection point and processed and safeguarded over 1,500 EPWs until the 744th MP Battalion (Internment and Resettlement) relieved them on 6 April 2003.

The holding area at Tallil Air Base ultimately became Camp WHITFORD, a trans-shipment point where all coalition ground forces brought EPWs pending movement by the 800th MP Brigade to the theater internment facility at Camp BUCCA as Qasr. On 9 April, coalition forces had over 7,300 EPWs in custody. Most of these prisoners ultimately made it to the theater internment facility. However, coalition commanders released prisoners who they determined


Figure 62. EPWs being cared for early in the war

did not have ties to the Iraqi armed forces or the Ba'ath Party. As coalition forces transitioned to peace support operations, the internment and resettlement mission also transitioned. Shortly after 1 May 2003, when President Bush declared the end of major combat operations, the 800th MP Brigade began paroling approximately 300 EPWs a day. As the prisoners were released, criminals replaced them in the camps as coalition forces began to establish law and order throughout the country.63

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The Fight at As Samawah

As Samawah is a moderate-size city, approximately 265 km west-northwest of Al Basra and 240 km south-southeast of Baghdad. The town is on the Euphrates River and is also astride Highway 8, a main improved road leading northwest to Baghdad. Highway 8 parallels the Euphrates River and turns north at As Samawah, crossing to the east side of the river. As Samawah itself lies mostly to the south of an east-west leg of the river, with some built-up areas to the north of the river. Additionally, the rail line between Al Basra and Baghdad passes around the town to the south and west. A man-made canal runs northwest to southeast approximately 5 km south of the town.

Intelligence reported fighting positions covering a large portion of the circumference of the town, on both sides of the river, as well as behind existing water obstacles. The Iraqis built other fighting positions forward of apartment blocks that afforded sniper and machine gun positions capable of firing over the heads of troops in the fighting positions below. While some mortar pits were noted, no artillery positions had been identified before 3rd ID made contact. There were no clear indications of the paramilitary threat in the town. Figures 65 and 66 provide an overview of the enemy within the town.64


Figure 63. Distance from Objective FIREBIRD to Objective CHATHAM


Figure 64. As Samawah prepared defenses


Figure 65. (Image 1 from Figure 64.)
Downtown As Samawah with US annotations


As Samawah where Highway 8 turns north, with US annotations


Figure 67. Routes of march north to As Samawah

The original V Corps scheme of maneuver envisioned containing any enemy forces in the town to allow the division to move around the western edge, north toward Objectives RAIDERS and RAMS near An Najaf. Lieutenant General Wallace intended 3rd ID to strike deep and did not want it tied down clearing towns along the way. The 3-7 CAV, leading 2nd BCT's Team Heavy Metal, had the mission to contain As Samawah.65 Seizing Objective CHATHAM, the two bridges crossing the canal southwest of the town, would effectively isolate Iraqi forces in the town and ensure that Highway 28 remained clear. The squadron did not expect significant opposition based on division and corps intelligence summaries. In fact, Lieutenant Colonel Terry Ferrell half-jokingly told his unit to "expect a parade." However, "the only flags were white flags that they shot from behind [referring to Iraqis feigning surrender and then engaging coalition forces]."66

The squadron scheme of maneuver divided CHATHAM into two smaller objectives - Objective PISTOL, the western bridge, and Objective SABER, the eastern bridge. Although PISTOL saw the most action, SABER was the main effort, because that bridge would support about 60 percent of the division's logistics traffic.

The Approach

On 21 March, after breaching the berm, the OH-58Ds of D/3-7 CAV conducted a zone reconnaissance 200 km forward of the ground troops to confirm the terrain and the bridges at CHATHAM. They did not see any enemy forces. The ground troops arrived at As Samawah at 0747 on 22 March. When the lead troop, C/3-7 CAV, "Crazy Horse," neared the southwest 126 Chapter 3 approach to the bridges, it came across 1-64 AR, from the 2nd BCT, resting in a depression off the side of the road about 3 km outside the city. The soldiers were sleeping atop their tanks and Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (BIFVs), uniform tops off because of the heat. They were resting after almost two days of moving and were waiting for their logistics to catch up.67

As Crazy Horse moved forward toward Objective PISTOL, a group of small pickup trucks mounted with large machine guns greeted them. The trucks raced toward them from the town with large American flags flying off the backs of the vehicles; they were an SOF team conducting linkup. The team had been in the town for several days conducting reconnaissance and surveillance of key terrain. The SOF troopers effected the linkup in accordance with an established recognition signal worked out with the special forces liaison element (SFLE). The SOF team confirmed that the bridges were intact and not wired for demolition. The SOF troops had developed a contact in town who reported on the infiltration of Republican Guard troops in town and the presence of paramilitary forces as well.68

The Attack

Expecting a positive reception, with the enemy surrendering or capitulating, Sergeant First Class Anthony Broadhead, the platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon, C/3-7 CAV, led a hunter-killer team of three Bradleys and two M-1 tanks toward the bridge where some Iraqis had assembled. As his tank approached the bridge at 0900, Broadhead waved at the Iraqis. Rather than waving back, the Iraqis responded with AK-47 fire. The fight quickly escalated as paramilitary forces engaged Crazy Horse from pickup trucks armed with small arms, machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and mortars. For the first, but not the last time, well-armed paramilitary forces - indistinguishable, except for their weapons, from civilians - attacked the squadron.69


Figure 68. Location of 3-7 CAV fight
(Click on Image to Enlarge)


Figure 69. Drawing, C/3-7 CAV actions at As Samawah
(Click on Image to Enlarge)

As they moved up close to the canal bridge on Objective PISTOL, the two lead vehicles, Broadhead's M1 and a Bradley commanded by Staff Sergeant Dillard Johnson, the squadron's lead scout, identified a Ba'ath Party police station and Fedayeen training barracks on their left and right, respectively. Both compounds had walls, and the facilities were swarming with Fedayeen troops, firing primarily small arms and mortars from a tree line off to the north. 70

As the team began to destroy the enemy mortar positions, it noted that the enemy soldiers came in waves in an almost suicidal manner. Subsequent waves replaced men shot down just moments before. When the team moved up parallel with the Fedayeen compound, it drew heavy fire from inside the facility. The two vehicles moved inside the walls and began moving around the compound, firing into any buildings where they saw a muzzle flash. Dillard Johnson describes his fight:

We were closing from the west in a HKT (Hunter Killer Team). I identified a large number of dismounts near the bridge, which was our objective. Due to the [Rules of Engagement], (there had been no engagements during the war to this point), we could not fire on them. We signaled them to surrender and they immediately opened fire on us. I was told to move up to the bridge with [Broadhead's] M1 tank. While we were moving up, the M1 engaged the dismounts with coaxial and .50-caliber machine gun, which had no effect. So, I opened up with the 25mm High Explosive (HE) that literally laid them out. [Note: 65 KIA later identified at the location]. We then moved up to the bridge and secured it. . . .

An Iraqi military truck then came down the road from the military compound. A privately owned vehicle got between us, so I could not engage him. So we chased the truck into the compound and the M1 remained at the gate. The guys in the truck then opened up on me with small arms and RPGs. One of the RPGs' backblast set one of the Iraqis on fire and he fell out of the truck onto the road. . . . A guy with an RPG then ran into a bunker by the M1 tank. The tank fired a 120mm HEAT round into the bunker and killed him. I then fired four rounds of 25mm HE into the truck. This caused the truck to break in half and burst into flames [Note: 25-30 KIA later identified in and around the truck].

Now is when total mayhem broke out! We began to receive a huge volume of fire from the right side and the M1 withdrew outside the gate. Between 150-200 guys then began to pour out of the buildings. They engaged us with small arms and a few RPGs. They were so close that my M240 coax [machine gun] was destroyed by small-arms fire. Also, literally dozens of RPGs were bouncing off the vehicle because the Iraqis were too close! The RPGs did not have enough range to arm so were just non-explosive projectiles. I had rigged a [second] M240 on the cargo hatch and my observer began to engage the dismounts. I engaged with my M9 (9mm pistol) and M4 (5.56mm assault rifle) while the [BIFV] gunner used the 25mm. This went on for 25 minutes or so. When the shooting stopped, there were 13 EPWs and the rest were dead. I then took an AK round to the chest, which knocked me down into the vehicle. I thought I was dead and was surprised that I was not [due to the body armor, even though he was not equipped with the ceramic plate that affords additional protection] [Note: 167 KIA later identified at this site].

I then dismounted with the observer and began to provide first aid to the wounded EPWs. I was really sore from where the AK round had hit me. That is when eight trucks full of Fedayeen came down the road outside the compound and stopped. They did not see me and began to fire on the rest of the platoon. We were less than 30 meters away. My gunner then engaged the trucks with 25mm and placed 13-15 rounds in each. I hit one with my M203, [and it] burst into flames. . . .

Then 70 guys came running out of another building and engaged the M1 with small arms. . . .The M1 engaged them with its .50 cal [machine gun]. I grabbed the two Iraqis with the best-looking uniforms and dragged them to the BIFV. That was when a mortar round landed among the rest of the prisoners. The mortar round killed 13 of the EPWs and I told the other two to run away. I used hand signals, which they must have understood because they ran away into a building.

We mounted up and took off. At this moment, a mortar round hit the palm tree we were under and exploded. It knocked me down into the turret and the observer down into the cargo compartment. I had shrapnel wounds in both legs, both arms, and my right eardrum burst. The observer had shrapnel wounds in both of his hands. . . . We hauled ass out of there and the M1 crossed the bridge. I got in a hull down position on our side of the river and kept returning fire. We reported the [battle damage assessment] and the assessment of the situation. . . .

This is when the missile flew out of the town. I am not sure it if was a surface-to-air or surface-to-surface missile. We now began to take heavy mortar fire and spotted the mortar crews in the tree line. I radioed the platoon sergeant and he called our internal mortars on them, which killed all of them. The platoon sergeant then told me to sit tight while the platoon came to us. This forced the Iraqis to withdraw temporarily.

We then all moved back to the original start position. Unfortunately, the last Bradley hit one of the mortar craters, spun around, and fell into the ravine. This caused it to hang by its tracks on the edge of the ravine. Now all the Iraqis came running back and began to engage the stuck Bradley. He could not fire at them because of the angle the vehicle was stuck in. . . . We raced up, dropped the ramp, and the crew ran inside my Bradley. I then saw an ambulance with a Red Crescent pull up into the compound. About 10 soldiers in uniform jumped out and ran into the building. They immediately began shooting at my vehicle, so we engaged the houses with 25mm HE and killed all of them [Note: 10 enemy KIAs later identified at that location]. I then re-crossed the bridge and provided overwatch on the stuck Bradley. A van then pulled up full of armed Fedayeen. I engaged the van and killed all of them also . . . we [continued to] overwatch with the rest of the platoon [Note: 221 enemy KIA identified around the bridge from Staff Sergeant Johnson protecting the stuck Bradley].71

During the fighting the enemy used innocent men, women, and children as human shields. Iraqi forces also used trucks, taxis, and ambulances to transport fighters onto the battlefield. These tactics, along with the Fedayeen practice of "retreating" into homes and forcing the civilians at gunpoint to engage the Americans with small arms, challenged the soldiers' application of the ROE. The soldiers had no choice but to return fire.72 This pattern of operation became routine as the war wore on.

Shortly before Crazy Horse, C/3-7 CAV reached the bridge, Demon Troop, D/3-7 CAV (equipped with OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed reconnaissance helicopters) had maneuvered over and around the town. Conducting mission coordination with Ferrell via a commercial satellite telephone, Demon Troop moved to reconnoiter the bridges over the Euphrates north of CHATHAM. At approximately 0800, Captain Thomas Hussey and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeff Pudil flew the lead aircraft into As Samawah, drawing small-arms and RPG fire from dismounted forces in the town. The ground fire was heavy, so the OH-58D crews flew low along the river, 20 feet above the water but still 10 feet below the banks. Whenever they gained altitude to observe the town, the helicopters drew small-arms and RPG fire from the palm groves on the banks. Pilots reported feeling the heat of the glowing orange rounds as they passed by the open helicopter doors. The air cavalrymen developed the practice of flying one Kiowa Warrior over a built-up area to draw fire, and the wingman, standing off, would then engage the shooters with rockets and machine guns.73 The firing diminished after the pilots engaged with rockets, only to intensify once the Iraqis reseeded their positions with new fighters.74

Two Shots - One Kill
A C/3-7 CAV hunter killer team identified a T-55 tank on a rail car west of the city. The [HKT] developed a tactic to destroy the tank with a sabot followed by a high explosive antitank (HEAT) round, because the sabots were too powerful and would shoot right through the tank. The HEAT rounds would explode the tank, therefore illustrating that the tank was "dead."
3-7 CAV Unit History

On 23 March, 3-7 CAV identified and engaged the Ba'ath and other paramilitary headquarters in As Samawah, with CAS as a result of information provided by SOF and from EPW interrogation. Technical Sergeant Mike Keehan led the enlisted terminal attack controllers (ETACs) assigned to the squadron. ETACs are the Air Force's forward air controllers assigned to ground units and trained and equipped to call in CAS. The ETACs and Kiowa Warriors guided F-15s onto the Ba'ath Party headquarters, eventually marking the building with a Hellfire missile to ensure the pilot knew the exact target. Within a few minutes, the F-15 identified the mark and destroyed the headquarters.

The Kiowas also identified various targets, to include a surface-to-surface missile in the vicinity of a factory downtown. When the cavalry reported the discovery, corps ordered division to use ATACMS to destroy the target. As a standard safety precaution, friendly forces within 2 km of the target had to depart the impact area. This meant that all of C/3-7 CAV had to withdraw to a safe distance, relinquishing the ground they had spent the previous day and that morning taking. Although 3-7 CAV withdrew, the missiles never came due to the complex process to clear fires in such a way as to avoid both fratricide and damage to the civil infrastructure. After 6 hours of waiting, the call came back over the "net" to allow the squadron to engage the targets, and A/3-7 CAV destroyed the large missile.75

The Fight Disrupts the LOCs

While the fighting at CHATHAM continued, 1st BCT, "Raider," moved north along Highway 8 from An Nasiriyah to As Samawah, en route to Objective RAIDERS. Iraqi civilians had been coming out to greet the soldiers from the Raiders once they were in the Euphrates River valley. However, as lead units traveled along Highway 8 where it neared the southern edge of As Samawah, they found themselves under fire.76 The 1st BCT maneuvered out of the engagement area and passed through 3-7 CAV to the west at approximately 1200, continuing its mission to the north. On 23 March, it became clear that paramilitary troops in As Samawah posed a threat to the LOC. V Corps ordered logistics traffic and soft-skinned vehicles to divert from Highway 8 to Route ROVERS (Highway 28) via a bypass that avoided the danger zone near As Samawah.


Figure 70. Location of bypass to Route ROVER
(Click on Image to Enlarge)

In support of this bypass, 3-7 CAV cleared the Iraqis from the area 1 km north of Highway 8. Throughout the fight in the town, 3-7 CAV estimated that it killed more than 550 Iraqis and destroyed 30 antiaircraft systems, 30 civilian vehicles, and three command and control facilities.77

Transition of As Samawah to 3rd BCT

After TF Tarawa relieved 3rd BCT at the Euphrates bridge on 23 March, 3rd BCT could now continue north. Leaving one battalion to secure Tallil, Colonel Allyn assumed control of the fight at As Samawah. The 3rd BCT's mission at As Samawah was to prevent Iraqi forces from interdicting logistics traffic along Highways 8 and 28. The 3rd BCT moved toward As Samawah, with TF 1-15 IN leading. The rest of the BCT was strung out along Highway 8 as far south as Tallil Air Base. Allyn had to exert command and control over the BCT across 240 km. Three TACSAT radios with only limited access to a single frequency provided the chief means he had to do so.78 The BFT system, using a satellite link to share unit positional information across the battlefield, enabled Allyn to maintain a picture of his widely dispersed units as he approached As Samawah.

Initially, Allyn planned to employ his two battalion task forces along the highway to clear the LOCs from Tallil to As Samawah, and then later, north to An Najaf.79 Given the intensity of fighting in the town, Allyn changed his mind and used his HMMWV-mounted brigade reconnaissance troop along the highway away from the heaviest fighting. He used the more heavily armored infantry task forces to isolate As Samawah itself.80

At 1430 on 23 March, 3rd BCT took control of the fight at As Samawah from 3-7 CAV. The division resumed control of the cavalry and ordered it north toward An Najaf, the next major city on the route to Baghdad. The 3-7 CAV would seize the bridge on Objective FLOYD and isolate An Najaf from the east and north.81 This mission would also serve as a second feint against the Medina Division, presenting the Iraqis with the prospect of the main effort crossing east of the Euphrates River in An Najaf. After briefly refitting, the squadron moved north along Highway 9, which amounted to running a gauntlet that the soldiers dubbed "Ambush Alley."82 The 3-7 CAV's fight on Highway 9 is discussed in the next chapter.

Better Intelligence

The intelligence picture in As Samawah improved as the 3rd BCT's fight evolved. Naturally, as soldiers gain and maintain contact with the enemy, they develop a better understanding of the environment and the threat. Captured Iraqis revealed that paramilitary forces were forcing civilians to fight, executing those who refused. They also stated that every school had been taken over and was being used as a command post or staging base. The pattern in As Samawah appeared to mirror that in An Nasiriyah, where a captured Iraqi captain claimed the Fedayeen assassinated 50 Iraqi soldiers because they were not fighting hard enough.83


Figure 71. 3rd BCT assumes control of As Samawah
(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs in Support of 3rd BCT Operations
The brigade employed psychological operations in As Samawah, but the effective range of a loudspeaker in high winds and sandstorms was only 300-1,000 meters. The primary message was for civilians to stay put and get off the road. Civil Affairs (CA) teams were very busy making contact with the locals in the small towns on the outskirts of the city to determine who were hostiles or otherwise posed a potential problem for friendly forces.

The SOF continued to provide critical information from inside the town, sending reports of from 500 to 1,000 Republican Guard forces reinforcing As Samawah. Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha (ODA), the SOF team in the town when 3rd BCT assumed the fight, had one contact, a taxi driver who provided two reports daily via cell phone on enemy disposition and command and control nodes.84

The SOF passed this type of information to the 3rd BCT several times a day, sometimes using the BCT's radio nets. They also provided a liaison team to TF 2-69 at the bridge on Highway 8. In Colonel Allyn's opinion, the integration with SOF at As Samawah was the best of the whole war and helped shape the fight decisively.85


Figure 72. Soldiers in the sandstorm

During the fighting at As Samawah, the brigade realized that the enemy was fundamentally different from what had been expected. Though fierce and relentless in their attacks, the Iraqi paramilitaries did not fight competently, nor did they adapt to changing conditions.86 Colonel Allyn noted that the division considered ordering 3rd BCT into the town to destroy the defending Iraqis. However, he kept the purpose of his mission foremost in his mind - "To prevent interdiction of the LOCs." By coming out to attack the 3rd BCT, the Iraqis forfeited the advantages afforded them by defending in urban terrain. Accordingly, Allyn decided to conduct a series of demonstrations, keeping the Iraqis "interested" and effectively fixing them in As Samawah, where they could not attack elsewhere along the LOC.87

Transition to 82nd Airborne Division

The 3rd BCT fought in As Samawah until relieved by the 2nd BCT of the 82nd Airborne Division on 29 March.88 The 3rd BCT then moved to Area of Operation HAMMER, northwest of An Najaf, and prepared for offensive operations in Karbala. Committing the 2nd BCT of the 82nd Airborne released the bulk of 3rd ID's combat power and allowed the division to focus on the first major conventional fight it expected - the destruction of the Medina Division of the Iraqi Republican Guard at the Karbala Gap.

"Soldiers are our Credentials"
Rangers Lead the Way:
Specialist Manuel Avila


Figure 73. Specialist Avila receives Purple Heart from General Eric Shinseki
Born in Mexico, Specialist Manuel Avila grew up in El Paso, Texas. Growing up, Avila recalls, "I always thought about joining the Army." Avila enlisted in 2000, joined the Ranger Regiment in late 2000 and earned his Ranger Tab in the summer of 2001. Subsequently, he deployed with his unit to Army Afghanistan and then to OIF. US On 27 March 2003, Specialist Avila was hit in the shoulder by a bullet that caromed off Dukes, a bone and through his chest, lodging in his E. flak vest. Badly wounded, he was evacuated ultimately to Walter Reed Medical Center, where on 5 April, General Eric Shinseki awarded him the Nation's oldest medal - the Purple Heart. Determined to get fit despite his serious wound, he worked hard to get back into shape so he could rejoin his unit. In June 2003, Avila ran a 12-km team race with his unit. Although others marveled at the speed of his recovery, Avila expressed disappointment that he could only manage an average pace of 6 minutes per mile.

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Notes

  1. Williamson Murray and Major General Robert H. Scales, Jr., The Iraq War, A Military History (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003). Murray and Scales' chapter on the air war is a first-rate review of how air campaign planning evolved from DESERT STORM to OIF. Re: numbers of mission and level of effort, see 166-172.
  2. Lieutenant Colonel E.J. Degen, chief of plans, V Corps, interview by Major David Tohn, 19 August 2003.
  3. "CFLCC OPLAN COBRA II," 13 January 2003, 24.
  4. Rich Connel and Robert J. Lopez, "A Deadly Day for Charlie Company," Los Angles Times, 26 August 2003, cites 18 marines killed in action on 23 March 2003 in An Nasiriyah. Apparently all 18 marines were members of Company C, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and Task Force Tarawa.
  5. Major Lou Rago, V Corps planner, interview by Major David Tohn, 8 May 2003.
  6. Rago.
  7. It is tempting to compare the speed of operations in OIF to the first Gulf War or to operations in Korea or World War II. Such comparisons are faulty for a host of reasons, and the scale and pace of operations in OIF are impressive without resorting to these comparisons. Coalition troops reached Baghdad on 5 April, about 500 kilometers from their starting point. By any measure that is a rapid advance.
  8. The JTFC was not part of the doctrinal JACE, so the analysts and resources had to be reassigned from within the JACE or donated by other units with an interest in the mission.
  9. Major Julius Washington, CFLCC C2 planner, reviewed a draft of On Point with Major David Tohn, 8 August 2003. This passage reflects Washington's recommended revision to the draft.
  10. Brigade S2s, 3rd ID and 101st Airborne Division, summary of individual interviews by Major Daniel Corey, 930 May 2003. These are notes from interviewing the brigade S2s of these divisions by Major Daniel Corey, OIF-SG. Cory produced several summaries for OIF-SG, and all of the discrete interviews are available in the OIF archive. Republican Death Squads was the generic term used to describe the mix of Fedayeen, Ba'ath Party militia, foreign mercenaries and volunteers, and other assorted armed civilians. Although the intelligence types used the term "Republican Death Squads" to describe the amorphous collection of paramilitary forces, the troops did not.
  11. Major David Carstens, Early Entry Command Post, CFLCC, interview by Major David Tohn, 9 May 2003. Although Carstens did serve in the CFLCC early entry command post, his correct job title is CFLCC C2 fusion cell production chief.
  12. Ibid.
  13. "REACH Operations" refers to a maturing doctrinal use of "sanctuary" capability to augment capabilities in the field. Using the advanced communications capabilities, units in the field and in the rear area share data and distribute analytic requirements and production. In this manner, a small forward element can leverage the substantial capabilities of a unit in a safe haven. Conversely, the rear unit can reach into forward units' databases and perform analysis to support their respective requirements.
  14. Brigade S2s of 3rd ID and 101st Airborne Division.
  15. Carstens by Tohn.
  16. Colonel Steven W. Rotkoff, deputy C2, CFLCC, interview by Major Weisler, commander, 50th Military History, Detachment, and Major Daniel Corey, OIF-SG, 7 May 2003.
  17. Carstens by Tohn.
  18. CFLCC C2 History, Lieutenant Colonel Peterson.
  19. To understand the scale of the air effort, see "Operation IRAQI FREEDOM - By the Numbers," CENTAF- PSAB, KSA, Commander's Action Group, 9th Air Force, Shaw Air Force Base, SC, 30 April 2003.
  20. Colonel Steven Rotkoff, deputy C2, CFLCC email to Major David Tohn, 6 August 2003.
  21. "CFLCC Executive Summary (200400ZMAR03-210400ZMAR03)" [SECRET/REL USA, GBR, AUS, CAN]. Although the entire document is classified, the material cited here is not.
  22. "CFLCC Executive Summary (190400ZMAR03-200400ZMAR03)" [SECRET/REL USA, GBR, AUS, CAN].
  23. The Unitary Missile is an advanced guided missile with a range in excess of 60 km. It distributes over 400 Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions bomblets over the target area, with great effect against personnel and lightly armored vehicles; "Operation IRAQI FREEDOM Operations Summary: Fire Support," Lieutenant Colonel William Pitts, 15 August 2003.
  24. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jay Dehart, commander, USAV Champagne Marne, interview by Lieutenant Colonel David Kolleda, June 3, 2003; and LT-1974 USAV Champagne Marne unit history (undated).
  25. "USCENTCOM OIF Chronology and Facts (SECRET NOFORN)," 6 May 2003.
  26. Colonel Michael Gearty, chief, Joint Analysis and Control element (JACE) Term Fusion Cell (JTFC), Interview by Major David Tohn, 25 May 2003; interview with Iraq Team, Forces Directorate, National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC). It is too soon after the fighting to be entirely certain of what the Iraqis intended or even to confirm with certainty physical locations of Iraqi units. As a result, the summary of Iraqi actions represents a combination of extant estimates made during the fighting and an analysis by the OIF-SG of such evidence. Joint Operational Analysis Center Joint Forces Command is working to develop an understanding of Iraqi operations and intent, but their work is ongoing and classified, and so it cannot be cited here.
  27. Ibid.
  28. A reference to the TF Ranger Raid of 3-4 October 1993, during which 18 US soldiers were killed in intense urban fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia.
  29. Caches of ammunition continue to turn up in Iraq to the present day. The data cited here comes from summary notes by Colonel Charles Green, US Army, Retired, OIF-SG, stemming from interviews done with Colonel Steve Boltz, V Corps G2; Colonel Michael Gearty, deputy C2 CFLCC; Major Chris Parker, chief of staff, 7 UK Brigade; Captain Chris Medhurst-Cocksworth, G2 7 UK Brigade; and several Iraqi brigadiers and staff colonels held at Camp BUCCA, Iraq. Green conducted these interviews during the period 23-28 May.
  30. First Lieutenant Mark K. Schenck, TF 2-7 Infantry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), "Unit History, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM," 5.
  31. Team Bushmaster was B Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry; Team Bulldogs was B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion (Source: Unit History of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, First Lieutenant Mark K. Schenck).
  32. Schenck.
  33. Firing units included: 1-9 FA BN (155mm), 1-10 FA (155mm), 1-41 FA (155mm), 1-39 FA (MLRS), and 2-4 FA (MLRS).
  34. 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, Unit History, (undated). 35. Major David A. Converse, "Psychological Operations Field Collection Team Operational Assessment, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM,"
  35. Converse drew this conclusion from his review of after-action reviews, but this is a conclusion of an OIF-SG collector and not a primary source. There is evidence that PSYOP achieved success in precluding massive destruction of the oil fields. For example, in an interview on 7 May 2003 with 50th Military History Detachment and Major Daniel Corey, Colonel Rotkoff, deputy C2, CLFCC, reported that "IO" worked, but only when there were "boots on the ground." PSYOP loudspeaker teams did prove effective, but the jury is still out on the efficacy of the leaflet campaign.
  36. The AH-64D Apache Longbow has increased lethality due to advanced avionics, a fire control radar, and the capability to launch fire-and-forget Hellfire missiles.
  37. Captain Karen Hobart, S2, and 1st Lieutenant Aaron Anderson, 11th AHR, interview by Major David Tohn, 8 May 2003.
  38. Captain John Cochran, battle captain, 11th Attack Helicopter Regiment, interview by Major James Brashear, undated. Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Pearman, executive officer, 11th AHR, confirmed that frustration in a telephone call to Colonel Gregory Fontenot and in notes passed via facsimile on 17 December 2003. Frustration was particularly keen among the 2-6 CAV aviators, who felt they could have executed the mission since they had more flying time in the desert than their colleagues.
  39. "Unit History, Task Force 3-15 Infantry (TF China) 2nd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, 20 March through 1 May 2003,"5.
  40. MOPP: Mission-oriented Protective Posture - determines the level of chemical protective clothing and equipment worn. In MOPP 0, soldiers carry their full equipment, but do not wear it. In MOPP 1, soldiers wear the overpants and overshirt; MOPP 2 adds the overboots; MOPP 3 adds the mask and hood; and MOPP 4 includes the gloves, providing full protection. There is an inverse relationship between MOPP level and mission effectiveness, due to fatigue, discomfort, and bulkiness of the protective equipment. Commanders are very deliberate in balancing the need for rapid transition to a fully protected posture against the need to remain mission-effective over time.
  41. The ABCS is a suite of automation tools that support maneuver, intelligence, fire support, air defense, and logistics operations. When operating properly, they are networked together to provide a seamlessly integrated ability to track and manage the battle. The AMDWS, or Air and Missile Defense Work Station, is the terminal that runs the Air and Missile Defense Planning and Control System, the air defense component of the ABCS.
  42. "Unit History, Task Force 3-15 Infantry," 5 (Note: The unit history states that this missile was targeted at Kuwait City, but information contained in the final report from 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command and the accompanying overlay from the Air Missile Defense Work Station reflects an Ababil-100 missile targeted at the area around Camp DOHA and Camp COMMANDO at approximately that time).
  43. Each company team was organized with a tank platoon and an engineer platoon for the mission. The mortar platoon followed Alpha Company to provide immediate indirect fire support.
  44. Not all were tracked vehicles. Force Heavy Metal did include some high-mobility support and sustainment vehicles.
  45. Major Kevin Marcus, V Corps planner, interview by Lieutenant Colonel William Connor, US Army, Retired, 8 May 2003.
  46. Captain Sean Connely, 159th Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, interview by Major James Brashear, 21 May 2003.
  47. TF 3-15.
  48. "Operational Summary of 3rd BDE in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM", 1. This is the unit history of 3rd BCT, 3rd ID. 3rd BCT's history discusses the Tallil Air Base fighting in the context of Iraqi forces defending An Nasiriyah. Specifically, the history reports that Iraqi forces in the area of An Nasiriyah included the 45th and 47th Brigades east of the town, with the 23rd Brigade in the town. The brigade estimated that elements of the 21st Tank Regiment, a commando battalion and Ba'ath and Fedayeen paramilitary forces might offer a moderate defense of the city.
  49. Colonel Allyn initiated the attack against Tallil Air Base with just TF 1-15 Infantry in position to assault. He was still waiting for the rest of the 3rd BCT to close into position.
  50. Colonel Daniel Allyn, commander, 3rd BCT, 3rd ID and multiple BCT officers, interviews by Colonel Tim Cherry, 13 May 2003.
  51. 3rd Brigade, 3rd ID, Unit History.
  52. Lieutenant Colonel John Charlton, commander, 1st Battalion 15th Infantry, 3rd BCT, 3rd ID, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Durante, US Army, Retired, 22 August 2003.
  53. 3rd Brigade, 3rd ID, Unit History.
  54. Ibid.,1.
  55. SADARM is a newly fielded advanced munition that seeks out and destroys armored vehicles by attacking through the relatively thin and vulnerable top armor plating. 3rd BCT Operational History, 1-2.
  56. 3rd Brigade, 3rd ID, Unit History 2-5.
  57. TF 1-15 Infantry Unit History Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. See also 3rd BCT, 3rd ID and Operation HAMMER COBRA II briefing. Determining with precision when events described occurred is not possible with the data available. Times cited are derived from comparing times in all three sources.
  58. Ibid. TF 1-15 IN reported destroying 6 tanks, 4 BMPs, 12 technical vehicles and killing an estimated 200 enemy. The TF also captured some 250 of the enemy.
  59. 3rd Brigade, 3rd ID, Unit History.
  60. Ibid.
  61. "3rd Infantry Division, Task Force EPW - Tallil AB to Objectives Rams and Raiders," undated.
  62. Captain Travis Jacobs, commander, 511th MP Company, interview by Captain Michael Matthews, 22 May 2003.
  63. Major Anthony Cavallaro, S3, 800th MP Brigade, interview by Captain Michael Matthews, 1 June 2003.
  64. From redacted National Ground Intelligence Center reports.
  65. After 3-7 CAV entered As Samawah, 2nd BCT continued north to Objective RAMS, west of An Najaf.
  66. Lieutenant Colonel Terry Ferrell, "S2 Editorial 3-7 CAV," and "3-7 CAV Command Briefing," 25 May 2003.
  67. Ibid.
  68. Ibid.
  69. Ibid.
  70. 3-7 CAV Unit History, and 3-7 CAV Command Briefing.
  71. Johnson. Events were corroborated by separate interviews with the remainder of C/3-7 CAV, to include the troop commander. The estimated enemy KIAs for Staff Sergeant Johnson's BIFV during this fight was 488. The informal estimate from the troop was that Johnson and his crew killed at least 1,000 Iraqis on 23 March. Later in the move north, Johnson engaged and destroyed 20 trucks and tallied 314 KIAs in the vicinity of An Najaf. At Objective FLOYD, Johnson's platoon fought yet another bitter fight against what they claim was a thousand paramilitary troops. In that engagement, Johnson's BIFV fired 2,800 25mm HE rounds, 7,200 COAX 7.62-caliber rounds, and 305 25mm depleted uranium rounds.
  72. Soldiers frequently reported to their leaders that they could tell which Iraqis were fighting because they wanted to and which were fighting because they were being coerced. Soldiers claimed to shoot to wound those they believed were coerced. The practice of using civilians as shields and forcing unwilling participation in the fighting was widely reported by Iraqis themselves.
  73. This was a standard practice of "pink" teams of the air cavalry units in Vietnam. The OH-6 Cayuse (White) would draw fire while AH-1 Cobras (Red) remained overhead and close enough to engage targets when they fired at the OH-6.
  74. 3-7 CAV and 3-7 CAV Command Briefing.
  75. Ibid.
  76. Colonel William Grimsley, commander, 1st BCT, 3rd ID, interview by Colonel Gregory Fontenot, US Army, Retired, 19 November 2003.
  77. "3rd ID Consolidated Division History and After Action Review."
  78. Colonel Daniel Allyn, commander, 3rd BCT, 3rd ID, "Command Briefing," 12 May 2003.
  79. TF 2-70 AR had been taken from the BCT and placed under control of division rear headquarters to secure Objective RAMS.
  80. 3rd BCT Command Briefing. See also Lieutenant Colonel William Connor, US Army, Retired, notes from 3rd BCT Command Briefing, 12 May 2003.
  81. rd ID Consolidated Division History, and Allyn.
  82. This was not the only time this term was applied by soldiers in a unit. The men of TF 3-15 Infantry also used it to describe the route north out of Objective SAINTS into central Baghdad. There may have been other references to this term used at other times.
  83. Allyn, command briefing. See also 3rd BCT, 3rd ID.
  84. Ibid. See also Allyn and 3rd BCT officers, by Cherry.
  85. Ibid.
  86. According to the 3rd Infantry Division's G3, Lieutenant Colonel Pete Bayer, "We overrated his army, but we underrated the irregulars. They were fierce, but not too bright. They were evil men who deserved to die. They didn't adapt to our forces. They would continue to impale themselves on our BIFVs and tanks." Notes taken from 3rd ID command briefing by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Durante, US Army, Retired, 12 May 2003.
  87. 3rd ID Consolidated Division History and Durante notes.
  88. Ibid.

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[ Contents ] [ Foreword ] [ Preface ] [ Acknowledgments ] [ Introduction ]
[ Ch 1 ] [ Ch 2 ] [ Ch 3 ] [ Photos ] [ Ch 4 ] [ Ch 5 ] [ Ch 6 ] [ Ch 7 ] [ Ch 8 ]
[ OIF-SG Team ] [ Order of Battle ] [ Glossary ] [ Bibliography ]



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