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Operation Iraqi Freedom - March 25
Day Six

Powerful sandstorms blackened the skies over central Iraq Tuesday, slowing coalition forces closing on Baghdad from the south and west. The weather made it difficult for both land vehicles and helicopters to move about safely, though U-S and British warplanes continued to pound Republican Guard positions on the outskirts of Baghdad.

In southern Iraq, U-S Marines crossed the Euphrates River after intense fighting near the town of Nasiriyah.

General Renuart, the Coalition's Director of Operations, said coalition planes flew more than 14-hundred missions Tuesday. Major targets included installations of the Republican Guard, key command and control facilities, and missile systems that threaten Kuwait and other neighbors of Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stated that intelligence information indicated the Iraqi military may use chemical weapons against coalition forces as they close in on Baghdad.

U-S led coalition forces have advanced to positions 80 kilometers from Baghdad as coalition warplanes target installations in Baghdad of Iraq's elite Republican Guards.

Elements of the 3rd Infantry Division, specifically the 3-7th Cavalry, crossed the Euphrates River. According to CNN, a flanking movement near al Summalah (sp), crossing a bridge.

Civilian unrest is reported to have broken out in Basra just after British forces in the area seized a member of Iraq's ruling Baath party. British troops have been on the outskirts of Basra since the bulk of U-S forces pushed north toward Baghdad at the start of the invasion. A British journalist near Basra says Iraqi troops have been firing on civilian protesters and coalition forces have been firing back at Iraqi troops.

Coalition land forces moving northward to Baghdad have engaged in heavy fighting in the vicinity of Al Basrah and An Nasiriyah in the past 24 hours, and have taken some casualties but have inflicted more on the enemy and have destroyed a number of their tanks, artillery pieces and troop formations.

Earlier in the day Task Force Tarawa secured a hospital being used as a military staging area for Iraqi para-military forces here. The Marines had been fired at from the hospital the day before. The building was clearly marked as a hospital by a flag with a red crescent. Marines of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines secured the hospital and the surrounding compound; capturing approximately 170 Iraqi soldiers who were not armed and were wearing a mixture of mostly civilian clothing with parts of military uniforms. In the hospital the Marines found and confiscated over 200 weapons and stockpiles of ammunition, over 3,000 chemical suits with masks, and Iraqi military uniforms. The Marines also found a T-55 tank on the compound. No civilians were injured during this mission. Prior to going in, the Marines used loud speakers outside of the hospital to encourage the doctors and patients within the hospital to evacuate. No civilians were in the hospital at the time it was seized.

It is believed that the enemy soldiers dressed in civilian attire were being bussed into the city and were drawing weapons and ammunition from the hospital in order to fight in the city. Combat Service Support Battalion - 22 was working to transport the enemy prisoners of war from the city.

The 170 enemy prisoners of war captured during this engagement brought Task Force Tarawa's total number of captured enemy to approximately 500.

Aircraft from two squadrons with Carrier Air Wing 2, USS Constellation (CV 64) Battle Group successfully destroyed three significant Iraqi naval targets March 25. The aircraft involved received short-order tasking for a time-sensitive strike to engage several naval targets in the vicinity of Basra. Two F/A-18C Hornets from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151, "The Vigilantes," one of three F/A-18 squadrons aboard, participated in the strikes with one aircraft from Sea Control Squadron (VS) 38, "The Red Griffins," the S-3B Viking squadron, aboard Constellation. One Hornet independently identified and destroyed two naval targets. The second Hornet assisted the S-3B Viking with the third target.

The S-3B Viking, working in conjunction with the second F/A-18C, as the laser designator, destroyed its target by firing a laser guided missile, the AGM-65E Maverick. The F/A-18 provides laser illumination throughout target engagements.

This event was the first time the Navy's S-3 has received tasking for overland strikes in its 30 year history. In addition, it is also the first time the S-3 has fired a laser-guided missile in combat. The S-3 B Viking performs multiple missions to include tanking support, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), electronic support measures, and precision and general purpose strike.

The Hornet, a multimission fighter/attack aircraft, provides air to air and air to ground strike capabilities.

Air Wing 2 with Constellation is currently deployed in the Northern Arabian Gulf and is serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.



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