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`Iron Fury' pushing insurgents out of Sadr City

By Sgt. Dan Purcell and Pfc. Erik Ledrew

BAGHDAD, Iraq (Army News Service, Aug. 23, 2004) - Iron Horse Brigade Soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division have spent the past week in an operation to root out radical "Mahdi Army" forces terrorizing the eastern Baghdad district known as Sadr City.

Operation Iron Fury began Aug. 17 and officials called it an "all-out effort" to stop violence in the Baghdad area by militia headed up by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Since insurgents launched a wave of violence in Sadr City Aug. 5, shops and government offices have been closed in the heavily populated area. U.S. Army-sponsored humanitarian missions there also came to a standstill.

"The objective of Operation Iron Fury was to reduce the Mahdi Army's influence in Sadr City and provide a secure and stable environment for the people," said Capt. Anthony Martinez, the public affairs representative for 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team. 2-5 Cavalry Soldiers spearheaded a task force which included elements of the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment and the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment -- both from the Iron Horse Brigade.

"This operation is a combined effort conducted by the 1st Brigade," said Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Battle, 1-12 Cavalry. "We want the law abiding citizens [of Sadr City] to know that we are here and that we will do what it takes to support a legitimate government so that all Iraqis can live a normal life."

During the initial phase of the operation, Soldiers from 2-5 Cavalry pushed into the center of the city to secure their company's objectives.

Capitalizing on the brigade's foothold in the city, 1-12 and 2-8 Cavalry commenced their respective attacks the following day.

"This is the largest operation I've been on," said Spc. Thomas Jeffcoat, Headquarters Company (Maverick), 1-12 Cav. "We should have done this a long time ago, because the Mahdi Army has just been running wild out here."

"This is my first time out here in Sadr City, and it's a lot different from [1-12 Cav.'s] regular area of operations: There's more activity, more improvised explosive devices, and rocket-propelled grenades," Spc. James Garcia, Headquarters Company, 1-12 Cav., added.

By day three of Iron Fury, the 1st BCT had exceeded its initial expectations for the mission, pushing blocks past their planned objectives despite mounting opposition from the insurgent forces.

"The operation is going exceptionally well," said Battle. "The tempo has been very high and I have been very impressed with the way the Soldiers have conducted themselves."

In order to keep the front-line troops moving, Iron Horse Brigade's forward support elements gathered at a location several kilometers from the fighting. These elements included Company C, 115th Forward Support Battalion, a team of medics from 1-12 Cav., and two Civil Affairs teams from the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion.

"This is a full-spectrum operation so we are staying focused," Battle said. "This is the first time we have conducted an operation of this scale here, but it needed to happen and it's paying big dividends."

"I think that that when this is all over we will get a lot of thumbs up from the civilian population," he added. "The key thing here is we are bringing peace [back] to Sadr City, so that the people won't be afraid to walk down their streets."

(Editor's note: Sgt. Dan Purcell and Pfc. Erik Ledrew are members of the 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)


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