Operation aimed at taking weapons off the streets in central Baghdad
Baghdad, Iraq -- In their quest to bring peace and stability to the volatile Al-Karkh district of Baghdad, Task Force 1st Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, kicked off Operation Copperas Cove on the morning of Jan. 12.
The task force-level operation was conducted in the Al-Karkh neighborhoods of Karkh and Sheik Marruf, both of which are known for their hostility-the infamous Haifa Street is in this area, and are adjacent to Baghdad's International Zone.
"What I hoped to accomplish in the operation was to display our dominance of the sector, catch arms caches and demonstrate to the Iraqi people our commitment to improving their security," said Lt. Col. Thomas MacDonald, battalion commander, Task Force 1-9 Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
The operation (named after a small town outside of Fort Hood, Texas) was originally intended to kick-off on Jan. 10, but MacDonald decided to postpone the operation two days, in order to coincide with an Iraqi Security Council meeting in the International Zone.
"Every time we do an operation [of this size], we reduce the [mortar and rocket] attacks against the International Zone by 90 percent," MacDonald said.
"And we reduce the attacks against our [base] as well," the Columbus, Ga. native added. "We used to get hit [here] once or twice a day, now I think we've been hit three times since the beginning of December."
The operation lasted about four hours and involved nearly every unit in Task Force 1-9 Cavalry, including several attached units, such as Company B, 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, and Company C, 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment, 39th Army National Guard Brigade, out of Arkansas.
"We really had every element of the task force involved," MacDonald said. "We find that the larger the operation we do, the more successful we are in finding weapons caches."
Almost immediately after arriving in their sector for the operation, 1-9 Cavalry's Company C, "Crazy Wolf," raided a mechanic's shop suspected of being used by insurgents to store weapons and, sure enough, they found a cache.
"We found 35 mortars," said Sgt. Andrew Busing, of Co. C, 1-9 Cavalry.
Busing was the Soldier who checked the depression in the floor of the shop where a mechanic would stand to change a car's oil, and found several white sacks so filled-up with mortars that the sacks were too heavy to lift, forcing the Soldiers to perilously unpack the mortars one by one.
Several hours later, Crazy Wolf found a second weapons cache, this one with a little more variety than the first: ten 82 mm mortars, a mortar-tube base-plate and a mortar traverse and elevation wheel. They also discovered three hand grenades, a bag of unknown synthetic material, four pounds of TNT, a roll of detonation cord and various other materials involved in the making of improvised explosive devices, such as wires and batteries.
"Charlie [Company], 1-153 found a few smaller caches as well, mainly small arms and ammunition," MacDonald said, "but nothing the size of what Charlie 1-9 [Cavalry] found.
"All of the significant caches that day were found by Crazy Wolf."
MacDonald said whenever his unit conducts operations with the intent of rooting-out insurgent arms caches, it requires Soldiers to spend an extensive amount of time on the ground, which increases their chances of taking fire from the enemy. He said that's why so many units were involved in Copperas Cove.
"But that day there wasn't a shot fired," he said. "So we are making measurable gains in security [in Al-Karkh], while at the same time setting the stage for the Iraqi Security Forces to take over."
According to MacDonald, the 302nd Iraqi National Guard Battalion, the Iraqi Army unit that works with 1-9 Cavalry, has already began to take over certain parts of 1-9's sector.
Between the weapons caches they found and the lack of enemy contact-as well as the unusually warm reception 1-9 Cavalry was given by the local Iraqis-it is difficult to argue that the mission was not a success.
"I think the mission was very successful as demonstrated by the enemy's unwillingness to engage us," MacDonald said. "He's down there and he chose to lay low that day, showing the people that they [the enemy] fear us." (By Spc. Erik LeDrew, 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
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