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American Forces Press Service

Adaptability Was Key to Success, 1st Cav Commander Says

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

PORTSMOUTH, Virginia, April 6, 2005 Combat operations and training security forces were what was expected of the 1st Cavalry Division during the division’s year-plus in Baghdad, Iraq, the division’s commander said here today.

But while those were the only two lines of operation that some wanted him to follow, Army Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli said, he realized that it was going to take much more than that for Iraq to move forward and for the military to stop the insurgency.

Chiarelli was the keynote speaker for the second day of the U.S. Joint Forces Command/National Defense Industrial Association Industry Days symposium. The 1st Cav turned over responsibility for operations in Baghdad to the 3rd Infantry Division on Feb. 27.

The general worked six lines of operations during his time in Baghdad, he said: infrastructure improvement, train lines, training security forces, combat operations, economic pluralism and governance and information operations.

“I believe you have to work along all six lines of operations,” he said, adding that infrastructure improvement was “absolutely critical to our campaign.”

Fixing the electrical and sewage systems were especially crucial. When the former didn’t work, neither did the latter, he said. Thirty to 40 percent of the neighborhoods in Baghdad had sewage standing in open puddles that could be mistaken for rainwater.

The result of no electricity in Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood was that with 2 million people living in an area with the infrastructure to support 200,000 to 300,000, the sewage lift facility couldn’t operate. Before he and the 1st Cavalry left Baghdad, the general said, 200,000 homes in Sadr City had fresh water.

He said that when they saw neighborhoods in that condition it was very obvious that there wasn’t and fresh, clean, potable water available. This fact, he said, contributes to the fact that Iraqis’ life expectancy is in the high 50s.

“Why do they die early? They die early because … no one gets used to the water,” he said.

Though he used Sadr City as an example, he said, it was true wherever the division went in Baghdad. That’s when, Chiarelli said, he went back to the campaign plan and reconsidered what they were doing to work the nonlethal portion of that plan that would help the situation.

“We worked hard on the nonlethal effects,” Chiarelli said. “Why? Because when we worked the nonlethal effects, people stopped shooting at us. I did not go over there with the idea of rebuilding the infrastructure of Baghdad. But when we went in and started those projects, things got better.”

In time, he said, the effort had the desired effect, and also created jobs for Iraqis, thus improving the economy. This upswing caused some Iraqis who were on the fence about supporting a new government to take that step.

Information operations were key – both gathering and disseminating, Chiarelli said.

“Everybody in the 1st Cavalry Division, as far as I’m concerned, had a hand in information operations whether they knew it or not,” he said.

Despite all the other lines of operation Chiarelli knew were crucial, he said, he didn’t neglect the training of security forces. “There were seven Iraqi battalions that we worked with on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

While the enemy may have been adapting to the military’s actions, the general said, the 1st Cavalry had been forced to adapt before it ever arrived in Baghdad, and the soldiers’ ability to adapt made all the difference.

“We took a bunch of folks who were out of their element, so to speak -- air defense artillerymen, we took tankers, we took field artillery soldiers and we took engineers -- and we literally trained them in infantry skills for the four to five months before they deployed,” Chiarelli said. “And they fought as infantrymen the entire time they were over there.”

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