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Graphic - Center for Army Lessons Learned

On Point

The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom


Every values-based institution has an image of itself at its purist, most basic level. It is a single mental snapshot--a distillation of all that is good and right. Reaching back to the institution's foundation, it evokes a visceral, emotional response from the members.

For the Army, the self-image is the small squad of infantry, maybe fewer than 10 soldiers, patrolling a hostile and unknown territory--whether jungle, woodland, or urban. The foremost soldier walks on point--the lead; sometimes moving cautiously to develop the situation, other times moving with great speed and purpose in order for the squad to accomplish its mission.

The point man focuses on picking out the path forward--identifying the dangers and opportunities along that path. The compass man, providing direction and guidance, travels behind, responsible for keeping the squad moving toward its objective. Success or failure rests on how well these two soldiers work together. A safe path to nowhere is as useless as a direct route into a fatal ambush. Serving on point is a position of honor, responsibility, and great danger. Only the most trusted, most skilled, most field-wise soldiers earn this responsibility. Selecting a point man is a difficult choice.

Leading, but not alone, the point man moves as part of a vast team of warriors. Above is the Air Force, controlling the skies and attacking ground targets with speed, violence, and purpose. Attacking from overhead and offshore, the Navy brings its considerable capabilities to bear and assures unimpeded supply that comes from undisputed control of the sea. Working alongside the Army, sometimes leading and other times in support, the Marine Corps brings its unique combined-arms team to the fight. The relationship between who leads, follows, and supports changes to accommodate the mission. The crux is that, even when leading, the point man is part of a team, both literally in the squad and among the services.

On Point tells the compelling story of America's Army in OIF and is of interest to a broad audience. However, it aims at a specific audience--soldiers and defense professionals. Within the Army, On Point has two specific goals: to educate soldiers on the conduct of combat operations in OIF and to suggest some preliminary implications for the Army's continued transformation.

Because it focuses on the Army and its role in this ongoing campaign, On Point is not the seminal history of OIF. It unabashedly argues that the Army played a central role in the joint team. Along with its sister services, the Army brought down the Ba'athist regime in decisive ground combat, took the enemy's capital city, destroyed the bulk of the Iraqi army and paramilitary forces in the fields and valleys of the Euphrates River, and liberated the Iraqi people from decades of oppression. Moreover, the Army continues the American presence in Iraq, striving to turn battlefield victories into strategic success.

Despite this deliberate Army point of view, OIF is not an Army victory. OIF demonstrates the maturation of joint concepts and the intent embodied in the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986. It is a joint victory for the United States and its coalition partners. It is also just one of several campaigns undertaken and ongoing in the Global War on Terrorism.

Finally, as an integral part of the joint team, the American soldier has been on point in securing global, regional, and domestic security. OIF was executed against a backdrop of Army and joint military operations around the world. As American soldiers crossed the border into Iraq, fellow soldiers secured the peace in the Balkans, trained and assisted the Philippine army, executed counternarcotics operations in Central and South America, protected key facilities and infrastructure within the homeland, patrolled alongside an Afghani people liberated from the repressive and threatening Taliban, and conducted a myriad of missions globally in support of the Global War on Terrorism and to further the US national security and interests. Representing American resolve, power, interests, and values, an American soldier stands a post in a foreign land--on point for the nation.

A Campaign of Liberation

While combat operations began on 17 March 2003, preparations for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM began on 1 March 1991--the day after the first Gulf War ended. In the broadest context, OIF marks the latest chapter in the continuous US involvement in the Middle East and Southwest Asia theater. America's national security is directly tied to the region's stability and prosperity. As such, the nation has been applying the elements of national power--diplomacy, information, military action, and economics--to reach this elusive goal. From enforcing sanctions and international inspections, to protecting the Kurds and Muslims, to responding to Iraqi violations of the no-fly zones, the military has been a central element of the US policy toward Iraq since the end of DESERT STORM.

These efforts have supported regional strategy. The combined and coordinated regional presence set the conditions for OIF's military success. The United States ensured its forces had adequate access to the theater and could establish the necessary infrastructure to allow large-unit staging and employment while maintaining the necessary military capability to deter the Iraqi threat. Occasionally, of course, this regional engagement was not as effective as it could have been, as illustrated by Turkey's refusal to allow ground forces to stage for a northern front and NATO members' failure to achieve agreement regarding support for American military action in Iraq. Yet, commanders demonstrated unprecedented flexibility and agility in adapting to these types of challenges. Without the fruits of the 12-year engagement effort, OIF would have been impossible.

The formal military campaign to liberate Iraq was a four-phase operation. This phased construct recognized that the operation would cross the entire spectrum of conflict, from combat to peace support to humanitarian and security assistance. As such, strategic success would require success in each phase, inextricably linking actions into a campaign that is truly an extension of politics by other means.

The military campaign supported the strategic goal that transcended removing Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athists from power. The strategic goal included establishing a stable, secure, prosperous, peaceful, and democratic Iraqi nation that is a fully functioning member of the community of nations.1 Within this context, the end of major combat operations did not signify the end of combat or operations, just the transition to the next phase of the long-term campaign.

  • Phase I. Preparation secured regional and international support, degraded the Iraqi regime's ability to resist, established the air bridge and secure lines of communications (LOCs) to the theater, sought to interdict tactical ballistic missiles (TBM) and weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and alerted, deployed, and postured American forces. In short, this phase set the conditions to neutralize Iraqi forces.
  • Phase II. Shaping the Battlespace included posturing coalition forces to conduct sustained combat operations, beginning initial operations to degrade Iraqi command and control and security forces, and seizing key pieces of terrain. These actions were in addition to the ongoing diplomatic and counter-TBM/WMD operations.
  • Phase III. Decisive Offensive Operations marked the beginning of conventional combat operations. It included the air campaign, preparatory ground operations, and the attack north to Baghdad. This phase culminated with securing Baghdad and removing Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athist regime from power.
  • Phase IV. Post Hostilities operations encompass the transition from combat to stability operations and support operations, including humanitarian assistance and reconstruction. Interestingly, planners realized early on that as coalition forces liberated sections of Iraqi territory, operations in those sections would transition to Phase IV while Phase III combat operations continued elsewhere. This `rolling transition' to Phase IV is the hallmark of true full-spectrum operations and is one of the defining characteristics of this campaign. The distance between forces conducting Phase III and Phase IV operations varied from meters to miles, requiring remarkable flexibility, initiative, and maturity of the leaders and soldiers.

The Army: On Point in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM

During the 12 years since DESERT STORM, the Army and the other services attempted to adapt to the post-Cold War era, adopt lessons learned during operations, anticipate changes or trends in the operational environment, and finally to take advantage of technologies that could improve combat capability. On Point addresses several skeins of effort in this adaptation and evolution of capability.

For example, soon after Operation DESERT STORM, the Army realized the potential of information-based warfare.2 The Army transformed whole divisions into a digitally linked force capable of waging network-centric warfare, designing and building Force XXI on the hypothesis that digital links would increase the tempo of ground operations and thus the lethality and survivability of ground forces. Blue Force (friendly units) Tracking (BFT), a system that provided commanders a picture of where their subordinate units were and enabled commanders to pass commands and geographical measures, battle command on the move (BCOTM) technology, and the Army Battle Command System (ABCS) enabled the Army to realize that vision in OIF.

To support joint operations and training, the Army established an operations group in the Battle Command Training Program (BCTP) to teach joint doctrine in 1992. The new operations group was intended to bridge the gap in training until a joint training capability could be established. BCTP's Operations Group D remained following formation of the Joint Warfare Training Center to support training Army service components within joint contexts. In the fall of 2002, Operations Group D deployed to Kuwait to support training and then stayed on for the war, in which its soldiers served with distinction on the Combined Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) staff.

In the decade following DESERT STORM, the Army reorganized its training and rewrote its doctrine to assure that it met its challenges and, when appropriate, led the way for the joint team. Joint doctrine grew rapidly as Joint Forces Command morphed from US Atlantic Command, gaining training and joint doctrinal development responsibilities. Along with the other services, the Army worked to support the development and training of increasingly "joint" capable organizations.

The Army changed its own basic doctrine not only to accommodate joint doctrine, but to accommodate apparent changes in the environment. The Army developed doctrine designed to wage noncontiguous, full-spectrum warfare. Published in June 2001, Army Field Manual 3-0, Operations, reflected an assessment of the operational environment in the years following DESERT STORM based on a body of evidence accumulated in operations and on careful consideration of what future operations might be like. After much study, the Army conceived the contemporary operating environment (COE), which describes the current environment and provides the context for future training and combat developments. The COE possesses complex battlefield environments populated with intelligent and adaptive enemies who seek asymmetric advantages across the battlespace. Training in this environment and operating with the increasingly better-networked systems that supported battle command on the move (BCOTM) allowed the Army to "operationalize" the vision encompassed in FM 3-0. In the COE, the Army estimated what operations in the early 21st century might be like. Combat in Iraq validated that estimate, but also demonstrated that the Army still has work to do in structuring and training to operate in this dynamic operational environment.

The Army also invested enormous effort and resources as the ground component for the US Central Command (CENTCOM) in the face of the ongoing Iraqi threat in the region. The Army, at the direction of CENTCOM, revamped and reorganized Third Army to operate as a land component command. The Army developed the infrastructure in Kuwait--airfields, seaports, laagering facilities, headquarters, and command posts at a cost of over $500 million to support contingency operations. Moreover, in conjunction with Operation SOUTHERN WATCH forces, the Army provided the bulk of the CENTCOM direct theater engagement effort, setting the conditions that enabled the successful conclusion of decisive combat operations in less than a month. Obviously, other components of CENTCOM made important investments as well.

Army special operations soldiers, as part of the joint special operations team, led the way into Iraq. US special operations forces (SOF) excelled during OIF. They did so on the basis of intense efforts made by the joint community, US Special Operations Command, and the services to develop capability and, more important, to integrate capabilities among SOF units and between SOF and conventional units. Integration of SOF operations in the campaign plan paid enormous dividends.

Coalition soldiers and marines led the ground attack on D-day, cutting lanes and destroying Iraqi observation posts prior to the main body attacks of V Corps and First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF). All of America rode with 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry as it led the fight up-country on point for the 3rd Infantry Division ("Rock of the Marne"), V Corps ("Victory Corps"), the CFLCC, and the nation.

The Army supported the other services as mandated by Title 10.3 The Army embodied the concept of a truly joint force, providing ballistic missile defense theaterwide, as well as providing artillery and rocket fires and more than six battalions' worth of engineers, logisticians, military police, transporters, and medical evacuation support to its Marine Corps comrades.4 In each of these cases, and in many more that will go without mention, the Army--and America's soldiers--served on point as the campaign unfolded.

A Campaign of Firsts

OIF is a campaign with a number of firsts. Arguably, it is the first "jointly" coherent campaign since the Korean War. American joint forces executed a large-scale, complex operation while simultaneously continuing active operations in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and in support of Homeland Defense.

In OIF, a combined and joint land component directed all ground operations for the first time since the Eighth Army did so in the Korean War. The US Third Army formed the core of what became a joint and combined headquarters - the CFLCC - charged with conducting ground operations, integrating air-ground operations, and directing theater support operations.5 Also for the first time since the Korean War, Army National Guard (ARNG) infantry battalions participated in combat operations as units. Seven ARNG light infantry battalions deployed to secure Patriot missiles and guard vital supplies. Ultimately, six of them went "up-country" and conducted combat operations in Iraq.

There were other important firsts. Not since World War II have the armed forces of the United States operated in multiple theaters of war while simultaneously conducting security operations and support operations in several other theaters. As an example, on 9 June 2003, 369,000 soldiers were deployed overseas, of which about 140,000 were from the Reserve Components. These soldiers were serving in 120 countries, conducting missions ranging from combat to deterring adversaries, to training the nation's allies, to protecting the nation's vital assets.

OIF also provided the opportunity for a number of firsts in the integration of special and conventional operations. Emerging ideas on the integration of special operations and conventional operations that debuted in Afghanistan came close to their potential in OIF. OIF marked a watershed in the evolution of SOF-general purpose (conventional) force integration when CENTCOM assigned conventional units to the operational control of SOF units.

The unprecedented degree of air-ground coordination and integration is also a key first. While ground maneuver began simultaneously with air operations to preclude the Iraqi regime from undertaking a scorched earth campaign or turning the oil fields into a WMD, it is difficult to overstate the importance of air operations in the context of OIF. By dominating the air over Iraq, coalition air forces shaped the fight to allow for rapid dominance on the ground. Air power decisively turned the tide in tactical operations on the ground on several occasions. Air- and sea-launched precision-guided munitions (PGMs) and cruise missile strikes responded rapidly to the targets developed by improved intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems. Equally important, effective integration of artillery and Army attack aviation produced, in several instances, the kind of synergy conceived in joint manuals and practiced in training over the decade since DESERT STORM.

OIF forces employed emerging concepts in the body of joint doctrine. The establishment of the CFLCC represents the maturation of joint doctrine developed since Goldwater-Nichols and tested through Army and joint simulations and training. The "running start" stemmed from the recent US policy of preemption and also from the joint concept of rapid dominance. Finally, integration of precision munitions with ground operations, supported by a largely space-based command and control network, enabled combat operations to occur in ways only imagined a decade ago.

Within this context of "firsts" and the execution of emerging joint concepts, there are strong threads of continuity in OIF. First, ground combat remains physically demanding. Ground operations remain central to toppling a regime by defeating its armed forces, seizing and holding territory, and controlling the population. While the campaign clearly took advantage of breathtaking technology, in the end, individual soldiers and marines took the fight to the enemy in a personal, eyeball-to-eyeball manner. Humans, not high-tech sensors, remain indispensable, even in the 21st century.

Themes of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM

From the Army's perspective, these firsts and the threads of evolution after DESERT STORM are a crucial part of the story in On Point. Yet within the story, several other themes recur. The quality of the American soldier and the quality of decision making from private to lieutenant general is arguably the most important insight that emerged from battle narratives, reports, and eyewitness accounts. There are other themes, but the outstanding performance of soldiers is at the top and accounts for the speed and relatively low human cost of major combat operations. Soldiers revealed themselves to be brave, skilled, and innovative in a unique and decisive manner. Similarly, their enemy, although often unskilled, proved courageous and adaptive.

In the months since the end of major combat operations, some observers tried to explain the rapid coalition success only in terms of inferior Iraqi equipment and incompetence. That does not account for the disparity. Coalition soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines demonstrated they were better trained and that they could adapt faster than their opponents.

A number of other themes warrant discussion. Each of these broad areas of investigation tends to overlap, both in terms of understanding what happened and in raising questions for further study or considering possible implications for the Army and the armed forces generally. For organizational purposes they are considered in five broad areas:

  • Command and Control. This area encompasses technological means, including BFT, satellite communications, and various aids that supported communications and situational awareness which enabled effective command and control. But it also includes how the various echelons from CFLCC to company operated and contributed. The influence of doctrine, training, and experience on decision making is part of this discussion as well.
  • Combined Arms Operations. Combat vignettes illustrating the synergy of combined arms operations in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM are numerous. In On Point, the term "combined arms operations" includes the efficacy of joint integration, especially special operations and conventional operations. But it really focuses on combining maneuver and fires to create specific effects and the combination of small tactical units, including engineers, infantry, attack helicopters, artillery, and armor, to create tactical effects. Combined arms operations stem from the way the services train, but also from the maturation of doctrine in the services and in joint tactics, techniques, and procedures. Integration of effects and the separate arms or branches of the Army produced enormous benefit on the battlefield
  • Joint Integration and Support. Although this area could be subsumed in combined arms operations, joint integration deserves separate examination in the context of higher tactical and operational realms inherent in a multicorps campaign. It enables the examination of operational-level warfare from the perspective of CFLCC. This campaign is arguably the first campaign in which the initiatives inherent in the Goldwater-Nichols legislation bore full fruit.
  • Deployment and Sustainment. Getting the forces into the theater and sustaining them while attempting to apply principles developed in the decade since DESERT STORM produced both success and failure. The acquisition of fast sealift and the C-17 and the development of concepts such as single port managers to streamline deployment paid dividends. On the other hand, the effort to supersede the joint deployment system and the arcane time-phased force and deployment list (TPFDL) and the deployment sequence that stemmed from it did not reap the benefit anticipated. Similarly, concepts such as "just-in-time logistics" briefed better than they performed. Opening and sustaining the theater depended on Reserve Component units that simply did not get to the theater as rapidly as required. These and other issues made sustaining units in the field difficult.
  • Information and Knowledge. The services made strides both in the ability to move information and translate information into knowledge, but they did not attain the goal or capacity to wage "network-centric" warfare. Equally important, although the services made concerted efforts to wage information operations, gauging the success of those efforts remains elusive partly because the data is still unclear, but also because the concept remains immature.

Two other areas warrant separate consideration, both to set the context of operations in Iraq and to consider possible implications for the future:

  • Preparation. The 12-year effort to build the theater infrastructure; maintaining long-term regional engagement; conducting significant investments in Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR); and completing significant materiel fieldings in the six months leading to execution were critical in setting the stage for success. Conversely, the very success within this theater raises questions about how the joint force would operate in a less mature theater, suggesting key shortfalls in the joint expeditionary capabilities.
  • Urban Operations. The Army's updated doctrine and training, as well as detailed, focused preparation for leaders, planners, and soldiers, created a highly capable urban-combat force. Tanks and Bradleys proved survivable and effective in the grueling environment, augmented by rapidly fielded equipment expressly designed to operate in an urban environment. Planners employed an innovative systems-based approach to urban combat that fundamentally reshaped how soldiers and commanders approached the mission. The result was that soldiers dominated the urban terrain without significant casualties, destruction, or collateral damage.

One or more of these themes is in every story, narrative, or discussion in On Point.

Generally, OIF is a "good news" story, but any operation reveals areas that require improvement. American soldiers adapted and improvised to overcome five key shortfalls identified during OIF. As with the keys to success, these problems are evident in many of the same stories, narratives, and discussions.

  • Combat Service Support (CSS). The CSS difficulties cross all aspects of Army operations--doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leader development, personnel, and facilities (DOTMLPF). From the recent shift to "just in-time" logistics to the training and equipping of CSS soldiers and units, the CSS community and the Army must rethink how they conduct operations. The current system emphasizes efficiency over effectiveness--from parts and supply distribution to the physical equipping of CSS units. In combat, however, effectiveness is the only real measure of success; many CSS units struggled to perform their mission due to "savings" realized in recent changes in organization, equipment, training resources, and doctrine.
  • Ability of every unit to fight and win. A noncontiguous operating environment has, by definition, no secure areas. Every unit in the theater must be prepared to fight to accomplish its mission. OIF drove this idea home and is fraught with implications for how ground forces are manned, equipped, and trained.
  • Tactical Intelligence. The current Intelligence Battlefield Operating System (IBOS) is optimized for upper echelons and effectively supported the corps and higher echelons. However, in the COE, brigades and below need the capability to sense and analyze the threat to their immediate front. The historic emphasis at the corps and above, exacerbated by inadequate communications and analytic aids, often forced maneuver commanders literally to fight for information about the enemy to their front--or rear and sides.
  • Active Component/Reserve Component Mix. The current mix is inappropriate to meet post-Cold War realities. The demands on the Reserve Components--to support a crisis contingency force while simultaneously supporting homeland security, major combat, and stability operations and support operations requirements, require a full review of missions and force structure. Moreover, the mobilization and employment process must be updated to meet the current and projected operational concepts, to wit--short-notice/long-duration deployments.

None of these areas requiring improvements will surprise anyone with any depth of experience within the Army. However, OIF provides hard and unambiguous data about the depth, breadth, and scope of these challenges. This clarity was lacking in previous, more theoretical venues of analysis and debate. While the past 12 years showed improvement in each of these areas, there is much more to do. Themes in these broad areas will affect how the Army continues transformation toward the future force. In this sense, the lessons of the most recent war will help guide the Army's preparation for the next war.

Issues and Implications

This study of Army participation in OIF reveals three larger, interrelated concepts that are also woven throughout this work: campaigns, preparation, and seams. Much of what is good--and bad--about Army and joint performance in OIF can be traced to some aspect of these three issues.

Simply stated, as the major ground component of the US armed forces, the Army demonstrated that it is the premier land combat force for sustained campaigns and operations. The Army provides this fundamental, defining quality to joint campaigning--sustained operations.

Sustained operations are more than just "clean up" after a series of standoff precision and ground engagements. While these actions are necessary and set the conditions for success, they do not equate to success. Presenting the adversary with an overwhelming combat power that will seek him out anywhere, outlast his ability to hide, deliver a decisive defeat, and bring positive change to the region are the attributes that transform successful battles and engagements into a successful campaign.

Without the Army, the world's best Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps could not successfully conclude this, or any similar, campaign. Sustained land operations are more than just combat; they are operations that include the combination of decisive military actions and the ability to exploit that victory to achieve theater strategic objectives and advance national policy. Sustaining operations included providing common user logistics, supporting theater air and missile defense, providing for the security of enemy prisoners of war, supporting psychological operations, civil affairs, and many other tasks that afford the troops that execute them few opportunities for glory, but without which joint campaigns generally can not be concluded successfully.

Preparation is one of the keys to successful campaigning. It is fundamental to understanding the victory of OIF. Although discussed above, it requires additional detail here as a basic element to a successful campaign. As illustrated throughout this story, preparation takes on many nuanced meanings and took place from the diplomatic to the tactical level.

Preparing--or in the current vernacular, "setting the conditions"--has reemerged as a core component of the American way of war. For the most part, preparations were well reasoned and generally "80-percent solutions," given the resources, time, and political/diplomatic constraints at the time. How the Army capitalized on, integrated, or recovered from these varying levels of preparation is a fundamental part of every soldier's story and the Army's success.

The concept of seams emerged during the analysis for this work. Seams may be vertical, horizontal, organizational, and structural. Unless deliberately secured, seams expose weakness and may make the joint force vulnerable to enemy exploitation. In other cases, seams represent points of strength as two or more organizations reinforce and focus deliberately on a smooth transition. Perhaps one of the most vexing seams is how military forces posture for the "Three-Block War"--shorthand for full-spectrum operations within a single battlefield or even a single city block. Even calling it three-block war creates seams in what is an inherently seamless spectrum of conflict. How the ground forces contended with a "rolling," or even "blurring" transition to Phase IV operations is a major characteristic of this ongoing campaign.

These themes transcend the Army and are found throughout the campaign. As such, this work is not the appropriate forum for a detailed analysis or discussion. A more comprehensive study of OIF at the operational, joint campaign level would offer the necessary depth, breadth, and scope for this analysis. Yet, as in every war, there are many implications that will affect the Army's evolution. In any case, it is probably an understatement to say that there is much to learn from OIF.

On Point is more than a title; it is the central theme of this work, and soldiers are central to this theme. Soldiers on point demonstrated their quality and showed their flexibility, courage, and initiative as their antecedents have in every fight from Bunker Hill to Baghdad. Equally important, they remain on point from Mosul in the north to As Samawah in the south. They are doing the important work of creating the conditions of an Iraqi democracy and sustainable peace--America's stated strategic goal.

Book Structure

As a first account, On Point tells the story of the Army in a joint and combined force. Yet the soldiers of V Corps did not simply appear on the Iraqi border on 21 March 2003. Nor was the campaign limited to the combat soldiers fighting their way to Baghdad. Victory on the battlefield required the efforts of all of the armed forces acting in concert. A host of preparatory and supporting events, spanning more than a decade, brought the soldiers to the line of departure. Moreover, the support effort was at least as impressive and challenging as the combat itself. To do these soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and coast guardsmen justice would require several volumes beyond the scope of this work.

The book is structured in three general parts: The first part--the introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2--discusses how the Army prepared for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The preparation started the day after the end of Operation DESERT STORM and ended with the first soldiers crossing the line of departure in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The introduction provides the Army's context among its sister services and in the joint community. Chapter 1 describes how the Army evolved from 1991 to 2003. The Army that won in Iraq in 2003 was different from the Army that won in Kuwait in 1991. It is critical to understand how the Army managed its growth and evolution over that time to create the Army of IRAQI FREEDOM. Chapter 2 addresses the final preparations for combat, from the summer of 2002 to D-day. This last effort put almost all of the pieces in place for the campaign, from inside the Continental United States (CONUS) to Europe and, of course, in Southwest Asia.

The second part, Chapters 3 through 6, focuses on the ground campaign through the end of major offensive operations, roughly 10 April, depending on which unit one looks at. The chapters strike the balance between describing big, sweeping arrows and telling the individual soldier's story. They start with a general summary of events during that phase of the battle--the sweeping arrows, followed by a detailed, almost standalone description of three or four key events. The opening summaries also introduce parallel and supporting actions that affect the fight or have some other significance. The summary also seeks to set the joint and coalition forces land component command context of the fight.

To say "phase of the battle" is somewhat of a misnomer in that the chapter structure suggests an ex-post facto delineation of operations and purposes. No formal operations order discusses completing the "running start" before starting the "march up-country" or "isolation of Baghdad" or even the "regime removal." More accurately, operations overlapped in time, location, and purpose, with many engagements changing character as they evolved. However, in a complex, distributed battlefield marked by multiple, simultaneous operations across a country the size of California, a simple sequence of events would force the reader to jump all over the battlefield, possibly losing the context for why any specific operation was undertaken.

Therefore, for the sake of clarity, operations and engagements are grouped by purpose rather than by time. This allows the reader to understand why an action occurred, even if it presents some challenges in following the sequence of events. The timelines at the beginning of each chapter are designed to help the reader through any confusion in the sequence of events and helps to retain operational context. Moreover, times noted in the text have been adjusted from Greenwich Mean Time ("Zulu") to local Kuwait time (+ 3 hours).

Throughout the work, the soldier stories and vignettes serve a variety of purposes. First, they help the reader better understand the trials and tribulations of soldiers on the battlefield. Second, they offer a detailed discussion of a particular aspect of the war as an example of the actions occurring all across the battlefield. And finally, the stories and vignettes introduce the reader to the individual soldiers who fought the battle. The men and women who served in Iraq represent a cross-section of America and illustrate all that is good about the American soldier and citizen. Their success is the Army's success and America's success.

The final section of On Point is a discussion of some of the campaign's implications. Operation IRAQI FREEDOM marks the most integrated joint force and joint campaign American armed forces have ever conducted. It is also the second war of the new millennium and carries weight as such. For the Army, it marks the first major campaign since Operation DESERT STORM. It is the first time the decade's worth of investments in digitization and interservice interoperability has been put to the test. This quick look at the war from an Army perspective suggests implications for the Army's continued transformation to the future force. These implications are organized in the broad categories discussed earlier and may serve as a starting point for further discussions and ultimately, programmatic decisions.

As of this writing, the campaign in Iraq continues. Soldiers continue to work with other agencies and organizations to help stabilize Iraq and assist with the transition to civilian rule. Yet despite the declared end of major combat operations, soldiers continue to fight--and die--as they pursue the remnants of the Ba'athist regime and other groups who oppose the coalition's presence. This mission is neither new nor unique to the Army's tradition. In this sense, the Army continues its role as the service of decision--ensuring that battlefield victories translate into strategic success.


  1. President George W. Bush, "Address to the American Enterprise Institute, " 26 February 2003, accessed from, on 15 June 2003.
  2. Alvin and Heidi Toffler, War and Antiwar: Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century, (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1993).
  3. "Title 10" refers to US Federal Code, Title 10, which delineates the services' responsibilities in providing forces and support to the joint commander and the other services. During OIF, the Army fulfilled its Title 10 responsibilities in many ways, to include providing a majority of logistics and CSS to the other services for common user items.
  4. Colonel Kevin Benson, CFLCC C5 (for OIF), interview by Major David Tohn, 12 August 2003.
  5. Technically, with the Marine Corps providing ground forces, the CFLCC is actually a CJFLCC-Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command. However, this work adopts the theater's common naming convention.

[ 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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