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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part I

Setting the Stage

Chapter 3
The Rise of the Iraqi Insurgency and the US Army's Response


Reorganizing for the New Campaign

The degree to which the US Army recognized the need to mount a new type of campaign in Iraq can be seen in the striking amount of reorganization that its tactical units underwent after May 2003. On one level, there were critical changes to task organizations for the new environments and missions that units faced. One type of reorganization was the increase in the number and types of units under a commander’s authority. For example, after assuming command of all forces in the Baghdad area on 5 June 2003, the commander of 1st AD added the term “task force” to the division’s name, signifying its major reorganization for the difficult challenges of securing the capital and conducting full spectrum operations there. To do these missions, the division added major combat units—2d ACR and 2d BCT, 82d ABN (2-82d)—to its already large complement of three maneuver brigades and other supporting elements.

The division then executed an extensive task organization to give each of its combat brigades a balanced mix of forces. The armor-heavy 1st and 3d Brigades each received light infantry battalions—the 3d Battalion, 124th Infantry from the Florida Army National Guard’s 53d Infantry Brigade, and the 1st Battalion, 325th Parachute Infantry from the 2d Brigade, 82d ABN, respectively. To give it increased armor and mobility, the 2-82d received an attachment of troops from the division cavalry squadron. The 2d Battalion, 37th Armor, a unit armed with M1A2 Abrams tanks, was detached from the 2d Brigade and reported to the 2d ACR, which had converted to a wheeled light cavalry regiment organization and no longer had tanks. The division commander then attached the 3d Squadron of the 2d ACR, equipped with high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs), to the 2d Brigade for the task of securing the “Green Zone” in central Baghdad.189 Later in the campaign, the division attached the 2d Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry to the division artillery (DIVARTY), a command functioning as a maneuver element instead of its normal role as the provider of fire support to the division.

Reorganization to meet the campaign’s requirements often meant huge growth in the number of commands under divisional authority. At one point, 1st AD added the 937th Engineer Group and the 18th Military Police Brigade, giving it the equivalent of 9 maneuver brigades and almost 39,000 Soldiers. The division accepted further reinforcements, such as a CA brigade, a chemical company, PSYOP companies, and an aeromedical evacuation detachment.190 Every division in theater underwent its own version of organizational transition as they rapidly adapted to the requirements of the new campaign in Iraq.

More radical transformations that included significant changes in fundamental missions and capabilities occurred at brigade and battalion level. The most dramatic of these transformations was the conversion of field artillery and armor battalions to general maneuver units that conducted full spectrum operations instead of the primary combat missions for which their Soldiers had trained. Often this meant parking many of their combat vehicles and conducting patrols and other operations on foot or in wheeled vehicles such as HMMWVs. However, a new mission set also required new training and new organization. For example, the 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery, a unit in the 1st AD that became a maneuver battalion in Baghdad in May 2003, faced significant changes once the leadership realized their Soldiers would be conducting full spectrum operations in the Iraqi capital. After arriving in theater, the battalion commander reorganized his staff and began training his artillerymen in basic infantry tasks such as movement techniques, clearing buildings, and cordon and searches.191

Units that deployed to Iraq in 2004 often experienced similar transformations, but had more time to prepare and train their Soldiers than units such as the 4-27th FA. Before its deployment to Iraq, the 1st CAV converted its DIVARTY command into a maneuver unit called the 5th BCT, 1st CAV. This new brigade was built around the core of two converted field artillery battalions and one converted air defense artillery battalion. The new unit also included one light infantry battalion and at times two cavalry squadrons.192 While they enjoyed some preparation time, brigade leaders still had less than a year to retrain their staffs and Soldiers for missions that were very different from their traditional role as the provider of indirect fire support to the division. The new maneuver brigade deployed to Baghdad in the spring of 2004 and established its AOR in the Al Rashid section of the capital. There, it began conducting the complex set of full spectrum operations laid out by the division commander, Major General Chiarelli. The newly formed BCT would eventually increase the size of its organization by taking command of two Iraqi Army battalions and for a time, even had the 2d Battalion, 24th Marines, a United States Marine Corps (USMC) Reserve unit from St. Louis, Missouri, under its operational control.

The broad array of unconventional tasks required by the new missions and environments also led to more novel types of reorganization. Army doctrine and practice assigned responsibility for reconstruction and governance missions to CA units. However, the scope of the campaign in Iraq forced units of all sizes and purposes to become critical players in these aspects of the campaign. The reorganization of the 101st ABN provides a good example of this. Once the division headquarters was established in Mosul, Major General Petraeus tasked his subordinate units with a series of new missions. He gave the division staff responsibility to assist in organizing elections for the interim provincial council, as well as those that would choose the governor, vice governors, and assistant governors for the surrounding Nineveh province.193 Other taskings based on obvious functional linkages aligned the Division Surgeon’s Office with the local offices of the Iraqi Ministry of Health, the communications staff section (G6) with the offices of the Telecommunications Ministry, and the engineer brigade with the Ministry of Public Works. In other cases, the linkage was not so direct, but the novelty of the mission the same. Petraeus tasked the 159th Aviation Brigade, a Blackhawk-equipped helicopter unit, to help the Iraqis reopen Mosul University and get its 35,000 students and faculty back into the classrooms. He also assigned the Division Support Command (DISCOM) and the Corps Support Battalion to assist the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Youth and Sports.194

Courage and Commitment in the New Campaign
2-5 Artillery in Al Anbar Province

In April 2003, the 2d Battalion, 5th Field Artillery deployed to Iraq planning on delivering indirect fire support to the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment (3d ACR). Once the 3d ACR began full spectrum operations in Al Anbar province in late April, however, there was no longer a great demand for artillery support. Instead, the battalion transformed into a maneuver unit operating under the command of the 3d ACR, responsible for a large area of operation measuring 6,500 square kilometers. The artillerymen of 2-5 FA began conducting a broad array of missions, including working with the World Food Program to deliver humanitarian assistance, reestablishing Al Anbar University, training Iraqi security forces, and mounting raids, cordon and searches, and other security missions.

Another of the battalion’s critical missions, the destruction of captured Iraqi munitions, provided the setting for a selfless act of courage by several of the unit’s Soldiers. As Iraqi contractors worked in an ammunition bunker at a large Saddam-era Army base, a fire inside the bunker threatened to engulf the Iraqis and the American Soldiers supervising them in a huge explosion. Staff Sergeant Tim Huangs, Private Akai Johnson, Corporal Ryan Waters, and Captain Tim Godwin, all from 2-5 FA, repeatedly entered the bunker to help the injured Iraqis escape the fire. Once they were outside, unit medics provided first aid and loaded one terribly burned Iraqi worker on an ambulance. Staff Sergeant Huangs also extinguished the fire inside the bunker, preventing a catastrophic accident. After the incident, Huangs stated that his actions were simply the result of his commitment to the men—both Iraqi and American—that were under his charge. Huangs explained, “Why’d I run into [an] ammo bunker that had just had an explosion? You just do it. The Army trains you to take care of your Soldiers. I was responsible for those Iraqi workers; I was their supervisor.”

LTC David C. Hill and MAJ Shaun E. Tooke,
“2-5 FA: A Ground Maneuver Force for the 3d ACR in OIF,”
Field Artillery (September-October 2004): 24-29.

Before the beginning of OIF, the 101st ABN had not planned to conduct missions such as the reopening of a university or the staging of provincial elections. In any event, Petraeus’ division and other Army units brought a number of assets and capabilities to this type of campaign, which CA units, NGOs, the CPA, and the UN simply could not provide. Among the most important were the ability to plan and monitor operations with disciplined staff processes, unequaled mobility on the ground and in the air, and huge amounts of well-trained and organized manpower. As Petraeus explained, he relied on the ingenuity of his Soldiers to release and direct the latent capacity of the Iraqis:

What you do is you get a general concept, you get some organizing principles, you explain it all as clearly as you can, and then you unleash the productivity of the people, if you will, our people and then their people, and get on with it because there was an enormous capability in the Iraqis as well. There were thousands of trained, certified engineers, just in northern Iraq alone. There is a huge legal community. There is a huge educated class and so forth. It was just a matter of getting them going again, engaged and enabled somewhat with resources, because of course the [national] ministries weren’t yet doing that.195

By the middle of 2003, these types of taskings and missions were commonplace as the American Soldiers attempted to create a secure environment in which the Iraqis—with their Coalition partners—could gather their substantial resources and capabilities and begin re-establishing their state.

Chapter 3. The Rise of the Iraqi Insurgency and the US Army’s Response

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