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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 II

Transition to a New Campaign

Chapter 4
Leading the New Campaign: Transitions in Command and Control in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM


III Corps Replaces V Corps

The first transition took place on 1 February 2004 when Lieutenant General Thomas F. Metz and III Corps raised their colors at CJTF-7 headquarters replacing the V Corps headquarters, which had invaded Iraq in March 2003 and had formed the core of CJTF-7 since June 2003. The Army’s Forces Command notified Metz and III Corps of the impending mission in early September 2003 and they had been preparing since. Metz recalled that Abizaid told him, “What I need you to do is to go in and take over the tactical fight for Lieutenant General Sanchez and I need Sanchez to focus on the strategic fight.”160 As late as August 2003, the III Corps commander and his staff had been focused on their contingency plans for Korea. After notification of the deployment to Iraq, III Corps went through a series of predeployment site surveys of Iraq, Battle Command Training Program (BCTP) exercises, and Joint Forces Command seminars to prepare for the mission.161 The same preparation was taking place across the Armed Forces as units prepared for the first of what would become yearly rotations of forces in and out of Iraq.

The III Corps staff replaced their V Corps counterparts across CJTF-7. This transition was not a one-for-one process because CJTF-7 was far larger than a corps headquarters, having been augmented with personnel from around the US Armed Services. Metz took Major General Wojdakowski’s position as Sanchez’s deputy commander, and was able to focus more on operations than on force sustainment issues. CJTF-7 was still a unified headquarters, albeit physically divided between downtown Baghdad where the chief of staff and CJ5 sections worked with the CPA, and Camp Victory near the Baghdad airport where the majority of the CJTF-7 (III Corps) was located.

The transition anticipated the creation of MNF-I. Metz’s chief of staff, Brigadier General William Troy, oversaw the planning for the separation of CJTF-7 into MNF-I and MNC-I scheduled for 15 April 2004. Metz tasked Brigadier General Richard P. Formica to begin the planning to turn the ICDC into a true military force prior to the planned activation of MNSTC-I in June. Though MNC-I was formally stood up in mid-April as scheduled, it was not until the end of July 2004 that Metz had reconstituted his III Corps staff under the MNC-I flag and consolidated them at Camp Victory.162 Still, between April and the creation of MNF-I, some of the CJTF-7’s staff sections were split based on their roles in the future command structure. For example, Major General Fast began focusing on intelligence at the operational- and theater-strategic levels in preparation for the establishment of MNF-I, while her deputy became the CJ2 for tactical operations anticipating the formal creation of MNC-I.163

Throughout his tour as MNC-I commander, Metz’s command style was fairly decentralized as an operational commander. Given the vast differences between unit areas of responsibility (AORs) across Iraq, Metz saw his role this way: “You have to work what the mission, enemy, terrain, weather, and troops and time available required in your area. What are the resources you need that I can give you as the corps commander? I have often said, at that level, it becomes much more that you are a resource provider as a corps commander more than tweaking the tactical level.”164 III Corps did not develop its own campaign plan, because as the operational arm of CJTF-7 and later of MNF-I, they implemented the campaign plans of CJTF-7 and MNF-I.165 Metz gave each multinational division and separate brigade commander broad discretion to implement those plans in a way suitable to their particular AORs. On several occasions, however, Metz took a more direct hand in tactical operations during critical periods. In February and March, CJTF-7 began planning for Operation VALIANT SABER, designed to take advantage of the short-lived lull in violence after December 2003 and the capture of Saddam. After exploiting the high-level intelligence gained from Saddam’s capture, Lieutenant General Sanchez wanted to stay on the offensive against insurgent groups by fighting for more intelligence. The operation required moving units and assets from across Iraq to targeted areas; thus, Metz took a more direct hand than he would have done with an operation that was wholly within a single area of responsibility. VALIANT SABER’s goal was to select areas of Iraq, beginning with Mosul in the north, where Coalition forces would concentrate their efforts to defeat the last remnants of opposition and turn it over to local rule by Iraqis. The April uprisings in Fallujah and in the Shia corridor effectively ended the initiative.166 In April, May, and June, Metz turned to close coordination of the operations of Coalition units in their efforts to defeat the Sunni and Shia uprisings in Fallujah, Samarra, Al Kut, and An Najaf.

The second Battle of Fallujah in November 2004 was the most traditional or conventional operation that MNC-I conducted during Metz’s tenure. Operation AL FAJR, or New Dawn, was launched in early November after a long period of military, humanitarian, and political preparations were put in place to destroy the Sunni insurgents that took over the town of Fallujah in April. Metz worked with MNF-I, Coalition military units, units of the new Iraqi Army, and the new IIG to put together the right tactical forces and reconstruction assets to make AL FAJR a long-term success.167 As Metz recalled, “My career did not prepare me for irregular warfare and a counterinsurgency. My career prepared me for conventional ops, to bring all the combat power to bear that you can in a synchronized coordinated way. That was why Fallujah, to me, was the highlight of a career—because I was trained.”168

Supporting the first free elections in Iraq in January 2005, on the other hand, was a very nontraditional mission for which Metz had never been trained. Yet he stated, “By far, it was one of the finest moments in my life.”169 In the summer of 2004, MNF-I and MNC-I did an analysis and selected 15 major cities that were key to a successful national election. Throughout the fall and winter, MNC-I implemented a Coalition and Iraqi security plan and an elections support plan to make that possible.170 Planning for polling station locations, voter registration, the delivery of ballots, and the counting of ballots, also involved international organizations. Throughout it all Metz had to resist the temptation to have American leaders or units take over the preparations when progress seemed to be too slow. As he described it:

An Iraqi 80 percent solution beats our 99 percent solution every time, so we have to let them do it. So, as reports would come in and as we were tracking things getting ready and they weren’t pretty, city by city and districts and provinces, there was a lot of angst. But I said, ‘They have to do it. You have to make them do it.’ But, boy, that was hard. But, in my opinion, it was successful because they ran the polling stations, they secured them.171

Metz’s biggest fear was that the enemy would attempt a dramatic operation to interfere with the elections and cause a strategic defeat for the Coalition and Iraq, similar to the role the 1968 Tet Offensive played during the Vietnam war. He and General George W. Casey Jr., the MNF-I commander, convinced the IIG to cancel all leaves and passes so the ISF could have the maximum number of forces in place for the election.172 The XVIII Airborne Corps headquarters under Lieutenant General John Vines was in place in Iraq before the elections began. They replaced III Corps in MNC-I after the January elections, but were present to increase overall troop levels and to learn about the process for the follow-on elections, which they would oversee throughout their rotation in 2005 and 2006. When he gave up command of MNC-I, Metz was optimistic that a successful outcome to the elections would lead to better intelligence and other forms of cooperation from an elected government.173

Chapter 4. Leading the New Campaign: Transitions in Command and Control in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM

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