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Operation Shillelagh

March 2004

In what has become almost a nightly ritual, Soldiers from Alpha Company, 1-5 Cavalry Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, nicknamed the "Annihilators", lined up their vehicles on a quiet side street of the sleepy town, Abu Ghurayb, just before initiating a cordon and search mission late March 17. This time though, they were part of a huge, division-wide operation called "Iron Promise" designed to catch insurgents, former regime sympathizers and foreign fighters or at least put them all on the run.

"We are going to exploit insurgent threats in hopes of gathering more intelligence on people and weapons caches," Capt. Joseph C. James, personnel officer and Public Affairs Officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-12 Cavalry Battalion, also known as Thunderhorse, of the 2nd BCT, 1CD, said. "We will be part of a division-wide, coordinated and simultaneous sweep."

As Alpha Company rolled out to their destination, elements of all 2nd BCT's battalions as well as 1st Armor Division assets also moved into position. In all, over 3000 Soldiers from the 2nd BCT marched the streets to visit local Iraqis in their homes. "We have 88 buildings to cover in our sector," said Capt David Perry, commander of the Annihilators, who are attached to the 2-12 Cavalry Battalion. "We will probable get to 50 or 55 of them. Sweeping the buildings is fast, it's the identification and interviewing of the people that takes so much time."

Perry, a native of Eufaula, Ala., admitted that most of the neighborhoods in his sector are reluctant to talk for fear of retaliation. "We work hard but it seems the locals are not willing to speak due to the fear factor. We hope to change that. Maybe our efforts will help alleviate those fears," Perry said. During the operation, also code named "Shillelagh" in recognition of St. Patrick's Day, seven wanted individuals were found and detained during a sweep of more than 700 houses. The suspects surrendered quietly and no injuries to either coalition or Iraqi forces occurred.

Not all weapons discovered were confiscated. The Operation Iraqi Freedom household weapons-level standard allows for one AK-47 rifle and no more than 200 rounds allowed per household to be used for personal protection. According to Perry, "they need these weapons because the local banks are not too secure so it is quite common for the average Iraqi citizen to keep all of his money in his house. We routinely run across homes that have several million Denary socked away." "We don't confiscate the money unless the person is on our wanted list, we usually just document who has it and where it is," said Perry.

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