Real Stories From Iraq
The blogosphere is abuzz about "Shock Troops" a combat "dispatch," published in the current edition of The New Republic. Supposedly the work of a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq, the article details alleged, atrocious behavior by American troops, ranging from running over dogs with Bradley fighting vehicles, to mocking a victim of an IED attack. Michael Goldfarb at the WorldwideStandard.com (and others) have been doing yeoman's work in debunking these claims.
In the interest of accuracy (and fairness), we'd like to pass along a true story of U.S. troops, defending freedom in Iraq. It's an unclassified operational summary that was recently provided to friends and family members of soldiers serving in Bravo Troop 5-73 CAV, 82nd ABN DIV. The account details the unit's participation in Operation Ithaca, which was conducted last week. We have absolutely no reason to doubt the accuracy and veracity of this summary, which was forwarded to us by a former colleague. It provides a sharp--and obvious--contrast to the dubious information of "Shock Troops." The 5-73 CAV op summary is long, but well worth the read.
5-73 CAV (TF 300) deployed to Iraq in August 2006 to defeat the insurgency in eastern Diyala, Iraq. 5-73 CAV was formerly 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, but was chosen by the Department of the Army to be the first Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron. The members of the Squadron were hand selected by the Squadron Commander. The Commanders, Officers, Non-commissioned Officers, and soldiers were competitively chosen to be members of this elite force of two time volunteers.
Once established, the members of 5-73 CAV were sent to specialty schools: Ranger School, Recon Surveillance Leaders Course, Air Assault, and EMT to have the necessary skill sets to operate in an austere intelligence environment. Following the specialty schools the Squadron went into an intensive training cycle to prepare for deployment, which culminated in a successful rotation to the Joint Readiness Training Center.
Since deployed to Iraq the Squadron has achieved many successes and experienced some tragedy. Throughout the last twelve months we have conducted operations that have captured international headlines; Operation Turki Bowl I, Operation Turki Bowl II, and Operation Minotaur. 5-73 CAV, now referred to as Task Force 300 (for its 300 fighters) has consistently dominated the enemy through maneuver, saturating the area with patrol bases, patrols, and operations, and the application of Corps and Joint level assets.
On 11 July 2007 Bravo (Strike Force 300) 5-73 CAV moved to the FOB Warhorse Helicopter landing zone during hours of limited visibility to stage on Black Hawk (UH-60) and Chinook (CH-47) helicopters for the Air Assault Raid on Objectives Red, White, and Blue.
The target was an Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQIZ) safe haven north of Baqubah, and east of Khalis, Iraq. Intelligence was developed primarily through local Iraq civilians. Shia’s and Sunnis directed us to this area, which was once a peaceful tribal farm land, but now overrun by Wahabbi extremists under the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).
The mission was B/ 5-73 CAV conducts Air Assault Raid to clear AQIZ Safe Haven in order to disrupt Anti-Iraq forces operating in the Diyala River valley and shape the area for future operations.
The purpose of the operation was to destroy the AQIZ safe haven to support the larger mission of clearing the Diyala providence.
Concept of the operation was to Isolate the objectives, then clear the objectives forcing the fighters into the open so we could capture them, or if they decided to fight, kill them. With our platoons providing the ground force, aerial support from helicopter gunships and fighter jets and Artillery, we would push them in-between the objective areas and into the palm groves, so we could bring them to justice.
As soon as we hit the ground we began clearing the three separate objectives simultaneously, locating the enemy quickly through various sensors; Paratroopers on the ground, Paratroopers in two Black Hawk Helicopters flying overhead as the Aerial Reaction Force (ARF), Aerial Weapons Team (AH-64 Apaches), F-16 fighters, and Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (TUAVs).
The enemy was surrounded and had nowhere to run. Half of the fighters attempted to flee the objective with weapons, showing a hostile threat to the ground forces and the other half attempted to organize and maneuver on the paratroopers. Immediately we engaged the enemy with direct fire from our machine guns and rifles, a barrage of 155mm High Explosive (HE) Artillery, Apache 30mm Machine Guns and Hellfire rockets, and F-16 20mm strafing runs through their dug in positions.
We cleared from house to house, chicken coops, canals, and palm groves rooting out the enemy and forcing them into our planned kill zone. Along the way we discovered three large caches of RPGs, Heavy Machine Guns, AK-47’s, AQIZ propaganda, Iraqi Army/ police radio’s, military uniforms and over 17 IEDs. The significance of the IED cache is that they are unable to put them on the street, which equals saving coalition and Iraqi lives.
Through the night into the early morning we fought the enemy, dominating them with impunity. The end result was we killed 29 AQIZ fighters, captured 23, and most importantly saved eight severely tortured civilians being held captive. The hostages told us that they had been sentenced by the Islamic State of Iraq to be executed later that day, and we saved them from certain death. All eight hostages who were from all over Iraq are now safely at home with their loved ones.
Our Paratroopers with all of their heavy gear and body armor covered four sq km of ground, clearing over 250 homes, many canals, and palm groves non-stop for eight hours, all while taking fire from a disciplined and determined enemy.
No civilians were killed or injured during this operation, nor any of our Paratroopers. As we were preparing to extract on our helicopters the hostages broke out in tears thanking us over and over. Security was given back to this region, allowing the repatriation of hundreds of families that had been threatened daily, lost family members, and lost the homes that had been in their families for over a hundred years.
We're sure the operational summary wouldn't make the editorial cut at TNR, but at least it's true.