Joint Operation Targets Insurgents in Ramadi Neighborhood
By U.S. Army Sgt. Jeremy Pitcher
124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
RAMADI, Iraq, May 30, 2006 — As the sun rises above the horizon, the silence of a neighborhood is shattered by the roar of armored vehicles. The convoy kicks up dust and rocks, tearing along the makeshift road. It passes two U.S. vehicles burning from a roadside bomb earlier that morning.
It's mid-May, and the 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division is working with Iraqi soldiers from the Iraqi Army's 1st Division to conduct Operation Dragon's Breath in Ramadi.
Humvees pull up to a house, designated to be today's base of operations, on the southern edge of a neighborhood. U.S. soldiers, along with their Iraqi counterparts, are tasked to watch the southern approaches to the neighborhood for any insurgents, while other Iraqi troops sweep the area.
The convoy slows to a stop. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers file to the gated entry of the house. The gate opens with a stern holler and a push. Soldiers pour in, clearing every nook and cranny of the home. As soldiers check the area, the mood is a cautious calm. The troops have done this many times before, but the looks on their faces show that it never becomes a fearless task.
Once the house is secured, the soldiers take up positions in windowsills and on the roof.
Four Iraqi soldiers are among those taking positions; peering around corners and waiting.
In the distance, a loud speaker shouts instructions in Arabic to the neighborhood residents. The instructions convey the troops' intentions - they're trying to make the neighborhood safe.
Iraqi soldiers begin slowly advancing through the neighborhood, rushing through houses and courtyards with tactical precision. U.S. soldiers stand ready, observing while the Iraqis 'leap-frog' - one keeps watch while the other moves forward.
The morning burns away as the sun peaks and smoldering temperatures engulf the city streets. As a bead of sweat trickles down an Iraqi soldier's face, a shot rings out.
Everyone scrambles to find where the shot came from. A sudden burst of fire is heard. Within seconds, the Iraqi soldiers are face-to-face with insurgents. The Iraqi soldiers engage the black-garbed fighters.
Rocket propelled grenades and rifle fire erupts as the Iraqi forces fight forward, killing the insurgent onslaught.
U.S. soldiers hear the shots and bring their weapons eye-level. The insurgents, trying to flank Iraqi soldiers, run into awaiting U.S. troops. The explosion of an insurgent's rocket propelled grenade smashes a home's perimeter wall, while U.S. soldiers bombard the pressing enemy.
With every insurgent shot, the U.S. soldiers try to identify the source and make split-second decisions to engage.
From the sky comes a thunderous blast as an F-18 Hornet fighter jet barrels back into the sky after destroying a pickup truck carrying three insurgents speeding into battle.
As quick as it came, the battle is now over. All the insurgents who came to fight this morning are dead or have retreated.
While the smoke clears, the U.S. soldiers know their training and the training of their Iraqi counterparts was key to the outcome of the battle.
"These are some crazy times we live in, boys. Good thing we're the best," said U.S. Army Pfc. Jason Allen.
Fifteen insurgents were killed in the battle and no U.S. or Iraqi soldiers were injured.
"Today was a good day. Sometimes we get them good, and sometimes they get us. But we are definitely getting better at them not getting us," said U.S. Army Sgt. Anthony Heimos.
U.S. soldiers have seen Iraqi army forces grow in numbers and experience each day. "These Iraqis who were out here with us today are a good group of guys ... with every mission they get better," said U.S. Army Spc. William Willis.
"One day these Iraqi soldiers are going to look back and tell their grandkids, 'I was a part of something great. I got to help make Iraq a free country.'"