Kiowa pilots stop IED triggerman on Iraqi highway
April 21, 2011
KIRKUK, Iraq, April 16, 2011 -- The actions taken by Kiowa Warrior pilots last month prevented a triggerman for an improvised explosive device from harming Americans and Iraqis.
Four pilots in two OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopters were conducting an aerial reconnaissance mission in northern Iraq, March 11, 2011, in conjunction with U.S. and Iraqi ground forces, when they observed and engaged an IED emplacer along a major route frequently used by Iraqi civilians and U.S. forces.
The pilots were part of a Scout Weapons Team from the 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment based out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska. The 6-17 CAV is attached to the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, which is deployed to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn.
Chief Warrant Officer Khristian Kitselman, and Chief Warrant Officer Cory Burggraff, were conducting reconnaissance in the lead aircraft of the flight. The air mission commander, Chief Warrant Officer Abimael Hernandez, and Platoon Leader 1st Lt. Brian Borkowski, were in the second aircraft.
The Scout Weapons Team's primary mission is to ensure the safety and freedom of movement for Iraqi civilians along major Iraqi roadways.
Recently, terrorist attacks on U.S. forces have declined as Iraqi military and police forces have increased their numbers and taken over security missions.
"We've shifted our focus from fighting a war to assisting the Iraqis as they protect civilians and infrastructure," Kitselman said. "Now that the Iraqis are protecting themselves, we contribute in a more indirect fashion. We try to make it easier for them to take care of themselves."
After receiving an initial report of hostile activity from the ground force commander, Kitselman and his team gained visibility on a suspicious male along a major Iraqi highway in the vicinity of Iraqi Security Forces and a small element of U.S. forces. Reconnaissance from the air in conjunction with U.S. ground forces confirmed the suspicious male was a triggerman for a nearby IED that endangered the lives of military forces and Iraqi civilians alike.
Once the Scout Weapons Team received positive identification on the target and clearance of fires, Kitselman maneuvered his aircraft to a safe position and engaged the triggerman.
"I decided to make my engagement from south to north to avoid any possibility of collateral damage along the route," Kitselman said.
Kitselman's initial volley of rockets was followed by an engagement by Hernandez with his .50-caliber machine gun.
The triggerman survived the engagement and was taken into custody. Further intelligence gathered by U.S. and Iraqi forces confirmed he was an IED cell leader from a nearby town responsible for supplying and directing several previous IED attacks on both U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians.
"The actions taken by these four pilots are a direct contribution to ensuring a peaceful transition of authority for the security of Iraq from U.S. forces to Iraqi Security Forces," said Task Force Saber Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Michael C. McCurry. "Their actions support the protection of Iraqi civilians in the northern provinces of the country."
"As a part of Task Force Saber, Alpha Troop, 6-17 CAV provides the primary Scout Weapons Team support for operations there to help bring peace and security to the region and enable the government of Iraq's development into a stable and enduring strategic partner," McCurry said.