SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 TO PRESENT DAY
On September 11, 2001, members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; these acts plunged the United States into a war with Islamic fundamentalists. Seeking to destroy one haven for the terrorists, the United States launched attacks on Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s government, a radical Islamic fundamentalist group known as the Taliban, openly supported the terrorist al-Qaeda organization. They wrongly assumed that their landlocked Central Asian country was impenetrable to attack by the United States and its allies.
In October 2001, the first insertion of Special Forces teams into Afghanistan occurred. Within hours, these teams started assisting the Northern Alliance, an ally of the United States, and directed air strikes against Taliban positions. In the passing days, the teams split into three-man sub-teams to cover a greater area. As the collapse of the Taliban began, the Northern Alliance approached the key northern city of Mazar-e Sharif.
By Nov. 5, the Special Forces units and their Northern Alliance allies had readied their assault on Mazar-e Sharif. At a key position in the defense of the city Tangi Gap, the Taliban and their foreign allies massed for a determined fight. However, Special Forces called in devastating air strikes. These air strikes allowed the Northern Alliance to charge forward with horses, foot Soldiers, and troops mounted in trucks to crush the Taliban and foreign forces with ease.
The Taliban and al-Qaeda forces reeled in defeat. On Nov. 13, 2001, Kabul, the capital, fell to the Northern Alliance. The remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces fled the country or sought refuge in the mountains.
After crushing the Taliban in Afghanistan, the United States turned its attention to the unresolved issue of Iraq. In preparing for the second war against Iraq, the United States formed a coalition with Britain, Spain, and a number of other nations.
In the opening months of 2003, the 3rd Infantry Division deployed to Kuwait in preparation for the invasion of Iraq. After months of preparation on March 19, 2003, the United States plunged into war against Iraq with devastating air strikes. On the next day, the 3rd Infantry Division and the Marine Expeditionary Force streamed across the border and captured the Iraqi oilfields in Rumaila. By the 22nd, the 3rd Infantry Division crossed the Euphrates River streaming northward. In the days that followed, the Iraqis crumbled without major resistance, and the operation slowed due to high winds and dust storms. In Najaf and Nasiriya, Iraqi forces found it impossible to match American soldiers training and preparation in the use of firepower and technology.
Following the defeat of the Iraqi army, a guerrilla war ensued. Insurgent forces adopted the car bomb as a major means of inflicting carnage. As the insurrection continued, militia groups took control of many areas and the situation in Iraq deteriorated. In early 2007, the U.S. responded, with a “surge” of troops, to purge all militia and insurgent groups from Baghdad and other key areas in Iraq. By the end of 2008, this effort proved successful, and the situation in Iraq stabilized.
Today, NCOs lead their troops in combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. These NCOs continue the history and traditions of those who went before them. They retain the duties and responsibilities given to them during the American Revolution and the role as a small unit leader received on the Western Plains. They are leaders that train and prepare their Soldiers for combat as they did in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm and throughout our Nation’s history.