BAGHDAD - Staring down at an empty lot, Spc. Craig McBaine wondered how such a tranquil neighborhood could be the scene of so much carnage.
Nicknamed "IED Alley East," this 700-meter stretch of barren earth has been the scene of many attacks against coalition and Iraqi security forces.
On this day, the patch of land, bordered on three sides by once-beautiful three-story houses, is occupied by up-armored Humvees, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Abrams Battle Tanks, all in support of Operation Beastmaster.
During Beastmaster, troops from the 4th Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division cleared three large neighborhoods in the western Baghdad suburb of Ghazaliya. The sight of much sectarian violence, Ghazaliya is the battle ground for Sunni insurgents trying to push back the overwhelming Shia population in the northern and eastern areas of Baghdad.
"Alternate Supply Route Sword," the U.S. military's name for the largest road running through southern Ghazaliya, is also the in-road from Fallujah to Baghdad proper.
Having just arrived weeks ago, Soldiers of Company D, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, attached to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, have set upon the goal of taking over the security of Ghazaliya from the Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division.
"It's been pretty crazy already," McBaine said. The Florida native's patrol would later be hit multiple times by small arms fire, a rocket-propelled grenade and a roadside bomb.
Based out of Fort Bliss, Texas, 2-12 Cavalry is part of the 1st Cavalry Division's newest brigade - the 4th "Long Knife" Brigade Combat Team. While the unit may be new to El Paso, Texas, it is no stranger to combat.
2-12 Cavalry was de-activated shortly after its return from Operation Iraqi Freedom II in March 2005. The unit has also earned streamers in other conflicts such as World War II, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. The unit was the first U.S. unit in Leyte and Japan. The unit re-activated at Fort Bliss 18 months after returning from Iraq.
Participation in operations such as Beastmaster with the Iraqi Army is the key to handing Iraq back over to its people. The Iraqi soldiers involved were being observed by coalition forces to gauge their ability to perform urban warfare tasks.
Overall, Operation Beastmaster was a huge success. In the course of three days of house to house searches, the Iraqi Army troops uncovered seven weapons caches, numerous roadside bomb-making materials and captured a high-value target.