By Spc. Mike AlbertsJanuary 12, 2007
HAWIJA, Iraq, Jan. 12, 2007 - Improvised explosive devices are a primary threat to soldiers in the Kirkuk Province. To combat the threat, soldiers in Hawija are augmenting their ground fight with air assets. Those assets are proving invaluable.
Recently, soldiers of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, captured four Anti-Iraqi Forces and confiscated weapons during an air reconnaissance mission near Hawija, Iraq.
According to 2nd Lt. J. Brent Martin, platoon leader, Bravo Company, 2-27, a vehicle was speeding along a route in the battalion's area of operation while Martin and his soldiers were in helicopters patrolling the area for enemy activity. Martin asked the pilots to get a bit closer to asses the vehicles occupants.
"All the occupants in the vehicle were males of military age and I noticed that none of them would even look at the helicopter that was flying [less than 100 feet] away," said Martin. "The hair on the back of my neck stood up when the guys wouldn't even look at the helicopter. I knew they were hiding something," he said.
Martin, who has been operating in the area as an infantry platoon leader for the past four months, told the pilots he needed to stop and search the vehicle.
According to Martin, the vehicle was diverted to a small dirt road. A helicopter was placed in the speeding vehicle's path while Martin deployed his soldiers to prevent the vehicle from entering a nearby village. The sedan stopped and the occupants surrendered.
Martin's suspicions were confirmed.
In the vehicle, Bravo Company soldiers confiscated five rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), three RPG launchers and loaders, 100 armor piercing rounds of ammunition and a video camera. All four occupants of the vehicle were detained. The munitions, weapons and vehicle were safely destroyed at the site.
"The mission was a big success on many levels," said Maj. Robert Atienza, operations officer, 2-27. "Tactically, the reduction of weapons and removal of Anti-Iraqi Forces (AIF) in our area of operation will save Coalition Force and Iraqi Security Force lives. Operationally, the removal of AIF causes other cells to alter tactics and possibly go into hiding," said Atienza.
Atienza also stressed the significance of air reconnaissance in the fight against AIF in the Kirkuk Province.
"Conducting missions with the use of aviation assets decreases the risk to Coalition Forces on the ground with minimal risk to those soldiers in the air," continued Atienza. "In addition, the (helicopters) allow for a 360-degree view of the battlefield and can, for instance, greatly assist ground forces in locating individuals that are triggering improvised explosive devices (IEDs)," he said.
Soldiers in and around Hawija frequently come in contact with IEDs, and having air assets is just another tool in the toolbox. According to Atienza, "the flexibility and rapid response times that aviation assets provide are vital in responding to incidents on an asymmetrical battlefield."