By Spc. Chris McCannFebruary 8, 2007
AZ-ZAIDON, Iraq (Army News Service, Feb. 8, 2007) - The "Golden Dragons" of 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) joined by troops from 3rd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, surrounded the village of Ibrahim Sallal, southwest of Az-Zaidon, Iraq, in the pre-dawn darkness of Feb. 3.
The first drop of Soldiers from company B waited silently for the other half of the company to arrive before going to the homes in the area where they would wake the occupants and gather all the military-age men in the village for questioning. Weapons found in homes would be confiscated.
The men were taken to the school in the center of the village, where they waited to be questioned as the Soldiers set up their defensive perimeter. Other Soldiers searched the village again, being more thorough after the initial hunt, where time was of the essence. They turned up another man who had been sleeping and a few more weapons. Iraqi soldiers searched the local mosque and found a few jihadist propaganda pamphlets.
Questioning began early and continued throughout the day. While families had seemed a little frightened by the early intrusion, the women and children soon came to the school, bringing socks and scarves for the men who did not have time to get them. They also brought food for the village men and the Soldiers. Some women brought their sick children who were treated by the Army medics.
"Everything has been very successful so far," said Maj. Joel Smith, 2-14th's executive officer. "We did a rapid clearance of the houses on the objective, controlled all the military-aged men and took contraband weapons. The mission was to get a picture of the area since we've had no presence here."
Several Iraqi men told the interrogators there was terrorist activity in the area. They said one local man had been forced to leave village after terrorists threatened him and his family.
Despite the early morning wake-up call for this operation, the Soldiers of Co. B were unfazed and even excited about the mission.
"We're always out at 4 a.m.," said Pfc. Charles Marcille, a rifleman with the company, as he stood outside the mosque guarding two men who had been found there. "This was my second air assault. I'm not a big flyer - it's nerve-wracking when you're in a helicopter, but it's exciting, too."
First Lt. George Webb, a platoon leader, was also enthused about the early-morning assignment.
"I couldn't see myself, nor would I want to be anywhere other than here, doing what we're doing," Webb said. "It's neat seeing the reaction, especially from the children, and seeing the improvements we could make in the neighborhoods by bringing the sheiks to a council."
The mission included four Iraqi soldiers who often work with the company.
"We hope to catch insurgents on this mission," said Koteba Hamid Ahmad. "We came in here to see the area, and everyone did a great job. The kids seem happy, the helicopter ride in went well. Working with the Americans is always good. We enjoy it every time."
Bassim Muhammad Ali, who has done seven air assaults with the unit, agreed.
"I love working with the American Army. We four are always out with the 2-14th so this sort of mission isn't really new."
Civil affairs Soldiers came in by convoy later in the morning to distribute school supplies such as backpacks and colored pencils to dozens of eager youngsters. Although the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd "Commando" Brigade Combat Team hasn't had much presence in the area, the hope is the time spent there will bear fruit.
"I think we're doing something productive and helping here," said Pfc. Stephen Harris, a rifleman. "We did a patrol to find caches and searched buildings. It will definitely help. We're taking a proactive approach. Ever since we've been proactive in an area, IED attacks have gone down, because we're keeping insurgents on the run."
While the village men were detained for questioning until after dark, all were released to their homes when the company left that evening.
"The decisive part of this mission was intelligence gathering," said Capt. Palmer Phillips. "All our reports were six months to a year old. Now we have a start on developing information on Zaidon," said Capt. Palmer Phillips. "We've established ties between the Zaidon area and the village of Sadr Al-Yusufiyah which will be important in developing future operations."
(Spc. Chris McCann serves with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10 Mountain Division public affairs.)