By Pfc. Adam Halleck, 1st BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.October 28, 2009
TAJI, Iraq - After hours of swift and rigorous searching in a small village, here, north of Baghdad, Iraqi and American Soldiers hustled to a small field to meet helicopters from the Iraqi Air Force and 1st Air Cavalry Brigade.
Within minutes of locating the Soldiers on the ground, the helicopter pilots picked up the ground troops and lifted back into the air, en route to Camp Taji.
American Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based out of Fort Hood, Texas, combined with their counterparts assigned to the 37th Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division to execute the historic air assault mission, Oct. 26.
With transportation provided by the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade and the Iraqi Air Force, the combined air assault mission is the first to use pilots and helicopters from American and Iraqi Forces.
"The Iraqi Security Forces are expanding their repertoire of tactics and the local people are seeing it," said Houston native, Maj. Lee Overby, the battalion's operations officer. "A lot of the local leaders were enthusiastic about the mission; they feel that it will keep al-Qaeda out of their area knowing the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces."
The mission went off without a hitch. It only took a couple of hours for the Iraqi and American forces to search through roughly 4 square miles. The search yielded valuable information about the local area and afforded local residents an opportunity to see their security forces at work.
The purpose of the mission was for Iraqi and American ground forces to patrol the rural area searching for weapons caches and remnants of insurgency.
"As we walked through the villages, the locals were very willing to talk to us," said Killeen, Texas native, 2nd Lt. Robert Coombs. "The Iraqi Soldiers took the lead when it came to asking the local people about security and insurgency in the area, it definitely gives the locals the right impression."
The joint mission breeds confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces not only for the local population, but for the Iraqi troops themselves.
"The [Iraqi] Soldiers seemed to enjoy partnering with the [Iraqi] Air Force during this mission," said Coombs. "It's great to see the amount of growth that the security forces have gone through since when we first arrived this tour."
The Iraqi Air Force and Iraqi Army learned from each other during the mission and definitely gained confidence in the abilities of each security force, added Overby.
Once the area was completely searched the American and Iraqi Soldiers hurriedly ran to a rally point to meet their air transportation. Within minutes an MI-17 Hip helicopter from the Iraqi Air Force and a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade had arrived and gathered the ground forces for return to Camp Taji.
"The air assault mission sent a real strong message to the local people to see their own aircraft flying in the skies and it advertised the capabilities of the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Air Force," said Overby. "It's a baby step, but it's definitely a step in the right direction."