CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - U.S. Soldiers from Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment conducted an air assault with Iraqi Police from the Emergency Response Unit, and Rapid Deployment Unit from Contingency Operating Location Danger, near Tikrit, Iraq, Feb. 25. Troopers from 3rd Battalion, 25th General Support Aviation Battalion, Task Force Hammerhead, led the air assault with aircraft from Company Alpha and Bravo, 3-25 GSAB, and Alpha Troop, 2nd Battalion, 6th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Diamond Head.

The partnered air assault inserted ISF and U.S. forces into three objectives in Salah ad-Din province. According to Lt. Col. Robert Cain, commander, 2/32 FA, the mission -- termed "Operation Bright Eagle" -- was to deny enemy networks ability to disrupt Provincial elections by confiscating unauthorized weapons and interdicting suspected terrorists. By all accounts, Bright Eagle accomplished its objectives.

"The Iraqi Police captured 22 individuals during the Operation. Additionally, Iraqi Police from the ERU and RDU worked together not only to develop their own plan, but to also execute quite a large scale operation successfully," said Lt. Col. Cain.

Although Lt. Col. Cain's Soldiers were introduced to very capable Iraqi Security Forces when 2/32 FA arrived in theater last year, his Soldiers' efforts teaching advanced policing techniques demonstrably improved ISF planning and execution processes.

"The Iraqi Security Forces conducted the Operation well. They performed good rehearsals in preparation for the air assault and quickly cleared each objective," continued Lt. Col. Cain. "They showed that the ISF can reach outlying areas and conduct large joint operations. We [also received] excellent aviation support for our ground units."

That aviation support came from Task Forces Hammerhead and Diamond Head. They employed multiple aircraft and unmanned aerial systems and provided the lift support and aerial reconnaissance for ground forces. Their combined effort placed the ERU, RDU and U.S. forces in precise positions to accomplish mission objectives.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Owen Connors, is a CH-47D Chinook helicopter pilot with Co. B, 3/25th GSAB, and was one of several pilots who inserted troops into the objectives. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Owen Conners was quick to recognize the importance of the mission in furthering the partnership between U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces.

"It's extremely important for the Iraqis to provide their own security," said CW2 Connors. "Any support we can give them absolutely helps - it helps for these elections and, in a broader sense, it helps to give them a sense of ownership.

"Again, all we did was help; we provided the lift capability and 2/32 FA [Soldiers] showed them how [valuable the] use of helicopters can be. The actual 'boots on the ground' part was all Iraqis."

Captain Robert Beale, commander, Co. B., 3/25th GSAB, TF Hammerhead, elaborated on the importance of continuing to engage ISF in partnered air assaults.

"We're setting conditions for the Iraq military and Iraq police to provide their own security and enable them to further establish and develop their own democracy," said Capt. Beale. "They're definitely moving in the right direction not only with our assistance but also with help other coalition forces have provided the past couple of years. [The ISF] are right on the right track."

Another testament to the improved capability of the IP was how quickly they learned how to safely enter and exit aircraft. Cold load training is often conducted with less experienced passengers when aircraft are shut down and before missions to ensure all passengers understand the elements of loading and unloading a helicopter. According to the pilots involved, passengers should be able to exit the aircraft and safely position themselves within 15 seconds of touching-down on an objective.

"During the cold load training portion of the mission, comparing the Iraqi Army units and the U.S. Army, they were all on and off the aircraft quickly," said Capt. Beale. "They definitely made it look like they've been doing it for a while."

"They were very fast learners," added Chief Warrant Officer 3 Scott Peterson, another CH-47D Chinook pilot, who flew one of the aircraft during the mission.