By Sgt. Travis Zielinski, 1st ACB, 1st CAV DIV, USD-CMarch 31, 2010
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - After spending several weeks working with an Iraqi strike force on planning and executing air assault missions and the importance of air-ground integration, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade concluded the training with a culminating demonstration March 29 to show off their newly capabilities.
Attending the demonstration, conducted by Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, U.S. Division-Center, was Lt. Gen. Ali Hammadi Tahir, the Karkh Area commander for western Baghdad, and Brig. Gen. Kevin Mangum, deputy commanding general-center of USD-C, who were able to see the already strong abilities of the KAC Strike Team enhanced by an aviation platform.
"This demonstration shows the cooperation between [the Iraqi military] and U.S. forces, and it is important that the Iraqi command was included for this demonstration to see the execution method," said Ali. "This is to lead us in the future to hope that we will be expanding this type of operation more and more."
The Strike Team Soldiers are a group based out of Baghdad who works directly for the KAC. Out of the 110 who graduated the intense training to form the strike team, 70 were picked to be trained on this advanced aerial insertion technique.
The KAC Strike Team flew on an MI-17 HIP helicopter, piloted by the Iraqi Air Force. 1st ACB Soldiers supported the demonstration from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, while an attack weapons team, comprised of two AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, provided aerial coverage for the assault force.
"In certain types of missions, the forces would not be able to get to the objective by ground or the enemy would be alerted to the assault force coming," said Metzger, commander of 3-227th.
"The advantages of the Karkh Soldiers being capable of air assault procedures on an MI-17 helicopter make a very lethal platform," continued Metzger.
However, this platform is only as good as the Soldiers who conduct the missions, which is why the KAC Strike Team was picked for this training, said leaders.
"We had the task of training the Karkh Strike Team to have advanced air assault capabilities," said 1st Lt. Austin Huckabee, from San Angelo, Texas, platoon leader in Company F, 3-227th. "They were already a squared-away ground unit, but to add to their combat capabilities to act as a force multiplier, we have spent the last couple of months conducting classes and training to get them to [this level]."
Soldiers of Co. F trained Iraqi forces on air assault missions in the past, but this time they taught the Iraqi soldiers how to take the lead in the missions, said Huckabee.
With the strike team on the ground and taking the lead during the demonstration, they had direct radio contact with the attack weapons team, which is an important part of air-ground integration, said Metzger.
"This was done through precise planning - the experience of the people that led this mission, the capabilities and great method of cooperation in the partnership of the ISF and the U.S. Forces," said Ali.
The 1st ACB has spent the majority of its 11 deployed months working to bring the Iraqi Air Force and the Iraqi Army into a partnership built on mutual trust and respect.
Ali said the demonstration highlighted their progress: "This is a positive message to the local citizens of Iraq that there is a bridge of trust between the Iraqi ground forces and air forces."