By Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public AffairsMay 27, 2010
TIKRIT, Iraq - Tripartite is defined as "containing three parts or involving three participants or elements," according to the American Heritage Dictionary of English Language.
This definition perfectly describes the combined forces involved in the most recent air assault inserted by Task Force Wings. This tripartite force consisted of Iraqi Army Soldiers, Kurdish and U.S. forces.
The Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 25th General Support Aviation Battalion, TF Hammerhead; 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, TF Diamond Head; and 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, TF Lightning Horse, supported a tripartite force during Operation Chelan III, April 24.
Iraqi Security Forces consisting of 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, Diyala Iraqi Police; and 3rd Peshmerga Brigade Soldiers, and their U.S. counterparts, led the air assault into the Lake Hamrin region, near Jalula, Iraq, in Salah ad-Din province, to deny violent extremist networks logistical areas to stage attacks against the Iraqi people.
"Our objective was on the eastern shore of Lake Hamrin, which had been a support zone for violent extremist networks," said Maj. Whitney Gardner, CH-47D Chinook helicopter pilot and operations officer, 3/25th GSAB, TF Hammerhead. "It was a place where, in the past, extremists had established a very well hidden cache site for weapons and ammunition. [Extremists] were staged there [smuggling] a lot of weapons, ammunition and explosive-making materials. They were smuggling those things in fishing boats across the lake."
This mission was significant for 3/25th GSAB, TF Hammerhead, since it is the first time this aviation task force has been the lead aviation element for a tripartite mission. As Iraq continues to transition to stability operations, it has become increasingly necessary for the existing security forces to work together.
"It is absolutely vital that Iraqi Army, [Iraqi Police], and Peshmerga forces work together in common security operations," said Lt. Col. Gregory Baker, commander, 3/25th GSAB, TF Hammerhead, and native of Omaha, Neb. "The Iraqi nation is taking steps to overcome the disputed internal boundary question. Having the different forces work together is a way of building trust."
The scope and size of this clearing operation made aviation assets particularly critical during the mission.
"The assault force wanted to get on the ground as quickly as possible and clear a fairly large area. I'd say about a five-by-five mile area is what they were planning to clear," said Maj. Gardner, a native of Memphis, Tenn. "They were going in there to disrupt the [extremists'] ongoing efforts and they wanted to find the cache sites and recover the materials that could be used against Iraqi Security Forces in the near future."
Lieutenant Colonel Baker pointed out some particular challenges in the area making aviation assets crucial.
"Without our aviation assets they would not have been able to execute the operation in the same manner. Our helicopters placed their forces in terrain they would not have been able to [access] via ground movement. The lateral water obstacles, irrigation canals, marsh land and river made the terrain nearly impossible to quickly ingress into. We made that possible using the vertical dimension."
As the name suggests, Operation Chelan III, is the third operation in the region. Its success has become apparent as the discovery of illicit items has dwindled. This particular operation resulted in two detainees.
"This is the third major operation in the area in a really short amount of time," said Maj. Gardner. "We believe that the back to back operations are having a serious impact on the enemy's ability to store and stage weapons, explosives and bomb-making materials. I think that during the previous operations we forced the enemy out of this particular area. Altogether, I think the operation has had a pretty dramatic impact on the enemy."
With the success that the tripartite force has experienced, the picture of the region's stability has become much clearer. The ISF have taken on the challenge of security with tangible results.
"Operation Chelan III not only allowed ISF to improve overall security in the region," said Lt. Col. Baker. "It also gave them a chance to undertake a difficult tactical task, planning and conducting an air assault, which builds confidence in their own abilities and is a visible demonstration of their capabilities to the local population."
Major Gardner, who served as the pilot-in-command for one of the CH-47D Chinooks, was also involved in the planning stages as the operations officer for TF Hammerhead. He shared his thoughts on the ISF progression.
"I've been very impressed with every element of the Iraqi Security Forces since we've been here," said Maj. Gardner. "Are they ready to take over' Yes, without a doubt. They've demonstrated that over and over again. They'll be very effective combating the extremists that want to disrupt the government."