Operation Patriot Strike nets AQI suspects

By Sgt. Ben Brody

UBAYDI, Iraq (Army News Service, Jan. 2, 2008) -- Going after al-Qaeda cell leaders in the Ubaydi farmland 20 miles south of Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi troops launched a three-pronged assault on the area which netted dozens of detainees, Dec. 29.

Soldiers from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, and Soldiers from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor, along with about 200 Iraqi troops, raided houses and searched fields near the Tigris River.

The operation was planned by Task Force 1-76 Field Artillery, part of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

As the sun rose through Ubaydi's date palm groves, four Black Hawks landed in a fury of dust and whipping wind. Soldiers from Co. B poured out, their breath steaming in the cold air as they charged straight for a small compound purported to be an al-Qaeda safehouse.

"This is an area where our sources say people are either aligned with al-Qaeda in Iraq or they've been killed or chased away," said Sgt. 1st Class Lyle Whitted, a platoon sergeant with Co. B. "This is the definition of an AQI-controlled area."

The four helicopters soon returned to deliver more troops to the objective.

After determining that 10 men were either associates or close relatives of known AQI leaders, the Soldiers flew back to drop the detainees off at a holding facility before resuming their mission.

Three of the men detained were found in a spider hole by Iraqi troops.

About half of the force on the ground was Iraqi, showing the local populace that Iraqi troops are a legitimate and viable force, committed to reigning in terrorists.

The operation on the southernmost of the three main objectives was planned, led and executed entirely by Iraqi soldiers. The Iraqi troops took 32 detainees that were on their blacklist.

Iraqi police supported the operation by reinforcing the western cordon, preventing AQI fighters from escaping the targeted area.

Throughout the operation, OH-58D Kiowa helicopters fired rockets at suspected weapons caches. Iraqi soldiers also discovered four 120mm mortar rounds and 80 rounds of 20mm anti-aircraft ammunition.

"This was a combined operation including Coalition Forces, Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police units," said Lt. Col. Dane Barksdale, commander of Task Force 1-76.

"The purpose was to clear all reported or suspected enemy safehouses, meeting locations, and cache sites in the northern portion of [Area of Operations] Anzio. We detained more than 40 enemy and confiscated or destroyed enemy mortar and anti-aircraft ammunition."

Barksdale added that the initial response of the people in the area has been positive and that they appreciated the operation which helped to secure the people in the area.

Barksdale added, "The longer term effect is that the majority of the people in the area are against these enemies of Iraq and there is no place for them to hide because of the partnership that exists between the security forces and the people."

The 2-502nd Inf. Regt. is assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and the 2-69 Armor is assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Inf. Div. Both units are operationally attached to 4th BCT, 3rd Inf. Div.