By Sgt. Luis DelgadilloJanuary 28, 2008
FOB KALSU, Iraq (Army News Service, Jan. 28, 2008) - For three days, Coalition Forces weathered harsh cold and deadly pressure-plate improvised explosive devices to secure a foothold in southern Arab Jabour, beginning with an air assault Jan. 20.
Infiltrating areas dominated by al-Qaeda in Iraq, infantrymen of Company A, 1-30th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division began their push through the farm fields.
Capt. Neil Hollenbeck, Company A commander and his Soldiers would initially be cut off from ground supply lines. They had to pack enough food and water to sustain themselves for three days while arrangements were made to have supplies flown into the territory, which had never seen a sustained Coalition presence.
Hollenbeck's first and third platoon, a team of snipers, an Army explosive ordnance disposal team, a dog team and a tactical psychological operations team made up the assaulting force.
Local Iraqis that had been driven out of their homes by al-Qaeda insurgents acted as guides for the troops,.
Arriving at their destination, one platoon built up defensive positions while another went out to clear buildings and investigate a report of two insurgents killed by an air weapons team earlier in the day.
With daylight running out, Soldiers of Company A, 3rd platoon found the dead insurgents in the driveway of a dilapidated farm house. A search confirmed the two men had illegal weapons.
Coalition troops found two AK-47s, four hand grenades, a handgun and ammunition for the weapons in their possession.
Staff Sgt. Nicolaas Koomen, infantry squad leader with 3rd platoon, said the two were on the battalion's most wanted list.
Since their arrival to Arab Jabour last June, 1-30th Infantry has pursued insurgent leaders in an effort to eliminate AQI's intimidation and influence of the farming community's residents.
With the assistance of the Iraqis, 1-30th Inf. Regt. was able to dominate northern Arab Jabour and other surrounding areas, effectively eliminating AQI's ability to blend in with the local population.
This brought about a wave of change, resulting in people taking responsibility for their own security in the area.
Insurgents fled south and re-established defensive perimeters consisting of house-borne IEDs, and various other explosive traps for Coalition troops.
"This is the place where we've pushed all the al-Qaeda to," said Sgt. Walter Wood Jr., an infantry team leader with 3rd platoon. "They have no place to go but across the river."
Koomen, a native of Redman, Ore., said the first day's operations went off without a hitch and he hoped the coming days would bring them more of the same.
The streak of good fortune would continue.
Searching nearby homes, Coalition Forces found only a handful still occupied.
According to the remaining residents, insurgents had come through and told them Soldiers would destroy homes and kill families when they arrived.
The few families who did remain, though cautious at first, warmed up to Soldiers of Company A, and volunteered information on locations of lethal traps left behind by insurgent forces.
Over the next two days with the assistance of their supporting elements, Soldiers found a weapons cache and a total of 12 IEDs of various victim-operated initiating devices.
The air drop of food and water came the night of Jan. 21, and the ground assault convoy consisting of other headquarters elements made its way toward the troops.
The headquarters elements were led by a route clearance team of Soldiers from Company E of the 1-30th Inf. Regt., who had been clearing roads to the Soldiers for days.
They reached Company A the evening of Jan. 22 and continued past, clearing vital routes near the area.
"I'm very pleased with the outcome so far," Hollenbeck said. "I am not at all relaxed about everything we have left to do."
Hollenbeck attributes much of the success to intense methodical planning, the experience and expertise of his Soldiers and the contributions of vital enablers such as EOD and military working dog teams.
With much left to do in their efforts against AQI influence in Southern Arab Jabour, Hollenbeck and his Soldiers have now dug in.
They've established a base of operations and are ready and able to project the necessary combat power needed to deal with areas still occupied by AQI.
(Sgt. Luis Delgadillo serves with 2nd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div. PAO