News: Rakkasans kick off Operation Marne Courageous
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Kerensa Hardy
By Sgt. 1st Class Kerensa Hardy
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq – For some, a wake-up call came in the form of a B-1B bomber dropping its load on a suspected insurgent safe haven in the pre-dawn hours of Nov. 16.
Components from the Iraqi army and Rakkasans kicked off Operation Marne Courageous when 4,000 pounds of explosives were dropped on an island in the middle of the Euphrates River at 3:50 a.m.
The island that was targeted was located in the Euphrates River between Owesat and Al Betra. The objective was to deny insurgents the opportunity to use the island as an asylum, said Air Force Capt. Craig Barham, 15th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron, supporting the Rakkasans.
Marne Courageous, headed by the Rakkasans of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), is aimed at securing the population of Owesat and Al Betra, former insurgent sanctuary areas, by establishing a permanent presence on the west side of the Euphrates River.
"In addition to that, we're going to exploit any intelligence that could lead us to the missing or captured Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division," said Maj. Curtis Crum, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT), operations officer. The two Soldiers, Spc. Alex Jiminez and Pvt. Byron Fouty went missing May 12.
"The goal of this joint effort with the Iraqi army and U.S. Soldiers is to defeat any remaining extremists or al-Qaida in Iraq operatives on the western side of the Euphrates River in our zone," Crum said.
The operation has three phases: intelligence-gathering, establishing security and maintaining a presence.
Phase two began with the bombing and air assault, where units went into Owesat and Al Betra, knocking on doors and trying to identify anti-coalition forces and al-Qaida, as well as looking for information that might lead to the whereabouts of Jiminez and Fouty.
The second and third phases overlapped. While troops on the ground established security after the air assault, a float bridge unit out of Hanau, Germany, 502nd Engineer Company, began emplacement of a bridge that extends from Patrol Base Dragon across the Euphrates to extend the lines of communication.
"The movement of forces to clear the objective, since it is somewhat permissive, is going very smooth, so we were able to employ the bridge immediately," said Col. Dominic Caraccilo, commander of 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT), adding that a good portion of the bridge was emplaced in the first day.
Also a part of the third phase is the construction of Patrol Base Kemple, where Company A, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT) will be based. The location has been established and will be operational by mid-December.
The PB is named after Cpl. Andrew Kemple who was deployed to Iraq with Co. A, 3-187th Inf. Regt. when he was killed Feb. 12.
From the timing of the bombing to boots on the ground, the commander of the Rakkasans said everything was on point and he is pleased with what has happened so far.
"We expected nothing less than perfection when you do an air assault because the risk associated ... is so high that you can't accept anything (else)," Caraccilo said. "Tactically, for us to be able to employ like this is pretty significant – that was exceptional."
"To be able to get on aircraft with pilots we've never really trained with shows that the Army truly is modular," he added. Referring to assets from the Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Caraccilo said, "That we can plug into another division and use their combat multipliers and be successful is another confirmation that the Army transformation worked."