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    Task Force Dragoon Soldiers Nab Insurgents



    Courtesy Story

    DVIDS Hub     

    By Staff Sgt. Raymond Drumsta
    42nd Infantry Division

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE SUMMERALL, Bayji, Iraq -- For Task Force Dragoon Soldiers, it was a victory owed to planning, persistence, wit, coordination, technology, and consistency ... for the insurgents, is was a defeat due, in part, to their own consistency.

    As surely as they lobbed rockets at the base here every Wednesday night, month after month, Task Force Dragoon Soldiers tracked and captured them - 22 in all -- on May 4, capping a sustained campaign of intelligence and observation to eliminate the insurgent threat Task Force Soldiers dubbed "The Rocket Man."

    The campaign focused on locations of probable enemy activity, including rocket attacks. On May 4, these sites, called Named Areas of Interest, were under surveillance by Scouts of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 103rd Armor, and Third Platoon, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry.

    Along with the AH-64 Apache attack helicopters of a Coalition Forces air weapons team, the Task Force Dragoon units were watching -- ready and waiting to respond.

    "We watch NAIs and we're prepared to move," said Scout Platoon Leader 1st Lt. Tommy Guthrie. "We act on the S2's intel."

    When the insurgents launched a rocket, the units were close enough to witness it.

    "We heard the rocket and saw the flash from the explosion when it hit," said Third Platoon member Spc. Jason Kleinman, who is from Rosyln Heights, N.Y.

    "We were out doing counter-rocket operations on an observation post," said Guthrie, who is from Smithfield, Pa. "At approximately 9:15 p.m., we observed the rocket launch southwest of our position, in the vicinity of the Tigris River Valley.

    There were a lot of sparks. It looked like a rocket from the Fourth of July -- just sparks flying through the air."

    Using their LRAS, or Long Range Surveillance Device, the scouts found the launch site which was two and a half kilometers away.

    "It shoots a laser to the point of origin," Guthrie said. "The laser bounces back and gives you the range to the point of origin, and a 10-digit grid coordinate. It's a great asset."

    The Task Force radio nets came alive with spot reports. Guthrie's concern -- that the insurgents would melt into the dense vegetation and tall palm trees in the Tigris River Valley as they had before -- was allayed by the air weapons team, who had a fix on them.

    "They were also out in sector, observing the NAIs," Guthrie said. "They were staying out of observation and hearing range from the NAIs, just back far enough so if they did launch, they could move to the point of origin.

    When we called in the grid, I believe the Apaches in the sector had already reacted. By the time we got going, they were already flying over us to the grid of the point of origin, where the rocket was fired."

    From the launch site, the air weapons team tracked vehicles, including a truck, to some houses in the nearby town of Abu Toma. These became target houses, and the air weapons team guided the scouts and infantry to them.

    "Our gunner said, "Hey, I just saw a flash from over in that direction." Then we got word from the Apaches that they were following the truck," said Company B medic Pfc. Marc Salsberry, from Reseda, Calif.

    "Communication was paramount," said scout platoon member Spc. Michael Pattison, from Washington, Pa. "The birds talked to us and brought us into the target."

    The scouts and infantry entered the town from the west and east, respectively, and secured the target houses, along with 22 individuals in and around the houses. They didn't resist, Kleinman said.

    "We stormed the house a moment later and found 14 males inside. "It looked like a normal house from the outside. Inside, it was empty except for the people. I didn't expect that."

    "They all seemed pretty calm," he said. "They were sitting in a half-circle, and said they were having a prayer service."

    Inside one of the houses, Salsberry had formed a hasty aid-station for possible wounded. As the medic, "it's good for me to be in a central location," he said. He sized up the individuals Third Platoon had secured there, and had some intuitions about who was who - based on what they were wearing and how they acted.

    "You could tell who was the leader, who drove, and who fired the rocket," he said. "I saw one with a gold watch -- that's the first gold watch I've seen since I've been here, and you could tell he had money. Another guy spoke up, and he seemed like the leader. Another man apologized in English, over and over, saying "Mister, mister, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.""

    Suspicious as the scene seemed, the search for the rocket launcher -- which Guthrie called 'the big find." and 'the smoking gun" -- continued. It was a source of frustration for the Soldiers and the scouts in particular, who had seen and followed up on a rocket attack in mid-April.

    Though they investigated some people, they didn't find a rocket launcher -- the very weapon being used against Coalition Forces here, including Task Force Dragoon.

    Salsberry had joined the search outside. In a truck, he found a burlap bag with a loaded AK-47 in it. Searching deeper, he discovered a plastic bag loaded with an assortment of items, including a meter, timer, global-positioning system, some wire, and index cards with Arabic writing on them.

    Then, in the back of the truck, he spotted a long pipe with wires sticking out of one end. He called Third Platoon leader 1st Lt. Timothy Lawton over, who confirmed that there was a 122mm rocket inside the pipe.

    "That's when we knew we could detain these people," Salsberry said. "Once we found the rocket, we felt that this had a pretty good chance of being a cell meeting here, so we detained them."

    "Initially they said they hadn't found anything," Guthrie said. "Then they called five minutes later and said they found the rocket. Our morale shot way up, because we go out so many times, and don't make the big find. It was awesome. This time we got them with the smoking gun.

    We converged on the target house. They (Third Platoon) ended up with 16 detainees and we ended up with six. They also found the smoking gun."

    Pattison, who was busy relaying radio traffic from both platoons, received the report about finding the launcher. He was "overwhelmed with joy," he said, and joked with Guthrie about it.

    "At that moment, I knew we had the guys," Pattison recalled. "I said, "You know sir, if we could drink, tonight's the night to have a shot.""

    "This is exciting because we found the guys involved with the use of the weapon," Salsberry said. "We often find mortars, rockets, and other weapons, but not the guys using them against us."

    At once elated and relieved, Guthrie met with Lawton, the other commander on the scene. They turned their attention to more pressing tactical priorities -- transporting the detainees, finishing the mission and getting the troops home.

    "These were some real insurgents and we needed to act quickly, because if they had made a phone call, we could've been in for a counter-attack," he said. "That was my prime concern."

    The commanders hit on an idea that saved time and possibly lives -- they used the detainees" truck to transport the detainees.

    "We didn't have room to transport them, and we didn't have time to wait for battalion assets," Guthrie said. He credited all the units involved for the mission's success.

    "It was a textbook operation," he reflected. "I was impressed with the coordination between the units ... Third platoon, the air weapons team, and my platoon -- the scouts. It was classic."

    "If it wasn't for Third Platoon and the guys in the sky, we wouldn't have had anything except for a grid," said Pattison.

    "It was a good feeling, knowing we helped out the FOB," said Lawton, who is from Bridgewater, Mass. "We wouldn't have caught them without the air weapons team. A lot of things fell into place. Everything worked out how it was supposed to. The Scouts are a good platoon to work with, as are all the National Guard platoons we've worked with. It's been a good experience."

    Setting up observation posts is the scouts" bread and butter, said Staff Sgt. Chris Reynolds, a scout platoon squad leader from Pickering, Ohio. The initial strategy comes from the Task Force's intelligence section and plans section, "but when we get on the ground, it's our job to choose the best position for our surveillance equipment," he said.

    "Being a scout is a waiting game. You wait for the bad guy to show up and report it to higher. It gets boring when the bad guy doesn't show up, but that comes with the job. We were out there at least a couple of times a week, looking for them. That was the sixth or seventh time I"d been out there, looking for them, specifically," said Reynolds.

    Reynolds also praised infantry Soldiers of Third Platoon for their part in the capture of the insurgents.

    "It takes a very patient and persistent person to do this kind of work," he said. "It's not the end of it. There are more bad guys out there. It made every one feel good to catch these guys. It's a bit of a relief. Everyone did a good job, and it makes us that much more eager to go out and catch others."

    "There are more insurgents out there, regenerating," Logan said.

    "We'll see if the rocket attacks stop," Kleinman said. "My personal opinion is that there is always somebody else that will do it. Catching the bad guys and getting them off the street is a good thing, always. That might be less guys shooting rockets at the FOB. I hope it makes a difference."

    FOB Summerall was attacked by indirect fire May 8.

    "There will always be somebody to take money to fight against us," said Pattison, "and we'll be ready for them."



    Date Taken: 05.18.2005
    Date Posted: 05.18.2005 08:27
    Story ID: 1857
    Location: BAYJI, IQ 

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