TA first-person account from the 2-7 Cav (Gary Owen) on the battle of Fallujah. Reads a bit like the accounts of the fighting in Germany in late 1944 / early 1945 as the Allies pushed across the Rhine.
Well, Task Force 2-7 Cav made it back from Fallujah earlier than expected, mission accomplished. It feels so good to be back from a second successful mission that was as difficult as it was dangerous.
We left Camp Cooke on Nov 1 and staged at Camp Fallujah for about a week. While there, we got the good news that George Bush was re-elected and we had busy days and nights of planning and rehearsals for the big attack. 2 days before "D Day," a 122 mm rocket impacted 50 meters away from our tents that sent everyone to the floor. We staged there at a remote part of the post and it was obvious that a local national tipped off the "mujahadin" (our name for the enemy) where we staged. From that attack, we lost one soldier and 4 more were wounded. That attack gave the rest of the Task Force enough anger to last the whole fight.
After all the drills and rehearsals, the day for the attack finally came on Nov 8. Prime Minister Allawi gave the green light and Coalition and Iraqi forces went all the way. On Nov 7, a battalion of Marines seized the peninsula to the west of the city to prevent insurgents from fleeing. A brigade (4,000 soldiers) from the First Cav set up another cordon around the city to catch anyone fleeing. The plan was to make sure the insurgents would either surrender or fight and be killed. Intelligence estimates put the enemy between 3,000 - 5,000 strong, so we knew we had a tough fight ahead of us. One of the interesting factors to this fight was the weather. Although Iraq is unbelievably hot in the summer (up to 130 in Najaf), it was colder out in Fallujah than it was back in New York. Temperatures were typically in the upper-30?s and low 40?s between 5 pm ? 8 am. The average temperature here has dropped about 30 degrees in the past month or so.
We moved all of our vehicles and soldiers from Camp Fallujah to a position about 1 mile north of the city. That's also where we set up our TF support area (re-fuel, re-arm) and where we set up the Tactical Operations Center. All day long while were setting up at that location, Air Force and Marine Corps aviators shaped the battlefield with laser-guided bombs and hellfire missiles. Although American forces had not been into the city since April, we had been collecting intelligence on the city for months through unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), human intelligence, and Special Forces. So we knew exactly where they stored their weapons and where they held meetings, and so on. All of these attacks from the air were precise and very effective in reducing the enemy's ability to fight us before the battle even started. With each attack, secondary explosions of weapons/ammo blowing up were heard. The Coalition also threw the enemy a curveball by destroying all the vehicles that had been parked in the same location for more than 3 days---the enemy planned to use these as car bombs when we attacked. Again, almost every single vehicle the air assets attacked had huge secondary explosions.
After 12 hours of massive air strikes, Task Force 2-7 got the green light and was the first unit to enter the city. There is a big train station on the city's northern limit, so the engineers cleared a path with some serious explosives and our tanks led the way. While this was happening, my intelligence shop was flying our own UAV to determine where the enemy was.
It is a very small plane that is launched by being thrown into the air. We flew it for 6 hours and reported grids to the tanks and Bradleys of where we saw insurgents on the roof and moving in the street---so our soldiers knew where the enemy was, before they even got to the location. We crossed the train station just before midnight and led the way for the Marines by killing everything we could in our way. It took our tanks and brads until 10 am the next day to get 2 miles into the city. They killed about 200 insurgents in the process and softened the enemy for the Marines. 5 of our soldiers were wounded in this first 10 hours, but we accomplished our part of the plan. The Marines' mission was to follow TF 2-7 and fight the enemy by clearing from building to building. A lot of the insurgents saw the armored vehicles and hid. They waited for the Marines to come and took their chances by fighting them since the Marines weren't protected by armor like we were. In that first day of fighting, the Marines took 5 x KIA and many more wounded, but they also did their job very well. Along the way, they found HUGE caches of weapons, suicide vests, and many foreign fighters.
They also found unbelievable amounts of drugs, mostly heroin, speed, and cocaine. It turns out, the enemy drugged themselves up to give them the "courage" and stupidity to stay and fight. The enemy tried to fight us in "the city of mosques" as dirty as they could. They fired from the steeples of the mosques and the mosques themselves. They faked being hurt and them threw grenades at soldiers when they approached to give medical treatment. They waived surrender flags, only to shoot at our forces 20 seconds later when they approached to accept their surrender.
The next few days, TF 2-7 maintained our battle positions inside the city, coming out only for fuel and more ammo. We fought 24 hours a day and continued to support the Marines as they cleared from house to house. If they were taking heavy fire or RPG fire from a house, they would call on our tanks. Our guys would open up on the house with 120 mm main gun or .50 cal. After 5 minutes of suppressive fire, then the Marines would go into the building and clear it. There was rarely anyone left alive by that point. The problem is that we couldn't be there to do that for all the Marines, and when we couldn't and they had to clear the building without our help, they took heavy casualties because the insurgents didn't stop firing until the Marines got into the building and killed them.
After 3 days, half of the city had been cleared and Iraqi Forces followed the Marines to re-clear the buildings and clean up the caches.
Sometimes the insurgents who had managed to hide from the Marines would stand and fight the Iraqis, so they took some casualties as well. But they did a good job of securing the area and collecting the thousands of AK-47s, RPGs, mortars, and IEDs that were in these houses. All that ammo proved just how intensely the enemy planned to defend the city after all, Fallujah was the symbol of the resistance against the new Iraqi government. They wanted to keep their safe haven for terrorists like Zarqawi to behead innocent people. Since no Coalition Forces were allowed into the city, they were able to get away with those atrocious acts without much trouble.
On day 3 of the fight, we had the most exciting moment for me personally when our Task Force Support Area and TOC came under attack.
Insurgents fired mortars and rockets at us everyday, some landing as close as 30 meters from us. But on this day at 6 pm, just as it was getting dark, we took 3 rounds very close and then to the north 8-10 insurgents opened up with small arms fire on the TOC. Luckily, a tank platoon was back re-fueling and along with the scout platoon, laid down some serious firepower and killed them all in a matter of 5 minutes. But all of us in the TOC got to go out and be part of the fight, firing rounds and seeing the tanks unload on these insurgents. None of us were hurt, but it was an exciting 10 minutes.
THEN came the second push through the rest of the city. Although by day 4, the Coalition had already killed over a thousand, many of them fled to the southern portion of the city and took up positions there. Again, Task Force 2-7 led the push a little before midnight. Same mission, same purpose: To soften up enemy strong points and kill as many insurgents as possible to enable the Marines to follow us when the sun rose. The Marines from Regimental Combat Team 1 did just that for the next 5 days---fighting house to house, finding more weapons, more torture chambers, more ammunition, and more insurgents ready to fight to the death. One fighter came running out of a building that our tanks set on fire..he was on fire and still shooting at us. As our Sergeant Major said, "going up against tanks and brads with an AK-47, you have to admire their effort!" Over the next 5 days, the Marines and our Task Force killed over 1,000 more insurgents. In that time frame, over 900 more fighters made the decision to spend 30 years in prison rather than die. The Marines are still occupying the city and helping with the rebuilding process---they still meet some sporadic resistance, usually a group of 3-5, shooting from a mosque or faking surrender and then shooting at them. We were very disturbed to find one house with 5 foreigners with bullets in their heads, killed execution style. Marines also came upon a house where an Iraqi soldier in the Iraqi National Guard had been shackled to the wall for 11 days and was left there to die. These insurgents are some sick people and Fallujah proved that more than ever. 2 mosques were not being used for prayer, but rather for roadside bomb making. They were literally IED assembly line factories, with hundreds of IEDs complete or being built. They also had several houses with high-tech equipment where they conducted their meetings. In Fallujah, the enemy had a military-type planning system going on. Some of the fighters were wearing body armor and kevlars, just like we do. Soldiers took fire from heavy machine guns (.50 cal) and came across the dead bodies of fighters from Chechnya, Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Afghanistan, and so on. No, this was not just a city of pissed off Iraqis, mad at the Coalition for forcing Saddam out of power. It was a city full of people from all over the Middle East whose sole mission in life was to kill Americans. Problem for them is that they were in the wrong city in November 2004.
Now that it's over, there is a lot of things that people back home should know. First of all, every citizen of Fallujah (non-insurgent) is getting $2,500 USD (that's a lot over here) to fix up their house or buy new things that may have been destroyed in the fighting. Insurgents took up positions in residents' houses so we were forced to destroy a lot of buildings. There is over $100 million dollars ready to be spent to re-build the city. This may seem like a lot of money, but I can assure you that it is a small price to pay for the amount of evil people no longer alive, contemplating how to kill more Americans. The intelligence value alone is already paying huge dividends. Some of the 900 detainees are telling everything they know about other insurgents. And the enemy never expected such a large or powerful attack and they were so overwhelmed that they left behind all kinds of things, including books with names of other foreign fighters, where their money and weapons come from, etc.
I went into the city 3 times, but after a lot of the fighting had been done. It was amazing to see how the American military had brought the world's most evil city to its knees. I have an awful lot of pictures that I am going to upload to my webshots site. It will blow your mind to see what the insurgents forced us to do to win this fight. And seeing the pictures of what I saw firsthand will make you very happy to be an American and know that our country has this might if evildoers force us to use it. Our mission in Iraq is to help the Iraqi Security Forces become stable enough to keep this country safe and once in a while fight with our full might to give these security forces a fair chance. When we need to go after the enemy with all we've got, the results have been amazing.
In the fight for Fallujah, our military lost over 50 soldiers and Marines including a sergeant major, company commander, and 8 platoon leaders, along with 40 kids, typically between 19 and 23 years old. I can't even tell you how proud I was to be part of this fight and know these soldiers who were going from building to building to take the fight to the enemy.
My Task Force lost 2 more soldiers after the rocket attack at Camp Fallujah, 1 of them that I knew pretty well. It was hard on the unit to deal with these losses, to go along with the 16 soldiers from 2-7 who were wounded. But this was a fight we knew would be dangerous..but worth the risk based on the good that would come out of it. Anyone back home who thinks the world is a safe place needs to come here for a day and learn real fast that there are an awful lot of people out there who hate Americans so much that they risk their lives to try to kill us. We cannot live peacefully back at home right now unless we continue to stay on the offensive against our enemies and fight them in their backyards. Remember, radical Arabs started this war and they continue to fight it, proving to America over and over that they need to be fought.
I am hopeful that most Americans understand that you have to accept death to defeat evil; all of us soldiers accepted that the day we signed up.
There are some things worth fighting and dying for, and making the world and especially America, a safer place, is one of them. For every Mom out there that you read about who turns into a peace protestor when her son is killed in action, there are 99 Moms you don't hear about who are proud and believe in this mission even more.
It sure is good to be back to Taji after our second "field trip." We have an officers vs. enlisted football game tomorrow where I am the quarterback, so I am excited about that. We also have a Task Force Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Despite the fact we have upcoming Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years away from family, friends, and Fun, all of our soldiers are thankful to be back after this big fight and to have played such an important role in the successful mission.
I received some nice letters out there that were very supportive, so thank you to all of you who did that for me. Thanks for all your prayers and support, and I wish everyone back home a Happy Thanksgiving and some quality time spent with family and friends.