2-5 FA: a ground maneuver force for the 3d ACR in OIF.
The battalion was trained and ready to perform its traditional artillery role of providing close supporting fires for the 3d ACR. Little did 2-5 FA know that throughout the deployment, the unit would make significant contributions in roles that were anything but "traditional."
Upon arriving in theatre, 2-5 FA quickly postured itself to perform as the regiment's direct support (DS) artillery battalion but ultimately assumed responsibilities as another ground maneuver unit. In addition to providing close fires in support of maneuver operations, 2-5 FA conducted patrols, raids and other tasks normally associated with infantry and armor units. This was the beginning of the non-standard role for 2-5 FA and its baptism as a ground maneuver force.
On 1 May 2003, the President declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq, and units began preparing for the transition to stability and support operations (SOSO). As units transitioned, they adjusted their priorities toward maintaining a secure, safe and stable environment for the Iraqi populace.
2-5 FA priorities shifted to include providing security and re-establishing national operations in Iraq, serving as a maneuver force, conducting humanitarian assistance (HA) operations, training Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) forces and conducting captured enemy ammunition (CEA) operations, all while continuing to conduct traditional artillery firing tasks. As the battalion moved into Iraq, the Soldiers of 2-5 FA found themselves contributing to each of these key priorities in several locations in Iraq. (See the map.)
Providing Security and Re-Establishing Iraqi. There were key priorities commonly addressed: security, re-establishing education programs, getting food to the Iraqi people and restoring the flow of oil to provide oil revenues back to the Iraqi people.
As a ground maneuver unit, the Soldiers of the Rock Hard Battalion were responsible for an area of operations (AO) that exceeded 6,500 square kilometers. Within this AO were several high-priority sites that required forces to secure them, oversee site repairs and, eventually, return the sites to Iraqi control. This included the Al Anbar University in Ar Ramadi, three World Food Program (WFP) sites, an oil pump station and one of the largest ammunition supply points (ASP) in the region.
Al Anbar University. The battalion established its headquarters and base of operations just south of Ar Ramadi near Al Anbar University more than 100 kilometers west of Baghdad. In addition, a large portion of the force operated within the university compound, so 2-5 FA secured this site and removed the Baath Party presence in the school's hierarchy.
The battalion organized a free and open election of new department heads and a university president and then established liaison with outside agencies to assess repairs needed at the university and contract with both Army and Iraqi engineers to rebuild the university. These initiatives facilitated the return of more than 4,500 students to Al Anbar University by the fall of 2003, enabling them to complete the semester interrupted by the war.
Over time, 2-5 FA continued to foster a relationship with school officials, enabling the university to become one of the first sites to train Iraqi Facility Protection Security (FPS) personnel in the Al Anbar region. Here, the battalion trained more than 350 Iraqis on basic security tasks and turned over security operations at the university to the FPS as well as other sites secured by Coalition Forces when 2-5 FA left the area.
WFP Compounds. The second and probably most important site secured by 2-5 FA was a group of three compounds used by the WFP. Operated in conjunction with the United Nations, the WFP distributed food to the Iraqi people throughout the Al Anbar Province.
WFP received truckloads of various foods, such as grain, rice and vegetable oil. WFP then packaged the items for delivery to satellite sites across the Al Anbar region from which they were distributed to the Iraqi people.
In addition to securing the WFP sites, the battalion screened WFP employees to prevent Baath Party control and corruption and monitored the flow and distribution of food. The unit provided security along the routes the distribution trucks took to ensure destabilizing forces did not misdirect them or their cargoes were not pilfered. 2-5 FA batteries used the secure WFP compounds as bases of operation to patrol the surrounding areas and maintain a secure, safe and stable environment.
Oil Pump. Another high-priority site was an oil pump, referred to as Pump Station #4, which pumped oil throughout Iraq and on to Turkey. During the initial reconnoiter of the AO, Soldiers arrived at Pump Station #4 to find its buildings heavily looted, oil spewing into the air and the pump's electrical components damaged beyond repair.
Some of the battalion's innovative mechanics repaired the pump enough to prevent further oil spills and established a gravity feed that allowed the oil to flow to designated locations throughout Iraq. The battalion used two reinforced howitzer sections to secure Pump Station #4 and prevent further looting and damage. The sections had to operate in very austere conditions in the desert with, on occasion, up to 150-degrees of heat.
ASP. Down the road from Pump Station #4, the battalion secured one of the largest ASPs in the region. Commonly referred to as Rock ASP, it measured 16 square kilometers and was just south of Al Fallujah. The ASP had more than 50 bunkers and another 100-plus bermed up areas that contained small arms, artillery and mortar shells, mines and air-to-air as well as surface-to-air missiles.
The ASP also served as a base of operations for the southern portion of 2-5 FA's AO, providing a mutual support re-transmission sites located on the banks of Habbaniyah Lake and Pump Station #4. From this base, elements of 2-5 FA conducted combat patrols, provided security along major lines of communication (LOCs) and performed various HA missions.
Serving as a Maneuver Force. The 3d ACR assigned 2-5 FA an AO in which it had to defeat destabilizing forces in order to maintain a stable, secure and safe environment for the Iraqi people. In addition to security missions, the Rock Hard Battalion conducted combat patrols, manned traffic control points (TCPs) and conducted raids to defeat those militant forces seeking to destabilize the towns and cities within 2-5 FA's AO.
Combat patrols usually were for securing the LOCs or base camp and for reconnoitering the area, using both mounted and dismounted techniques. With the battalion spread across such a large area, each subordinate unit had to deter anti-Coalition activities; enforce policies, such as those affecting the possession and use of weapons; and prevent black marketing of petroleum and illegal weapons in their respective AOs.
The TCPs were random checkpoints established along road networks to conduct vehicle searches, enforce the curfew and ensure the Iraqi populace was not only familiar with new policies established in their neighborhoods, but also in compliance with them.
2-5 FA also conducted many raids and cordon-and-search operations to capture key destabilizing forces or Fedayeen personnel. One particular raid was on a large apartment complex with more than 150 families, a complex repeatedly identified as housing members of the Fedayeen. Based on the size of the target and the risks involved in entering such a large urban complex to detain individuals, the battalion received additional support in the form of infantry, aviation, psychological operations (PSYOPS) and counterintelligence (CI) personnel plus interpreters.
During a two-month period, 2-5 FA used multiple sources throughout the 3d ACR to confirm key targets and planned the mission. With artillery providing inner and outer cordon security, aviation providing overwatch and an infantry company assaulting the complex, 2-5 FA executed the plan, detaining more than 60 personnel. The detainees included seven of the ten targeted individuals and Target Number One, who was suspected of being a major Fedayeen operative.
Conducting HA Operations. One inherent task was for the battalion to identify areas in which the Iraqis needed assistance in rebuilding and refurbishing their key infrastructure. While operating in the Ar Ramadi area, 2-5 FA conducted initial site assessments for many schools, mosques, water treatment facilities, irrigation canals and medical facilities. Soldiers on patrol often talked with Iraqis about the conditions in their villages or towns, followed up by battery commanders' discussing these issues with tribal elders and sheiks.
After these initial meetings, the battalion civil military operations officer (S5) coordinated with higher headquarters civil affairs to conduct follow-up assessments and estimate the amount needed to fund the HA projects. More importantly, 2-5 FA had the freedom to contract the work using local personnel from the respective towns or villages, which helped stimulate the economy and allowed the Iraqis to contribute toward rebuilding their homes towns--a major factor in winning local support for Coalition operations.
When 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) out of Fort Riley, Kansas, arrived, 2-5 FA conducted a battle handover of the AO, including to another proud 5th FA Regiment battalion, 1-5 FA.
2-5 FA then departed for Al Asad Airbase about 100 kilometers west of Ar Ramadi. There the battalion executed two vital missions in support of the 3d ACR. The first was to establish and run an ICDC training site, and the second was to consolidate and destroy CEA.
Training the ICDC. Using training models developed by the 101st Air Assault and 4th Infantry Divisions, 2-5 FA developed Al Anbar Province's first ICDC Academy near the small town of Hit between Al Asad and Ar Ramadi. The training site would become known as the Navea Training Center, named after the battalion's first casualty, Specialist Rafeal Navea.
The site was once a training facility for the Iraqi Army but was heavily looted and lay in ruin. The battalion received a team of engineers to tear down buildings and clear debris and hired Iraqi contractors to refurbish a few salvageable buildings for use as classrooms and living areas. The Iraqis also built a dining facility for the ICDC trainees. The battalion master gunner supervised this effort. In as few as three weeks, the site was cleared of debris and buildings were rebuilt and refurbished by Iraqi contractors, and instructors prepared to train new recruits.
During the next four months, 2-5 FA trained more than 3,500 Iraqis on basic skills, laying the groundwork for US maneuver units to begin collective training and incorporate the ICDC into daily operations. Not long after the ICDC companies and battalions were established, the 3d ACR and the 82d Airborne Division employed them in support of small skirmishes and carefully planned offensive operations.
Conducting CEA Operations. As the battalion continued to train ICDC recruits, 2-5 FA began an extensive CEA operation at an ASP secured by another artillery unit, the 3d Howitzer Battery from 3-3 ACR. This site was approximately 50 kilometers northwest of Al Asad and measured four by 13 kilometers. The ASP had more than 180 bunkers and bermed-up areas filled with small arms, mines, artillery and mortar shells and various other munitions.
The battalion spent four months destroying bunkers and transferring ammunition into a consolidated ammunition holding area where civilian explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) experts assessed the types and quantities of munitions for future destruction. This was truly a combined effort with civilian EOD, ammunition specialists from the regimental support squadron, artillery Soldiers and, on any given day, as many as 200 Iraqi workers assessing, moving and preparing ammunition for destruction.
By the time the battalion prepared to conduct a battle handover of the ASP with the Marines in March 2004, these personnel had facilitated the destruction of just fewer than 11,000 short tons of ammunition.
Conducting Artillery Operations. Although major combat operations had ended, artillerymen still had to do what they do best: send steel down range in a timely and accurate manner.
While performing its various assigned tasks, the battalion maintained a "hot" platoon to provide continuous artillery support to the 3d ACR and the battalion's own operations. Based on mission, enemy, terrain, troops and time available plus civilians on the battlefield (METT-TC) and allowing for maintenance and rest, the hot platoon operated with as many as three and as few as one section ready to fire. The hot platoon provided close fires in the form of on-call illumination and suppression missions, preplanned schedules of harass and interdiction (H & I) fires and countermortar fires.
To support countermortar fires, the 3d ACR attached a Q-37 Firefinder radar to the battalion. However in the urban environment of Navea Training Center, the battalion had minimal success detecting mortars with the Q-37. After using mortar ballistic tapes with the Q-37 unsuccessfully, the regiment acquired a Q-36 to support the countermortar missions.
Before Navea became an ICDC training site, 3d ACR units had used it as a forward operating base (FOB). Here, they experienced 107-mm rocket attacks about every other night. At the beginning of 2-5 FA's ICDC training mission, the battalion also experienced frequent rocket and mortar attacks.
With the Q-36 linked into the hot platoon, the battalion targeting officer conducted more accurate pattern analyses. Timely reactive countermortar fires combined with fire plans used in conjunction with analyses and active patrolling reduced the number of confirmed indirect attacks from 25 in November 2003 to a total of 21 during the next three months combined. As the unit prepared to redeploy, 2-5 FA had shot more than 1,000 rounds in support of the 3d ACR and battalion operations.
Lessons Learned. The battalion learned many lessons throughout its deployment to Iraq. One very important one was that the Soldiers and junior leaders in today's Army are every bit as ready, if not more so, than their predecessors. They exhibited courage, commitment, discipline and flexibility that ensured they accomplished every assigned task.
Regardless of the type of operation, the unit's mindset must remain "combat" operations. Every movement from base camp was a tactical combat operation, and every Soldier, regardless of military occupational specialty (MOS), was prepared to operate as an infantryman.
For example, in addition to keeping the battalion functional in terms of combat service and support, food service specialists and mechanics were equally successful in combat patrols, conducting TCPs and participating in raids.
Discipline cannot be overemphasized. The Iraqis could distinguish between those units that were disciplined and ready for a fight and those others that were not. The Iraqis have a saying that there is a difference between a unit's being ready for a fight as opposed to looking for a fight. Discipline included knowing when to show restraint.
The operating environment created special force protection challenges. While conducting a variety of missions over such a large area, the battalion's management of key weapon systems, personnel and vehicles was crucial to setting the conditions for Soldiers' success. In some cases, once the unit emplaced crew-served weapons on static site security, there were not enough crew-served weapons to simultaneously conduct the many patrols and movements between base camps. Units had to manage the number of patrols to ensure each included the required force protection packages, or on a case-by-case basis, commanders assumed risks without violating force protection policies.
The M-240 machinegun in many infantry units would be a welcomed addition to artillery battalions. The M-240 provides flexibility for ground or vehicular mounting and reduces collateral damage and risk of fratricide when employed in support of convoy security and in and around the mud style buildings of Iraq--as compared to the .50 caliber machinegun.
All Soldiers must know how to operate all unit weapons. Due to ammunition constraints, not all Soldiers qualify on crew-served weapons or squad automatic weapons (SAWs) at their home stations. Therefore, resource limitations initially allowed only normally assigned gunners or assistant gunners to man their respective weapons systems in Iraq.
By developing training procedures and ranges during deployments, units can ensure every Soldier is familiar with the basic operations of the various weapons and can employ them with confidence in response to an enemy attack.
The FA battalion needs more high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs) in its table of organization and equipment (TOE) with more of them up-armored in a SOSO environment. For years the artillery has tried to get more HMMWVs. According to the current TOE, critical personnel throughout the battalion are not authorized a HMMWV. Among them are the command sergeant major (CSM), first sergeants (ISGs) and platoon leaders. At the expense of other sections, battalions often redistribute HMMWVs within the organization to accommodate key personnel. With the variety of tasks these leaders must conduct in a potentially volatile environment spread over a large AO, these leaders need HMMWVs without stripping other sections authorized HMMWVs.
After receiving five additional HMMWVs and, eventually, four up-armored HMMWVs, the unit installed pedestal mounts in light skinned HMMWVs and used these additional resources to formulate a gun-truck platoon controlled at the battalion level.
Up-armored HMMWVs were in short supply and managed closely. When a landmine destroyed the first up-armored HMMWV, it didn't take long to realize that certain wheeled vehicles became combat pacing items with the same maintenance priorities given a howitzer.
With the lack of up-armored vehicles, units lined the floors of light skinned vehicles with sandbags. On more than one occasion, this saved a Soldier's life. In addition when the battalion finally received the new style flak vests, Soldiers used the old flak vests to line the doors and troop seats of vehicles.
While operating as both a maneuver and artillery unit in SOSO, 2-5 FA needed a larger staff with diverse skills. For example, the S2, who normally provided an artillerized intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB), now conducted a more traditional IPB and demographic study of the many villages and towns in the AO. This was valuable in understanding the tribal makeup and various key leaders in each area.
The battalion was not used to operating in an urban environment, which is part of the terrain analysis and requires identifying unrestricted, restricted and severely restricted terrain. The S2 categorized the streets of every urban area in the AO for trafficability by each type of vehicle in the battalion. This identified the vehicles we could use in planning an operation, based on the nature of the operation's terrain.
The battalion also relied on the targeting officer to be the unit's chief interrogator for processing enemy prisoners of war (EPWs).
Most battalions are not authorized or manned with a civil military operations officer (S5). In dealing with the many HA missions, the battalion quickly assigned the chemical officer the additional task of S5. This was crucial to coordinating with outside agencies to support the various rebuilding contracts, maintaining visibility on all contractual work and allowing the Iraqi leaders to become familiar with a single point of contact they could rely on and trust.
Staff agencies taking advantage of subject matter experts as combat multipliers became a key part of battalion operations. The battalion had several Soldiers and leaders performing in a general support role who also were subject matter experts in the areas of psychological operations (PSYOPS), civil affairs and counterintelligence (CI). The staff quickly incorporated them into all operations and learned techniques and procedures to perform some of their tasks. These combat multipliers played a major role in the battalion's ability to maintain crowd control, conduct follow-up assessments for humanitarian relief, understand the demographics within the AO and identify pro- versus anti-Coalition neighborhoods and personnel.
Each FOB needs an interpreter. Whether performing HA or combat patrols, unit efforts easily are improved with interpreters and hurt by a lack of interpreters. The battalion received a trained Army linguist from the 3d ACR and, eventually, two civilian-contracted linguists from the US.
Additionally, 2-5 FA relied on interpreters it had identified, screened and hired. The battalion sought out willing members of the local populace with communications skills to fit unit needs.
In an ideal situation, each FOB should have an interpreter to help with patrols, TCPs and HA. Short of that, Soldiers with a rudimentary understanding of the language's key phrases and the culture also were combat multipliers.
The hot platoon conducted clearance-of-fires and countermortar rehearsals in conjunction with adjacent units to ensure all headquarters understood the requirements and expectations for operating in and around the Navea Training Center. As a maneuver unit, 2-5 planned, cleared and executed fires within its AO; however, the Navea Training Center was a smaller area within an adjacent unit's AO.
To improve the timeliness of fires against mortar attacks at the center, the battalion used a kill-box technique and a restricted operating zone (ROZ). The kill boxes were used as a method of preclearing fires while allowing adjacent units to operate in the same area. The ROZ was designed in a similar fashion to require aircraft to coordinate before entering that particular airspace. As units planned operations, boxes were closed or opened accordingly to facilitate clearing fires rapidly.
A successful technique for radar management was reorienting at night. Early on, it seemed every mortar or rocket attack came from a direction not covered by the radar's azimuth of search. Sheep herders and children often roamed in the vicinity of the hot platoon, so we established one azimuth of search during the day, covering previous mortar firing points and, after dark, changed the azimuth of search. The first time the battalion employed this technique resulted in a target acquisition and an immediate artillery response.
The battalion employed both mounted and dismounted patrols in coordination with adjacent units to patrol specific areas, which greatly reduced the indirect threat. On many occasions, enemy mortar personnel set up firing points to work by wire or timer. Many of the techniques were very rudimentary and resulted in inaccurate fires that were harassing at best. The patrols helped counter this enemy technique.
The battalion employed every means of communication available throughout the deployment. In addition to the traditional communication methods, units relied on Iridium and Thuraya satellite phones purchased through supply channels and managed by the S4 and signal officer.
Before deploying, the battalion fielded the mobile tracking system (MTS) in its ammunition platoon. This was extremely valuable in battle-tracking units traveling outside the normal voice ranges but required a palletized load system (PLS) to travel with that convoy.
2-5 FA lacked blue force trackers found in the digitized division, rapid deployment forces of the 18th Airborne Corps and other III Corps units, making common situational awareness and communications among units difficult. Fielding compatible systems or having them as part of pre-positioned stocks would enhance communications among units, such as corps artillery battalions or National Guard and reserve units that don't deploy with that equipment.
For the most part, when treated with dignity and respect, the Iraqi people were willing to share the same burdens and hardships with American Soldiers--often took on the dangerous jobs--and were in awe of American Soldiers helping them rebuild their nation. From day to day, it was easy to see that the Iraqis were not much different than Americans. Like Americans, there are always those who can't be pleased. But on many occasions, the Iraqis prevented Soldiers from doing something dangerous or placed themselves in harm's way to accomplish securing and rebuilding their nation.
The latter was especially true during CEA operations. Iraqis would identify unexploded ordnance (UXO) while working in ammunition bunkers, determined if it was safe or not and warned American Soldiers not to touch unsafe munitions.
For those Iraqis who doubted the American Soldiers' competence, courage and caring, it only took the actions of a few 2-5 FA Soldiers who risked their lives to save Iraqis from a burning munitions bunker to convince Iraqis otherwise. Staff Sergeant Timothy E. Haungs, an Ammunition Section Chief, is one of those 2-5 FA heroes who rescued Iraqis from a burning ammo bunker and progressed Iraqi-American relations in that rural area forward a decade. His "Soldier's Story" is on this page.
With the success of artillery in OIF, it's easy to see that as forces deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, our Army's leaders will continue to call on the King of Battle to perform its standard artillery role as well as execute maneuver and SOSO missions. The hope is this article will provide insights for those artillery units who follow, helping them to prepare for the next deployment.
By Lieutenant Colonel David C. Hill and Major Shaun E. Tooke
Lieutenant Colonel David C. Hill commands the 2d Battalion, 5th Field Artillery (2-5 FA), 212th FA Brigade in III Corps Artillery, Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He assumed command of the battalion 26 June 2003 when it was in Iraq as direct support to the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). During Operations Desert Shield and Storm, he was the Fire Support Officer (FSO) for 3-2 ACR.
Major Shaun E. Tooke is the Executive Officer for 2-5 FA. He joined the battalion on 9 June 2003 in Iraq where he originally served as the Battalion Operations Officer during OIF. With the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), he was the S4 and a Battery Commander in 1-6 FA and Assistant Fire Support Coordinator (AFSCOORD) for 1-7 FA, both assignments in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Task Force FSO for 3d Brigade in Germany.
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|Title Annotation:||FIELD ARTILLERY; Armored Cavalry Regiment; Operation Iraqi Freedom|
|Author:||Tooke, Shaun E.|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2004|
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