Situation Much Calmer For Helo Pilots
Apache helicopter pilots say the view from the sky indicates the
tide in Iraq may be turning. Soldiers of 4th Squadron, 3rd Armored
Cavalry Regiment, made the move from Camp Taji to Camp Stryker at
the Baghdad International Airport about a month ago.
Army Maj. Parker Frawley, the unit's operations officer, said
the squadron already is seeing the difference US forces are making
In Camp Taji, 4-3rd ACR was involved in an intense battle for
Sadr City. The soldiers fought daily, to defeat Iranian-backed
"special groups" in Baghdad's Sadr City district and to eliminate
the indirect-fire threat to Baghdad. "Obviously, during that time
frame, the fight in Sadr City was a very kinetic fight," Frawley
The unit moved to Camp Striker and Multinational Division
Center, where its AH-64D Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk pilots are
experiencing a different pace. In its new home, the squadron is
part of Task Force 49, Multinational Division Center Combat
Frawley said threats from roadside bombs and direct and indirect
fire are fewer in Multinational Division Center than what the
squadron experienced in Sadr City. The aircraft that once fought
constantly in a small geographic region now are responsible for a
much larger area; they support ground forces by providing
surveillance and reconnaissance.
"With the threat of these areas being lower and the ground guys
focusing more on nonlethal operations, we, of course, conduct fewer
lethal operations as well," he said. "If you look at the big
picture, the less we have to shoot and destroy targets or kill
insurgents indicates that we are getting closer to mission success
Frawley said the changing operational tempo in Multinational
Division Center also has allowed the squadron to catch up on
maintenance and give the pilots a break.
"The changing nature of our attack and reconnaissance missions
reflects a greater level of security among the people, a
demonstrated capability of the Iraqi police and army, and a general
improvement in the daily lives of the population," Army Col.
Chandler C. Sherrell, Task Force 49 commander, said. "This would
not be possible without the continued efforts of our ground
partners to transition security to the Iraqis and aid in the
economic development of their areas. These positive trends have
allowed us to provide a greater degree of overwatch and a reduced
level of direct action."
This shift in focus for 4-3rd ACR was recently highlighted by
its involvement in the Aug. 16 celebration of the Birth of the 12th
Imam, an important Muslim holiday that draws hundreds of thousands
of Shiia pilgrims to Karbala each year. In previous years, daily
reconnaissance patrols were necessary to provide surveillance of
the crowds and early warning of any potential threats to the Iraqis
participating in the pilgrimage. This year, the squadron's mission
remained more of an overwatch, as Iraqi ground and air assets led
the security efforts.
"Because of the progress of the Iraqis and their ability to
handle their own internal affairs with minimal coalition support,
the decision was made to minimize our presence around Karbala,"
Frawley said. "It bolsters the Iraqi's confidence -- not only the
Iraqi security forces' confidence, but [also] the confidence of the
Iraqi population in the security forces' ability to do its job.
"It's a success story," he added. "Any responsibilities we can
hand over to the Iraqis that they can execute with a degree of
success, gets us closer to mission completion here."
(Aero-News salutes Army Sgt. Dale Sweetnam, Task Force 49 Public