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Commandos Continue to Press Terrorists

By Spc. Matthew McLaughlin, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq, June 11, 2005 – More than 600 suspected terrorists have been detained in Baghdad area operations led by the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, since May 20, said the team's deputy commander Lt. Col. Michael J. Infanti on June 10 here.

Operation Squeeze Play South, the largest combined Iraqi-coalition operation to date, involved four Iraqi brigades and four American battalions, along with U.S. Air Force and Navy support.

The operation's intent was to both crush the insurgency around Baghdad and prepare the area for replacement units when the 2nd BCT redeploys, said Capt. Bryan McCarthy, a liaison officer from Syracuse, N.Y., with 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment. McCarthy said he and other soldiers were not dismayed at the operations at the tail end of the deployment, but rather saw the mission as one final chance to leave their mark in Iraq.

"We'll be here until we leave anyway; this isn't interfering in our leaving," McCarthy said. "We rounded up a lot of detainees and we're setting the next unit up for success."

The operation included an Iraqi-coalition air-assault mission to secure a terrorist safe house where 50 terror suspects were captured and detained. It was only the second time that the unit's soldiers air-assaulted with Iraqi forces.

"This was a great way to end the year together, to do a battalion air assault," McCarthy said, noting the importance of the element of surprise. "It keeps the enemy guessing. They never know when they are going to see us."

Variety was key in the operation, as commandos threw everything they had at the terrorists, including air strikes and close-air support, military officials said. Air Force jets bombed two terrorist bunkers used to store munitions. After the bombings, numerous secondary explosions lasted for several hours, they noted.

"This is the biggest operation we've done with the 10th Mountain (Division)," said Air Force Capt. Will McCrink, an Air Force liaison with the 20th Air Support Operations Squad, Fort Drum, N.Y. "We put the hurt on the enemy, so it leaves the area stable for the transfer of authority."

More than 230 suspected terrorists were detained during Operation Squeeze Play South. The brigade's previous mission, Operation Commando Brickyard, detained 440 suspected terrorists in the Abu Ghraib district of Baghdad. Even though the 2nd BCT was in command, most raids and missions were handled by Iraqi forces, Infanti said.

"Contrary to what people believe, this is an Iraqi Army operation. Ninety-eight percent of the suspected anti-Iraqi forces retained are under the control of the Iraqi government. This is a great step forward, not only for the government and military of Iraq, but for the people of Iraq as well," he said.

(Army Spc. Matthew McLaughlin is assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.)

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