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Long Search for Saddam Ends in Ironhorse's Backyard

By Staff Sgt. David Bennett, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

AD DAWR, Iraq, Dec. 16, 2003 – The image of a bearded and bowed Saddam Hussein, who was captured Dec. 13 in this small farming village, is now a worldwide phenomenon.

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A member of 1st Brigade Combat Team lifts a Styrofoam lid covering the hole where former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was discovered hiding Dec.13 in the village of Ad Dawr. Photo by Staff Sgt. David Bennett, USA)

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However, the final chapter in the ousted dictator's apprehension has been a story of patience and persistence for members of the Army's 4th Infantry Division and Task Force Ironhorse, which consists of soldiers from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division and attached units.

"It feels good," said Spc. Michael Tillery, a 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery Regiment member from Alexandria, Va. who participated in the successful raid. "All the work has paid off and that one step is finally over finding Saddam."

The plan to capture the deposed dictator code-named "Operation Red Dawn" was an exercise in tenacious planning and determination, said Col. James Hickey, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, which spearheaded the operation.

"You make things happen by being on the offensive," said Hickey, a Chicago native. "That's allowed us to gather large amounts of information. We're not passive; we're very aggressive."

Confident that the ousted dictator was never too far from Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, said he felt information would finally surface that would lead to Saddam's whereabouts.

"We tried to work through family and tribal ties that might have been close to Saddam Hussein," Odierno said. It was a tip from someone inside the dictator's secret circle that eventually led a group of 600 soldiers from various units to a rustic, mud-brick hut and the manmade hole in the ground, where the famous fugitive finally was discovered huddled with a pistol and $750,000 in American bills. Hussein had eluded coalition forces since the war began March 21.

Compared to the palatial complex Saddam had built just 10 miles north in Tikrit, the hideaway was sparse. Soldiers discovered a one-room hut barely large enough to house a twin bed. A rickety lean-to outside had been converted into a disheveled kitchen.

Hickey said his brigade, as well as other units, have conducted more than 500 raids in the Task Force Ironhorse area during the last eight months some even along the stretch of rural farmland in Ad Dawr where the former Iraqi leader eventually was discovered.

Though he never spoke directly to the man his brigade sought for so long, Hickey said he was aware of what the event meant to the coalition and the Iraqi people. "At that moment, I felt a great sense of accomplishment because I know the work the soldiers had done," he said.

(Army Staff Sgt. David Bennett is assigned to the 367th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA modest array of items sits inside the makeshift kitchen where Saddam Hussein probably ate his last meal before his capture Dec. 13 during Operation Red Dawn, conducted in the village of Ad Dawr. Photo by Staff Sgt. David Bennett, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThis picture of a scruffy Saddam Hussein was taken following his capture. Army photo  
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