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101st Airborne Commander Describes Stability Ops, Past Battles

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 13, 2003 – The troopers of the 101st Airborne Division are making significant progress in stabilization operations in northern Iraq, the division commander said today during a teleconference with the Pentagon press corps.

Army Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus said the security situation is much changed from the division's first days in the city. He said when the "Screaming Eagles" first arrived, there was looting and civil disturbances.

The soldiers established security, set up a civil military coordination center, "and immediately began our dialog with the citizens of the city to ensure there weren't repeated instances," Petraeus said. "There were repeated firefights our first week here. We have not had effective fire against our soldiers in the past week."

Last week, he noted, 101st soldiers found what appears to be a mobile biological weapons lab near the city of Mosul. This lab, plus another found earlier by special operations forces, shows more suspected evidence of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program. Both labs are undergoing further testing in Baghdad.

Petraeus said the 101st has about the right mix of troops to stabilize the area around Mosul, Iraq's third largest city. The air assault division augmented by about 2,000 other soldiers and experts from the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance covers an area about 100 miles deep and 200 miles wide. He said his nine battalions of infantry patrolling the cities and towns of the region prove to the Iraqis that the United States is committed to the region.

The division has a military police battalion attached to it, plus its internal MPs. They are manning police stations in Mosul and supervising about 3,000 Iraqi police who have returned to duty. Petraeus said the MPs are working to retrain the Iraqi police.

The general said the 101st has had several tough fights since entering Iraq. The division liberated Karbala, Najaf and Hillah.

Division elements also worked with the 3rd Infantry Division to liberate portions of southern Baghdad and to secure the Baghdad International Airport. Following these actions, the division took advantage of its mobility to air-assault 500 miles farther north to the area around Mosul. The division lost three dead and 79 wounded in the fighting.

The Screaming Eagles have occupied Mosul for 22 days. "We are now securing these cities and helping the people of this part of Iraq get their lives back to normal and truly exploit the wonderful opportunity our soldiers have given to them," he said.

The division is now working to get the infrastructure back to normal. "Ninety percent of Mosul now has power and water," Petraeus said. The division is helping to secure the interim government that is beginning in the area, and has opened Iraq's border with Syria.

The 101st is also providing help with the grain harvest just beginning in the region. Division ordnance personnel are helping collect and secure munitions and weapons left over from the conflict. Petraeus pointed out they have found 400 separate caches in the region.

He said the division will work to capitalize on the gains already made. He remarked division soldiers will continue to expand the area of security, continue to work with local civic and religious leaders, and continue to improve the infrastructure. "We're as intent of winning the peace as we were on winning the war," he noted.

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