Cooperation Key for Coalition Success, Hailston Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 24, 2003 The key to the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom was the outstanding cooperation among all of the services and coalition partners, the top Marine in the command said today.
Speaking from his headquarters in Bahrain, Marine Lt. Gen. Earl Hailston said that force planned and executed the operation as one team. "The rapid advance of Marine forces to Baghdad would never have been possible without the tremendous service support provided by the Army," he said. "In turn, we supplied the Army with Marine close-air support and airlift."
The close cooperation within the U.S. military was matched by the cooperation between the U.S. and British forces. "That our British coalition partners placed the (British) 1st Armored Division under Marine command is continued evidence of our continued special relationship with this long-standing ally," Hailston said.
He said cooperation with the Brits couldn't have been better. "We worked and planned this for months together," he said. "We immediately came together as a team that was able to directly support each other."
In combat, the U.S. Marines and their British counterparts melded together. "One of the very first Marine casualties that we had was medevaced to the Argus, the British hospital ship," he said.
He said the cooperation between the allies was "almost without bumps." He said the small turbulence for forces experienced was caused by communications problems.
The immediate lesson learned from the experience "is that our training and work over the years has certainly paid off." Planners will continue to collect data from the operation, he said, and a more detailed lessons learned report will come out, "but it's proven that we're an effective force to work together and support each other."
There are 72,000 active and reserve component Marines and sailors of the Fleet Marine Forces currently in the region. Hailston is responsible for providing those forces to Central Command, and supplying, equipping and training them. He serves as an adviser to the combatant commander on the use of those forces throughout the theater.
The general will also be responsible for reconstituting the forces and redeploying them. He said he does not know when the Marine forces will leave the area. He did say that those in the region the longest some Marines have been deployed for more than 10 months will be the first to leave.
The Marine Corps deployed a Marine Air-Ground task force for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The forces included four infantry regiments, two artillery regiments, three light- armored reconnaissance battalions, two tank battalions, a force service-support group and three Marine aircraft groups with more than 400 aircraft.
Hailston also established a logistics command to sustain the Marine effort. This was crucial, he said, because of the distances involved. "I'm used to fighting with one leg afloat and one ashore," he said. The Marines attacks took them 500 miles from the shores of the North Arabian Gulf to Tikrit.
About half of the Marine Harrier aircraft launched attacks from their ships in the Gulf. Hailston said Harriers flew 1,000 missions from the decks of coalition ships. The rest launched from Kuwait and captured Iraqi airfields. Even those aircraft that launched from ships often refueled and rearmed at land bases, he said.
As another part of his duties, Hailston commanded the Combined Joint Task Force Consequence Management. This task force was to respond to any employment of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam either prior to or during the execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The task force ran constant patrols through Kuwait and "was ready to respond to problems in the event of a WMD attack by Iraq or any terrorist attack," he said.
Hailston hypothesized that the reason Saddam Hussein did not launch attacks using chemical or biological weapons may be due to the effectiveness of the coalition information operations against him. He also said he thought it could be because the coalition forces moved too fast for any orders from the regime to register.
But the success ultimately comes down to the Marines, he said. "They fought this fight with extraordinary courage and commitment. While we were engaged in operation Iraq Freedom, we never backed away from our hunt for terrorists and our global war on terror."