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Iraqi, U.S. Soldiers Detain More Than 65 Terrorists

By Spc. Emily J. Wilsoncroft, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq, April 13, 2005 – Iraqi Army members teamed up with elements of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, for Operation Vanguard Tempest, an early-morning raid on the Baghdad neighborhood of al-Dora April 11.

Their mission? Hunt down nearly 90 known terrorist ringleaders - anti-Iraqi forces whose charges include donating money and supplies for the building of improvised explosive devices - and bring them back here to be detained and questioned.

The raid stood out as the first to name such a high number of targets as its goal.

"We're going in to get these high-priority targets, and we're trying to hit everyone at once," said Sgt. 1st Class Stephon Garrett, a platoon sergeant with C Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment. "If we get them, it'll be like finding the Holy Grail."

"These guys are trying to kill Americans, Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi police," added Pfc. Richard Kasserman, a company tank loader from Aiken, S.C. "It's best to get them off the streets as soon as possible."

At 3 a.m. soldiers began to move among the dimly lit and nearly silent rows of houses, taking care to stop only at those homes identified in the intelligence they had been given.

Upon entering the residences, they searched for evidence of the hunted person, and if there was none, questioned the occupants to glean any available information.

"So-and-so just moved away from here," some would say, or, "I don't know where so-and-so could be."

Even though not every team was able to locate its assigned targets, most of the suspected terrorists accompanied the soldiers back to Falcon by the time the operation was over at 8:30 a.m.

Garrett, from Talladega, Ala., said he would have been happy with the capture of even one of the infamous criminals. "Even if we just save one person from an IED, I'll feel it was a success," he said. "We'll be taking a lot of money out of a lot of terrorists' hands."

The operation's success far exceeded that, though. At last count, the U.S. and Iraqi soldiers had detained at least 67 suspected terrorists, making the operation one of the largest conducted by Task Force Baghdad since 3rd Infantry Division taking over from 1st Cavalry Division in February.

"There are now criminals who are off the street for the time being," said Capt. Raymond Hill, 184th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion information operations officer. "It went well. ... (The soldiers) have been trained to do this and I know they executed the missions well."

Iraqi army elements who accompanied the U.S. soldiers played a crucial role in the operation, according to 1st Lt. Bryan Bonnema, the platoon leader of C Company's 3rd Platoon.

"They are a great asset," the Clifton, Va., native said. "They know the area and they know the culture. They are our intelligence on the ground, and they are definitely important. ... I enjoy working with them."

"The (Iraqi army's) integrity and values have changed since the last time we were over here," said 1st Sgt. Darren Woodland, the company's first sergeant, from Fayetteville, N.C. "It used to be, they saw something they wanted and took it. Now, they see there's a right way to do things, and that you have to treat people the way you want to be treated."

Out of the hundreds of soldiers, both U.S. and Iraqi, who took part in the raid, none was hurt during the mission - a goal shared by everyone.

"Ultimately, we want to bring all our guys home and accomplish the mission," Woodland said.

Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Tucker, platoon sergeant of the C Company's 3rd platoon, agreed.

"If I got all my guys with me, safe and sound, that's the biggest reward," Tucker said. "If we get the bad guys, that's good, too."

(Army Spc. Emily J. Wilsoncroft is assigned to Task Force Baghdad Public Affairs Office.)

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