An Najaf: The City
The ancient city of An Najaf, a major population center of nearly 550,000 people, is located in south-central Iraq on the northern edge of the vast Shamiya Desert that dominates the southern third of the country. 120 km (75 miles) south of Baghdad and 77km (48 miles) southeast of Karbala, An Najaf is strategically placed in an all important web of inter-connected roads and highways joining Al Hillah, Karbala, and Baghdad to the north, and smaller cities further south. Two major, north-south roads; National Routes 8 and 9 dominate the area. National Route 8, east of the Euphrates River, runs through Al Hillah, connecting it with other major cities in the area, while Route 70 connects Al Hillah with An Najaf, crossing the river at Abu Sukhayr (OBJ FLOYD) and meeting National Route 9 as it runs through An Najaf north through Karbala.
Equally dominant to the area is the Euphrates River, flowing from the north 11 km (7 miles) east of the city’s center. Largely because of its proximity to the Euphrates, the town rests atop an escarpment of reddish sandstone and gravel. When viewed from the south, the escarpment itself is a daunting piece of terrain unlike anything else in the area, placing the city atop a natural, wall-like fortification dominating its southern approaches. Along the city’s southwestern edge, the escarpment reaches nearly 140 meters and overlooks a densely forested marsh area adjoining the Bahr (Lake) An Najaf further to the west.
From the north, the escarpment is barely visible and looks much like other cities in the area. The area is generally flat and interspersed wadiis, inter-visibility lines and dikes essential to facilitation of agriculture, the area’s major industry and employer. Although a largely agrarian society, An Najaf does have some limited light industry, notably: car battery and anti-tank mine factories east of town between An Najaf and Kufah, as well as a garment factory to the north.
The history of An Najaf is one of religious strife between Shi’as and Sunnis over the succession of the Caliphate, a position of great responsibility and influence as Mohammed’s heir and the spiritual leader of Islam. Notably, Ali, the third Muslim Caliph and first Shi’a to hold the position, was murdered in the doorway of a mosque in nearby Kufah, as was his son, Husayn. Ali, arguably the most important early Shi’a leader, is buried in a large, golden-domed mosque dominating the city skyline and is visible from nearly every quarter of the city; particularly from the southwestern approach to the city. Crucially important to the area is the Shi’a cemetery surrounding the Mosque of Ali, particularly on its northwest side, in which all Shi’a faithful aspire to be buried. This burial ground is more of a “city for the dead” than a cemetery in the traditional western sense and is estimated to hold nearly five million burials. The cemetery itself is dotted with tightly compacted mausoleums and underground graves forming small corridors and alleyways littered with debris and other hubris associated with funerary rituals.
Further north is an amusement park, complete with mechanical rides and a fun house. To the east, approaching the Euphrates River, the city is commanded by a large open area that serves as a simple airfield near a light industrial complex and warehouse district.
The city streets are narrow, two lane affairs with flat-roofed, two story concrete block dwellings closely crowding the streets into tight, confined spaces. Major roads tend to be fairly spacious with four lanes and a generous median center dividers. Nearly all government and former regime compound facilities, hospitals, and schools are surrounded by think concrete privacy walls, in some cases reinforced liberally by rebar.
Flexibility Enroute: Adapting to Changing Conditions
Due to 3 ID (M)’s relentless rate of advance, it had out-run its ability to support itself. Coupled with the enemy’s tenacious, but futile attacks against 3 ID (M) tanks on 26 MAR, and the tenuous nature of security along its ground Lines of Communication (LOCs), V Corps shifted its focus toward consolidating the previous days’ gains and rooting out pockets of enemy forces.
On the afternoon of 27 MAR, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) released FRAGO 84 directing its 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams to establish a guard along ASR BOSTON. Of particular importance to MG Petraeus was the assumption of 2-70 AR, closing the GACs into AO EAGLE, conducting a RIP with 2/3 ID (M), and assuming control of checkpoints containing enemy forces inside the city of An Najaf. All of these tasks related directly to the all important goal of containing enemy forces inside the city in order to prevent their ability to interdict ASR BOSTON to the west or interrupt operations at the Corps’ newly established LSA on Objective RAMS.
If successful, the Division could secure AO EAGLE, destroy enemy forces in the area, and secure key bridges across the Euphrates River. Not knowing the duration of the An Najaf isolation mission, the Division continued to focus on the destruction of the Medina Division’s 14th Mechanized Brigade with its AH-64Ds and preparations to assist in the isolation of Baghdad as planned.
On the afternoon of 27 MAR, 1st Brigade arrived by ground convoy in AO BASTOGNE south of An Najaf and quickly set about the task of securing its AO.
Shortly thereafter, 2 BCT air assaulted to AO Strike in the northern half of AO EAGLE and assumed control of OBJ JENKINS using B/3-502 and C/1-502(-). The remainder of Strike Brigade troopers landed at TAA STRIKE and moved into their respective battalion zones. The following day, 28 MAR, 3-327 IN arrived by helicopter and linked up with its sister battalions. The remainder of the Brigade trains, under the control of 3-327 IN for its ground movement, arrived a few days later. Using its limited remaining truck assets and scrounging additional support from wherever it could be obtained, the Brigade shuttled 1-327 IN and 2-327 IN soldiers north toward An Najaf in order to complete the RIP as directed. MAJ Kyle Warren, 1st Brigade’s Intelligence Officer, recalled, “Bulldog (1-327 IN) assumed control of Checkpoint Charlie while 2-327 IN occupied its zone west of the city. Due to what we interpreted as the consolidation of enemy forces around Objective FLOYD along the river, we repositioned No Slack (2-327 IN) from the western portion of town toward that area.” Detaching B/2-327 IN to 1-327 IN, No Slack repositioned itself to the east. Since the shortest route available, the road immediately south of An Najaf, had not been cleared yet, 2-327 IN was forced to take a longer, but ultimately more secure route that dipped well south of An Najaf toward FARP SHELL then north again. Using this circuitous route, it took 45 minutes to travel roughly 10 kilometers in this manner. After an arduous, all night dismounted patrol of an area of extremely broken and irregular terrain, C/2-327 IN reported the area secure. Later the next day, the battalion was repositioned to its original zone with 3-327 IN assuming control of the area southeast of town adjacent the river.
The Approach: Isolating An Najaf
After relieving 2/3 ID (M) at Objective FLOYD, the commander of 1/101 ABN (AASLT), COL Ben Hodges, felt that he had to close his Brigade in on An Najaf. Although his original guidance was “…don’t get stuck in the city,” Hodges stated that he “felt a little naked out there so I moved my first battalion (1-327 IN) closer to the city to a better covered area.”
1-327 IN (Above The Rest) had arrived in the area on 27 MAR and had isolated the city from the vicinity of CP Charlie for the past few days. After receiving enemy mortar fire from a light industrial and warehouse district immediately north of the airfield, the battalion assessed its situation. Located on the edge of the escarpment immediately west of the checkpoint, the An Najaf Technical College dominated the surrounding area and quickly drew the attention of the battalion. Suspecting that enemy forces, hidden inside the College, might be acting as forward observers, LTC DeOliveira decided to clear the facility out.
During the afternoon of 30 MAR, the battalion issued an operations order on the hood of a HMMWV for one company (B/1-327 IN), commanded by CPT Joe Kuchan, to seize the compound as part of a coordinated attack scheduled to commence in the late afternoon of 30 MAR. The battalion had been asked to sieze Objective DOG to prevent enemy forces from placing observed direct or indirect fires onto ASR BOSTON. The company team attacked the college (now designated OBJ DOG EAST) with two infantry platoons and a tank platoon. As the company departed enroute to the college, D/1-327 IN (Mad Dawgs) occupied the company’s former battle position and prepared to support the attack. C/1-327 IN (Cold Steel) moved forward to Checkpoint Charlie preparing to pass through the College in anticipation of subsequent operations near the military compound further west. A/1-327 IN (Abu) remained in its battle position east of the checkpoint and continued to isolate the city, keeping a wary eye on the southeastern approaches to the city near OBJ FLOYD. Abu soldiers were especially vigilant since four 3 ID (M) soldiers were killed just a few days earlier by a car bomb while manning a similar position only a few hundred meters away. A/2-70 AR, with one platoon detached to 1-327 IN and another to 2-327 IN, retained Checkpoint Charlie with its third platoon and company headquarters.
The attack of Objective DOG EAST was a truly combined arms affair. B/1-327 IN’s attack was supported by the battalion’s organic mortars and with
2-320 FA in direct support firing on the military compound further west designated Objective DOG WEST. OH-58Ds from B/2-17 CAV provided constant coverage and forward recon to great effect.
TM B/1-327 IN assaulted the compound entering the OBJ through the easternmost buildings, breaching alternate entry points with 120mm HE tank fire. The buildings on the east side of the objective area were filled with Mortar rounds and RPGs. 2 enemy were killed in the initial buildings entered (likely OPs observing CP Charlie). B/1-327 IN killed a third Fedayeen in the western portion of OBJ DOG EAST. Once clear, enemy mortar fire on Checkpoint Charlie tapered back significantly, allowing the battalion to safely bring C/1-327 IN forward in trucks positioning them and their equipment in an attack position for the assault to seize the military compound (OBJ DOG WEST) the following day. This was a huge undertaking as all of the battalion’s trucks were uploaded with equipment and additional CL V (primarily 100 Javelins). Using its few available trucks, 1-327 IN shuttled C/1-327 IN forward, carefully negotiating a maze of canals, dikes and irrigation ditches criss-crossing the area all the while under enemy observation.
TCP 2: Securing ASR BOSTON from the North
North of town, 2 BCT began to consolidate its forces into TAA STRIKE and focus on enemy forces operating in the area. 1-502 IN, commanded by LTC William Hickman, minus its Charlie company, assumed control of a large portion of the TAA’s perimeter. Recognizing the importance of active patrolling, LTC Hickman directed B/1-502 IN (Bulldogs) to search and attack in a large area immediately east of the TAA in order to destroy enemy mortars that might potentially disrupt the arrival of subsequent lifts of the air assault bringing in the remainder of the Brigade. Additionally, clearly understanding [Major] General Petraeus’ intent to prevent interdiction of ASR BOSTON and the importance of gaining control of northern portions of the ASR, Hickman ordered his Alpha company (Hardrock) to establish two Traffic Control Points (TCPs) well north of the TAA. TCP 2, a “T” shaped intersection and pre-war Iraqi checkpoint, was very effectively placed to control traffic in the area. Continually improving its position, the company constructed additional obstacles and received attachment of an anti-armor section from D/1-502 IN. On 31 MAR, the TCP began receiving concentrated enemy 82mm mortar fire from a large open area west of the road intersection. Referring to its training, soldiers manning the TCP conducted a hasty crater analysis and directed 105mm counter battery fire against the suspected enemy firing point. Although this silenced enemy indirect fire in the area for a period of time, it returned intermittently throughout the night and into the next morning. The following morning, the company used a pair of AH-64s in an attempt to destroy the mortar harassing its operations the previous night.
A few hours later, two cargo trucks tried to skirt the TCP in an attempt to by-pass the Company’s control point. Maneuvering its anti-armor section on the vehicles, it was discovered that the trucks were actually Iraqi military vehicles painted blue in an effort to mask their identity. Recognizing the truck for what it was and noticing that its occupants were uniformed military personnel, the section, augmented by 2/A/1-502 IN, destroyed the trucks and killed its occupants using both direct and indirect fire. As one of the anti-armor HMMWVs maneuvered to engage it target, it struck an enemy landmine destroying the truck, but not injuring any Wardog soldiers.
An Najaf: The “Pull” Becomes Irresitible
As HUMINT and SOF reports began to trickle in, a number of them indicated possible atrocities in the city that fueled COL Hodges momentum to enter the city. According to Hodges, “We started getting reports…that (the Fedayeen) were killing families to make guys come out and fight. So we started getting the sensing that there might be a disaster going on inside the city.”
Even before Hodges began to feel the pull toward town, LTG Wallace and MG Petraeus had been discussing different options for the town. They spoke or met daily as the Division’s efforts morphed into an outright attack to clear the city. Wallace recalled that the two of them arrived at the decision to clear the city, “partly as a consequence of enemy action. As the 101st took some ground, including the Agricultural University [at the southern edge of the city, designated OBJ DOG EAST] and the airfield, to improve their security, they drew attacks from the Iraqis….over time, speaking daily with [Major] General Petraeus, we found that we would have to clear the town. An Najaf, in some ways, is to southern Iraq what Baghdad is to the entire country. It was important and it was big enough that we determined that it would be a test case for fighting in Baghdad.”
MG Petraeus also believed that attacking An Najaf had much larger implications for V Corps than dealing with the city itself. In seizing An Najaf, the Division employed tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs)—integrating precision attack by the Air Force on targets immediately followed by ground attacks. They would use these TTPs elsewhere along the fight to Baghdad. This precision minimized collateral damage and maximized shock to the defenders. With the two senior commanders in accord, the Screaming Eagles transitioned to the attack.
Entering the Town: Clearing An Naj
In developing the scheme of maneuver to clear the town, 101st planners built on the work they had done to contain forces in the city and subsequently isolate it from external reinforcement. They had developed estimates of exfiltration routes that the Iraqis were using to exit An Najaf and attack U.S. units and Lines of Communication (LOCs) to the south. Their analysis also included determining the routes into An Najaf from the north. Obviously, that told them something about the routes going the other way and where they should anticipate trouble.
Using imagery, combat information generated by 3 ID (M) and SOF, and other intelligence, the Division developed a plan that envisaged a two-brigade operation. The planners divided the city into rectangular sectors, providing a method for ready reference and a good means of coordinating fires and reporting cleared areas. Equipped with highly capable mapping software, battalions printed maps with their own “plotters.” Thus, each battalion had the means to illustrate the plan clearly and in a timely fashion without the usual transcription between varying map scales (i.e 1:100,000 to 1:50,000) or the use of bulky mapsheets with multiple acetate overlays. Moreover, the battalion commanders could assure that every small unit had an identical, detailed map that an attack on a city demands. With little time to plan the transition from isolation to attack, the ability to generate detailed maps and the constant situational awareness provided by the Blueforce Tracker (BFT) enabled the attack to suceed.
Clearing An Najaf also required a major change in the Division’s thinking. The staff had focused its planning originally against Republican Guard defenses in the Karbala Gap. As that focus changed to supporting the continued advance of 3 ID (M), they wound up fighting, as Petraeus put it, “the enemy they found, not the enemy they planned for.”
Although the Division ultimately used two brigades to clear the town, with 2 BCT attacking from north of the city, and 1 BCT attacking from the south and southwest, the task of making the initial penetration into the city fell to COL Hodges’ 1 BCT. At dawn on 31 MAR 03, Hodges climbed a 150-foot tower, standing on a recently abandoned electrical plant immediately northeast of CP Charlie, to watch the opening phases of the Brigade’s first offensive operations.
Changing the mission from isolation to clearing happened fast enough to preclude methodical planning at the battalion level. Task Force No Slack received a verbal FRAGO via radio to attack the city of An Najaf not later than 2100 that evening. The FRAGO itself contained no specific instructions except that the battalion was to “attack”. COL Hodges called LTC Hughes, asking him what time his battalion was going to attack. After learning that first and third battalions would attack at 1000 and that there was no requirement to have a coordinated attack, LTC Hughes indicated that 2-327 IN would also attack the following morning at approximately 1100. In this manner, the Brigade’s attack of An Najaf was “synchronized”.
Later that evening, the 2-327 IN’s S-3, MAJ Jim Crider, hatched a plan on the top of a HMMWV hood and gave his commanders the order to attack the next morning. The end result of this plan was to conduct an armed recon consisting of OH-58D and AH-64’s supporting a ground reconnaissance (reconnaissance by fire) consisting of a platoon of attached tanks from 1/A/2-70 AR and D/2-327 IN, along with a well integrated fire plan, using both a DS artillery battery and CAS, that focused on the southwestern portion of the escarpment leading up to the city itself. The concept was to conduct the reconnaissance and destroy or clear as many enemy forces as possible before having to put soldiers needlessly in harms way. Once conditions were met, the battalion would attack with its rifle companies straight up the street into the heat of An Najaf.
“I was pretty excited,” PFC Zachary Anderson
of Colorado City, Texas recalled, “I was on an
adrenaline rush. An RPG landed right in front
of us. It was pretty scary to hear a hollow thump
and then a black streak of smoke coming right at
me. When it hit, I just remember this big ball of
fire and we just ducked behind some sandbags.
“Up the Middle”: 1-327 in at OBJ DOG WEST
Once consolidation and reorganization from the previous day’s attack was complete, 1-327IN shifted its focus to Objective DOG WEST, a large military compound immediately west of the Technical College, using the foothold in the College as an OP from which to call for and adjust indirect fire on the military compound. As TM B/1-327 IN was consolidating, C/1-327 IN issued their plan for the assault on Objective DOG WEST planned for the next day (31 MAR). Simultaneously, 3-327 IN finalized its preparations to seize OBJ CAT (An Najaf New Airfield) while 2-327 IN prepared to conduct an armed recon toward OBJ FOX (western approach into the city near the Mosque area).
The attack to seize Objective DOG WEST (military compound) began on the morning of 31 MAR with pre-assault fires consisting of 105mm and 81mm. The compound was located at the crucial four-cornered intersection that MAJ Brian Winski, 1-327 IN’s XO, referred to as “the armpit of Najaf.” The road junction controlled both north-south and east-west access to the city into tightly restricted mobility corridors. 2-17 CAV was focused on support of 3-327 IN actions on Objective CAT, but still maintained an OH-58D section in support of TF 1-327 at all times. The section’s focus was to protect 1-327 IN’s exposed flanks and to provide Close Combat Attacks (CCAs) on order. LTC DeOliveira’s concern was that his left/southern flank, where there was an east-west running canal, might provide an excellent covered and concealed route for enemy forces attempting to envelop the main attack as it moved from the College to the military compound.
In the meantime, TM C/1-327 received attachment of 2/A/2-70 AR and attacked along the highway, west across a large open area, from the College to the military compound. The company breached the eastern portion of the enemy compound with a SMAW-D. Firing artillery immediately in front of the assaulting force, the company quickly seized a foothold inside the compound. The enemy, concentrating their direct fire on the tank platoon, fired several RPGs. The grenades found their marks, but had little effect on the M1A1s, although one tank was disabled by an enemy low-density minefield they were able to reseed the night before. The Battalion TAC eased its way forward skirting its way around the minefield to join its lead company.
The assault to clear Objective DOG WEST took about four hours. TM C/1-327 IN conducted a systematic clearance of the objective, focusing on the larger buildings from east to west. The enemy mounted fairly stiff resistance focusing their efforts on the larger buildings in the complex. Utilizing overwhelming firepower, the LTC DeOliveira directed a JDAM on what appeared to be the compound’s headquarters, an area from which the enemy was persistently engaging troops with direct fire, primarily small arms and RPGs. Fairly effective, sporadic enemy mortar fire impacted in and among TM C/1-327 IN as they cleared the compound. Once the headquarters building and its occupants were destroyed, that fire tapered off significantly. As the tanks entered the objective area, the enemy attempted a limited counterattack including an attempt to maneuver around the flank with a motorcycle with an RPK machine gun mounted on a sidecar. That element was destroyed with direct fire from TM C/1-327 IN.
With the southern portion of the city firmly under 1-327 IN’s control, the task of pushing north, through the city center fell to A/1-327 commanded by CPT Rich Smith. The ABUs attacked dismounted through the heart of town, clearing known Ba’ath and Fedayeen buildings along the way, ultimately ending up near the garment factory. During this attack, local civilians began to emerge from their homes and line the streets to watch and welcome the Screaming Eagles.
Armed Recon: No Slack Pushes East
Eager to get into the fight, 2-327 IN quickly implemented its plan devised the night before. Loading up a M113 from 1/A/2-70 with its lead company commanders, CPTs Tony New and Matt Konz, the armed recon kicked off. The first step in the recon was for D/2-327 IN (Demons) to establish a Support by Fire Position overwatching the escarpment and the phased movement of the tank platoon conducting a “Thunder Run” to clear the oasis below the escarpment, otherwise known as OBJ FOX. The purpose of the “thunder run” was to locate the enemy in the oasis-like terrain on OBJ FOX. The objective area was a marshy, low-lying area immediately southwest of the city and adjacent to the escarpment characterized by dense palm and date trees as well as other vegetation. This terrain afforded the enemy a great opportunity to dig in fortified fighting positions virtually undetected. The tank platoon received only sporadic small arms fire, but heavy mortar fire at times. D/2-327 IN established its SBF and supported the tanks utilizing the max standoff range of the MK-19, .50 CAL, and the TOW ITAS.
“Do NOT (expletive) touch
The gold domed mosque
Unless you want to start
World War III.”
CPT Tony New’s
(CDR, B/2-327 INF)
note to himself
During the early morning attack, the sun played an unplanned crucial role in the battalion’s attack. The enemy, knowing American paratroopers were somewhere near the escarpment, could not tell exactly where due to the sun reflecting off of a small lake into their eyes. This, coupled with the enemy’s reliance primarily on small arms systems with limited range, enabled D/2-327 IN to move, unhindered by indirect fires, close enough to support the tanks, while remaining out of small arms range. As 1/A/2-70 AR began maneuvering toward the city, the Delta Company commander, CPT Tom Ehrhardt, requested to conduct a recon by fire to the front of the moving tank platoon. The results were both dramatic and immediate. The enemy immediately began pouring a large volume of small arms fire from two buildings on the leading edge of the escarpment. At a distance of nearly two kilometers, this fire was not effective, but did give indications of the enemy’s relative disposition on the edge of the city. At this point, snipers, attached to D/2-327 IN armed with Barrett .50 sniper rifles, identified bunkers and other enemy emplacements by their muzzle flashes and began engaging them. Due to the proximity of sensitive targets in the area notably the Mosque of Ali, CPT Ehrhardt selected the most accurate weapons for the job, his TOWs.
By choosing to fire TOW at the buildings CPT Ernhart used maximu precision to destroy the enemy and effectively used the greater range of his available systems. As part of the combined arms fight, D/2-3 INF also used CAS and CCA missions to destroy the enemy. A COLT team successfully lased multiple targets and hit them with 500lb bombs from F16’s. A flight of three OH58D’s from the Division’s 2-17th Cavalry Squadron went “Winchester” on ammo three times during the fight and rearmed and returned to engage the enemy using rockets and .50 cal on the bunker positions in front of the buildings with tremendous effect.
The armed recon was very successful and identified points along the escarpment through which the battalion could enter to city and seize a foothold. During the tank platoon’s return trip, it ran into an enemy point minefield and its mine plow struck two mines causing the lifter to be damaged and the tank became immobilized until it could be repaired. While D/2-327 IN suppressed the escarpment, the tankers proceeded to temporarily tie the plow in the up position so they could move again. Through a HUMINT report and its own experiences along the oasis road, the battalion quickly determined that the minefield was larger than anyone had thought. Ultimately, the battalion identified and cleared 96 enemy anti-tank mines.
Toward the end of the battle, a sniper identified an enemy artillery piece that had been brought up on the escarpment. A TOW ITAS system confirmed that there were in fact three artillery pieces that where now on the escarpment approximately 500 meters south of the company’s two initial target buildings. At this time a third building began firing small arms and RPG’s with little effect. That building was also engaged and destroyed. The Delta Commander immediately called for 105 and 81mm fire on the enemy howitzers to suppress it until CAS could be brought to bear against it. While those missions where working, D/2-327 fired TOW missiles at the target and scored a direct hit on the tube and numerous secondary explosions where visible. Subsequent TOW shots, combined with artillery and mortar fire destroyed the enemy artillery pieces. A total of 41 TOW missiles were fired during the engagement. The TOW missile in conjunction with the ITAS system proved to be pinpoint accurate, scoring direct hits on enemy personnel and artillery. The most notable accomplishment by the fire support community was that they established a NFA around the Golden Mosque of Ali, the most holy site of Shi’a Muslims. As a religious and cultural centerpiece for the community of An Najaf, we were able to destroy enemy forces and not so much as have a piece of shrapnel, stray bullet, or misguided JDAM do any damage to the mosque. The volume of fire coming from the town/top of the escarpment had significantly decreased over time. The reports that we were receiving stated that the Fedayeen were withdrawing to the North end of town, vicinity the Mosque of Ali and the cemetery. It is a common TTP for the Fedayeen to seek refuge in protected places such as hospitals, mosques, schools, and cemeteries. At about 1500 that same day, we were complete with the recon. The Tank Platoon withdrew to its attack position and finally Delta Company withdrew back to its attack position. The TF postured itself into an attack position just south of the town and prepared for the next day, which would consist of an abbreviated version of the same armor/armored recon, followed by the infantry assault into the city to seize a foothold.
On the morning of 01 APR 03, at approximately 1000, TF 2-327 IN conducted a smaller version of the armored/armed reconnaissance that it had executed the day prior. After moving its tanks through OBJ FOX and conducting a “thunder run” through the city all the way to the mosque and back without receiving fire, the infantry attack began. B/2-327 IN (Bayonets) was the main effort as “No Slack” moved through the oasis and up the escarpment. B/2-327 IN led the way, establishing a foothold in 2 small compounds, both schools, adjacent to one another. This foothold was in the southwest part of the city, and would soon serve as the TOC location and the base of operations for the battalion during the remainder of its time in An Najaf. The Battalion quickly transited its assigned zones focusing on schools, hospitals and other areas suspected of housing enemy stalwarts and caches. The battalion received minimal fire during this phase of the operation and set about the work of presence patrols and cache reduction.
Eastern Penetration: Battle Force and An Najaf New Airfield
Supporting the Brigade’s attack from the east as part of a critical economy of force mission designed to prevent enemy elements inside the city from repositioning against the 1st Brigade main effort, 3-327 IN (Battleforce) quickly seized OBJ CAT (An Najaf New Airfield). Entering through a breach in the southwestern corner of the airfield fenceline, Battleforce soldiers streamed through the complex quickly securing the few buildings nearby. Focusing on clearing the runway for potential use later, the battalion formed Team CLEAR centered around a nucleus of the Brigade’s habitual engineer company, A/326 EN, commanded by CPT Darman Place. With a remotely controlled PAKBOT leading the way down the runway, the sappers of Alpha company could remain well out of harms way using the robot’s cameras to clear berms and rubble scattered along the runway for potential enemy mines and obstacles. Although no mines or booby traps were found, the PAKBOT played an important role in completing the engineer mission. With a sapper platoon on either side of the runway visually clearing for mines, the company’s D-9 made its way down the runway reducing berms and vehicle hulls used as obstacles. Having labored through a thorough reconnaissance, quick work was made of all obstacles and the airfield was effectively cleared in just a few hours.
To aid Battleforce with orienting itself, LTC Schiller (Commander, 2-17 CAV) landed his OH-58D near the battalion TAC and took MG Petraeus on a recon of the area immediately north of the airfield. Convinced the area was relatively clear of enemy forces and with the airfield now seized, 3-327 IN quickly pushed north into the eastern portion of the city demarking its boundary with Kufah.
An Najaf: Strike Strikes
Like its sister Brigade to the south, 2 BCT elements shifted focus away from isolating the city to overt combat operations to destroy enemy remnants holed up inside the city’s numerous schools, mosques and hospital compounds.
Beginning 01 APR, oriented into three battalion zones of action abreast of one another, the Brigade forced its way into the city. 1-502 IN (-), with its Charlie company remaining detached to 2-70 AR, but now augmented by C/1-41 IN (M) (-) and an armored platoon, attacked the city, oriented on Objective BOBCAT. With B/1-502 ( ) and C/1-41 IN (M) abreast and A/1-502 following, prepared to assume responsibility as the Battalion main effort company. Similarly, 3-502 IN, the Brigade main effort battalion, supported by a BIFV platoon, attacked in zone oriented on Objective PUMA while 2-502 IN, reinforced by two anti-armor platoons from 1-502 IN, attacked Objective Panther from west of the Euphrates River. Reaching PL MARYLAND by mid-day and PL GEORGIA by afternoon, the Brigade had seized numerous enemy strong points and captured tons of enemy ordnance despite enemy minefields, concentrated sniper, and frequent mortar fire. Having utterly defeated enemy forces in its zone, the Brigade had prevented enemy forces from withdrawing from the city or repositioning inside the city against 1st Brigade to the south. continued…