March 16, 2006 — Iraqi and coalition forces today launched the largest air assault operation since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in southern Salah Ad Din province to clear a suspected insurgent operating area northeast of Samarra, military officials reported.
“Operation Swarmer” began this morning with soldiers from the Iraqi army’s 1st Brigade, 4th Division; the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team; and the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade conducting a combined air and ground assault to isolate the objective area, officials said.
Attack and assault aircraft provided aerial weapons support for the operation and also delivered troops from the Iraqi army’s 4th Division; the “Rakkasans” from 1st and 3rd Battalions, 187th Infantry Regiment, of the U.S. Army; and the “Hunters” from 2nd Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, U.S. Army, to “multiple objectives” according to a Multinational Force Iraq statement. Forces from Iraq’s 2nd Commando Brigade then completed a ground infiltration to secure numerous structures in the area, officials said.
More than 1,500 Iraqi and coalition troops, more than 200 tactical vehicles, and more than 50 aircraft participated in the operation, according to the MNF-I statement.
This has been described as the biggest air assault since the initial invasion of Iraq.
You may notice a lot of Legacy Media calling this an “air strike” or “air raid”. For instance, here’s MSNBC.com’s current front page graphic:
While many will see this as splitting hairs, let’s at least get the terminology correct. “Air strike” and “air raid” refer to aerial bombardment with planes and missiles. An “air assault” is an attack by ground forces who enter the battlefield via parachute or aircraft. Earlier today, MSNBC.com ran one of their “BREAKING NEWS” banners stating “Largest air strike since 2003”, with no story or additional information. This made me think we were in “Shock and Awe” territory, and I wondered what was up, who/what we had found, and if they were dead/destroyed yet. I’ll let this one slide, but it’s still a bit irritating.
Anyway, it’s not surprising to see a joint Iraqi/US air assault of this scale. Earlier this month, Bill Roggio pointed out an Air Assault in the Triangle of Death comprised of units from the Iraqi Army working with the 101st. The “Triangle of Death” is southwest of Baghdad. On the same day, I posted a pic of Iraqi forces and US 10th division troops conducting an air assault northeast of Baghdad.
This operation is in the vicinity of Samarra, scene of the mosque bombing recently. One has to wonder if ‘Swarmer’ is the result of post-bombing intel work, or maybe a reaction to the failed plan for a massive attack on the Green Zone in Baghdad.
Bill Roggio has more at the Fourth Rail.