Blake Powers, the Laughing Wolf and Blackfive.net's Civilian-in-Residence, is in Iraq reporting for PMI/The Long War Journal and Blackfive...donations to PMI (a non-profit media organization) keep independent reporting possible from the Long War.
"Come on, come on," mutters the raid commander in a low voice, talking
almost to himself as the convoy began moving into the target area.
Moving into the target area of Baghdad, everyone can easily imagine
the people in the first clumps of buildings calling ahead to warn what
The column moved in, all the parts of the raid arriving at the target
area together to try and seal it off. Those in overwatch scan not
just for threats, but for people running, trying to get away. The
designated teams move in, hitting the targets almost as one.
Intelligence had been developed indicating that assets of JAM, a
terrorist organization that is as problematic -- if not more so --
than Al Queda in some areas, were in the area. The decision to try
and take these assets had been made, and I found myself riding with
the commander as the mixed column of Humvees and Bradleys moved
rapidly through the streets to link up with others at the target.
Almost as quickly as our vehicle stopped, I could hear reports of
teams moving out. Shortly after, I could hear the sounds of gates
In Iraq, as is true in many places outside of the United States, the
homes have an exterior courtyard that is walled and has a metal gate.
In more well-to-do areas, there may be a gate for a vehicle and a gate
for people, but most have just one gate for both. The doors into the
homes are most often metal, and have multiple locking systems. The
walls of the courtyard may have obstacles on top,ranging from somewhat
decorative to broken bottles in cement.
Exactly how one enters a home or building depends on what is being
done. Sometimes, the troops simply knock and or ask that the gate and
doors be opened, and the people do so. One soldier may even go over
the gate or wall, and simply open it from inside. In cases where one
is dealing with not-so-nice people, sledge hammers and other tools are
employed. In extreme cases, small explosive charges or even vehicles
can be used to pop a gate and allow a team quick entry.
Our raid used tools for the most part, though I heard later from the
troops that one enterprising soldier did indeed go over and help make
things easy at another target. The gate and door at the target
closest to the commander had been reinforced, and the entry was
difficult. The commander followed the team, and we moved in behind,
making sure those clearing the building knew that we were there.
It was clear that someone had been there very recently, perhaps even
minutes before the teams arrived. Cell phones are ubiquitous here,
and the concern from earlier as our column had moved in were not far
fetched. Other teams had much better luck, and once the homes and
buildings that were the subject of the raid had been cleared, teams
began to search.
Meantime, people were secured as well. In homes, whole families from
youngest to oldest may sleep in a large common room, and other homes
may have visitors as well. Other things happen, which means that the
teams may have to deal with detaining and talking to a dozen or more
men -- which is what faced this raid. One home was used for holding
and interviews, with the men who had been rounded up kept out in the
courtyard, separated, and in flexi-cuffs for safety. Inside, the
commander and others talked first with the women of the home, both
reassuring and learning as much as they could.
Older males were allowed to use the bathroom if/as needed, which often
is a separate room/building near the outside wall. They were then
brought inside, flexi-cuffs removed if they were on, and allowed to
sit on the chairs and sofas that line the walls of the house's common
room. As I watched, they were asked about any medical problems, and
encouraged to relax as much as they could. At a questioning movement
from one older male, it was made clear that they could indeed smoke if
they so desired.
One at a time, the men in the courtyard were brought in, taken to a
room, and questioned. Faces were compared to those wanted,
information gathered, and decisions made.
This is both a boring time and a tricky time in a raid. The soldiers
who have done them a while know that all may not be as it seems. In
many cases, they have realized that the women may be literally sitting
or lying on the things they seek, or even holding packages and
materials up under their robes. The iniitial talking to, and
subsequent watching, can often spot such things.
In the case of our raid, the home checked out clean, and the women did
not appear to be holding anything. Early on, the commander had
allowed one of them to go upstairs to get an infant they said was
there, and while obviously concerned about things, they focused a good
deal on the children in the room. Most of the children slept right
through everything, while the child from upstairs happily crawled
around and drank from a bottle, fascinated with the goings on.
While the raid missed some of the human targets they had been hoping
to arrest, other targets were grabbed. Once those were clear, the
remaining people were released, and we departed the courtyard, one of
the women making shooing motions towards us.
Returning to the vehicles, there was one more job to do that night.
The team was asked to examine an Iraqi checkpoint in the area that had
come under suspicion.
The situation here is complex, and what is happening with the Iraqi
Police is but one example. You have areas where they do very well,
showing the best of what we think of as law and order. Then you have
other areas, where they are either ineffectual, corrupt, or even
working with JAM or other groups. I was told that when we approached
an Iraqi Police or other similar checkpoint to cover my ears and
crunch a bit, as that was frequently when you would be hit by an IED
-- sometimes placed and triggered by those in the checkpoint.
That didn't happen this time, though there were clearly problems.
After searching the area and talking to the people, we called it a
"day" and left. The report on the post would be turned in, for other
people to deal with.
For the leaders of the raid, going back meant a time of paperwork and
calls. For the troops, it meant a time to take care of gear as
needed, relax a little, and get some rack time. Taking out terrorist
assets of various types is just one part of the job here, but it is
one they do well.
» War on terror news roundup from Sister Toldjah
Submitted for your perusal:
- Bad news for cut and run Democrats: Military and civilian casualties are way down in Iraq:
The decline signaled a U.S. success in bringing down violence in Baghdad and surrounding regions since Washington completed ... [Read More]
Tracked on Oct 1, 2007 2:55:36 PM
» Laughing Wolf Embed from Tammi's World
Laughing Wolf tells us about a Night Raid he was on with Easy Company. And here he mentions that he met Scott Beauchamp. BlackFive has some pretty rough commenters, and they were kinda "difficult" in the comments to this particular... [Read More]
Tracked on Oct 2, 2007 7:28:33 AM
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In Iraq, he received the moniker of Mr. Wolf after the Harvey Kietel character in Pulp Fiction, when "challenges" arose, they called on Mr. Wolf...
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Uber Pig writes for Blackfive a) because he's the proud brother of an enlisted Civil Affairs Reservist who currently serves in Iraq, b) because he looks unkindly on people who make it harder for the military in general, and for his brother in particular, to succeed at their missions and come home in victory, and c) because the Blackfive readers and commenters help keep him sane.
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