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Tankers on Two Legs

One 'surge' brigade gets creative in the fight against al Qaeda.

12:00 AM, Aug 14, 2007 • By JEFF EMANUEL
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Marr began the cross-pollinating process by placing officers who specialized in light infantry tactics in charge of his tank and Bradley platoons. "What you have to realize," said Captain Rich Thompson, commander of 1-15's B ("Baker") Company, "is that, just like C-130s for the 82nd Airborne or helicopters for the 101st, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle isn't an end in itself; it's just how guys get to work. It's how they get to the objective--and what they do when they get there is an infantryman's job."

An enlisted Ranger for almost twelve years, Thompson's experience with light and unconventional infantry tactics and techniques provided an invaluable resource in the unit's quest to adapt, training the men and leading one of the two air assaults that the 1-15 has performed to date, a raid on a chicken farm that was suspected of being a VB (vehicle-borne) IED factory (the other was a successful hit on a large al Qaeda weapons cache).

"For the most part, it went exactly how we had hoped that it would," Thompson recounted. "We basically had a Company-sized element trying to work a Battalion-sized objective, but I thought we did a very good job.

There are a few things we need to work on--most importantly, how we integrate the attack helicopters into what we're doing--but overall, I was very pleased." The Baker Company soldiers were able to flush the al Qaeda fighters into the clearings where they wanted them to go, said Thompson, but "they're smart. They know that we won't shoot at an unarmed person," so they dropped their weapons, or "wouldn't fire at the helicopters, making it difficult for the pilots to get a PID (positive ID) on the terrorists as opposed to the civilians."

While no VBIED factory was found ("Sure enough, it was a chicken farm," Said Staff Sergeant Cory West, platoon sergeant for Baker Company's 2nd Platoon), the mission was considered a success for multiple reasons.

"First, obviously, we got some experience going in on helicopters," Thompson told me. "It was two flights of two CH-47s," so just the infiltration portion of the mission took coordination and provided real-world practice for the soldiers adapting to the world of the light infantryman after spending most of their careers in tanks and APCs.

"Second, and most importantly, we showed al Qaeda that we can land anywhere that we want, and can deny them the safe haven they thought they had [in the bowl]. They thought they were protected there, with the deep-bury IEDs all along the access roads, so us showing them that we can bring the fight to them, on what they thought was their turf, any time we choose to has got to be a blow to their confidence."

Not to mention to their safety.

Jeff Emanuel, a special operations military veteran, is a columnist and a director of conservative weblog He is currently embedded with the U.S. military on the front lines in Iraq.