Screaming Eagles Through Time
February 2004
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19 February 2004 - Welcome Home Photo Page

14 February 2004
  • The commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division returned from Iraq on Saturday and uncased the division's colors, symbolically ending the unit's year at war. "There were few easy days in Iraq ... all Americans can be very proud of what our soldiers accomplished," Maj. Gen. David Petraeus said after displaying a red and blue flag emblazoned with the division's screaming eagle symbol. Petraeus, 51, of Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y., flew home with 188 fellow soldiers. "I cannot say enough about our young soldiers, they were magnificent," Petraeus said, adding that war brought "numerous episodes of hardship and sorrow." Sixty soldiers from Fort Campbell have been killed in the war - 58 of them from the 101st, which has had more deaths in Iraq than any other U.S. military unit. Several thousand 101st soldiers have returned home since Jan. 7. The remainder of the division's 20,000-plus soldiers are expected to arrive by early March at Fort Campbell, on the Tennessee-Kentucky line 50 miles north of Nashville. The division was sent to Kuwait in February and March and joined the invasion of Iraq on March 22. It took the central Iraq cities of Najaf, Hillah and Karbala before occupying southern Baghdad. Since April, it has controlled northern Iraq. It has faced guerrilla attacks and the Nov. 17 collision of two helicopters that may have been maneuvering to avoid enemy fire. Seventeen soldiers were killed in the crash. The division's soldiers participated in the July 22 raid in Mosul that led to the deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons, Odai and Qusai. Kimberly Helfling, Associated Press.

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Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, right, commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division, uncases the division's colors with Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill, left, symbolically ending the unit's year at war, upon their return home from Iraq to Fort Campbell, Ky., Saturday, Feb. 14, 2004. (AP Photo/Christopher Berkey)

10 February 2004
  • The last 101st Airborne Division convoy rolled across the Iraqi border just before 5 a.m. Kuwaiti time this morning, leaving behind a mission that spanned almost a year. Spc. Misael Santiago of Lawton, Okla., pulling rear convoy security with a .50-caliber machine gun, had the historical honor of being the final 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) “Screaming Eagle” to leave Iraq by vehicle. He was part of a seven-vehicle convoy, with elements of Company D, 3-502nd Infantry Regiment, and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Division Support Command. “I just feel good to be almost home,” Santiago said, echoing sentiments of every other troop who undertook the three-day movement from Mosul in northern Iraq to Kuwait. A small contingent of ten 101st soldiers, assigned to Mosul Airfield, are all that remain of the 101st in Iraq. They are projected to fly directly out of the country later this month. Last week, with hundreds of regional Iraqi leaders and coalition partners looking on, the 101st Airborne Division transferred authority and operational control of Ninewa, Irbil and Dahuk provinces to “Task Force Olympia.” The ceremony Feb. 5 took place at the palace headquarters complex in northern Mosul. The ceremony marked the culmination of several weeks of transition operations and regional handovers in Tall Afar, Qayyara and Mosul, as many units under the operational control of Task Force Olympia, including 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), worked in conjunction with 101st Airborne Division Soldiers to ensure a seamless transition of authority. On a bright February day in Mosul, the major subordinate commands of the task force from both the United States and Iraq flanked the road to the headquarters. The colors of the 101st Airborne Division stood at attention in the center of the color guard. During the ceremony, the Screaming Eagle colors slowly dipped and Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, 101st commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill furled and cased the colors for their trip home to Fort Campbell, Ky. “We have shown that there is nothing that can’t be achieved when we all work together,” said Petraeus. He added, “A tribute to the Iraqi security forces is that the Iraqi flag is included in the color guard, and the Iraqi national anthem was played today along with the national anthem of the United States.” As the Screaming Eagle colors departed, a covered and furled guidon appeared and took its place in the color guard. Brigadier Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of Task Force Olympia, and Sgt. Maj. Patrick Pacheco uncased and unfurled the Task Force Olympia colors – the colors of I Corps - before the color-bearer raised them to the heavens. The Task Force Olympia commander said he intends to continue the progress made by the Screaming Eagles. “We owe you, our nation and the people of Iraq our best effort every day and that is what you shall get,” said Brigadier Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander, Task Force Olympia. Task Force Olympia is a sub-element of 1st Corps headquarters based at Fort Lewis, Wash. The unit includes representatives from all three components of the U.S. Army (Active, Reserve and National Guard) as well as United States Marine Corps and Australian officers. Task Force Olympia’s subordinate units include the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (SBCT), from Fort Lewis, four Iraqi Civil Defense Corps battalions, three Iraq Border Police battalions and several thousand members of the Iraq Facility Protection Security Forces and will soon include an Iraq Armed Forces battalion. The ceremony marked the first time that 1st Corps command elements have forward deployed in combat since the end of the Korean War. Shortly after the ceremony, many Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division boarded UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for a short ride to Mosul Airfield, where military transport awaited for their trip back to Kuwait and eventually to Fort Campbell. As they were leaving, the famous insignia of the 101st Airborne Division was lowered from the headquarters building and the 1st Corps unit insignia took it’s place, signifying a new change in command in Mosul. (Editor’s note: Pfc. Thomas Day is a member of the 40th PAD, attached to the 101st Airborne Division, and Sgt. Jeremy Heckler is a member of Task Force Olympia Public Affairs.)

6 February 2004
  • Pvt. Dwayne Turner doesn't think he's a hero. But the Army says otherwise and awarded him the Silver Star Thursday. The medic with Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, saved the lives of 16 soldiers in Iraq on April 13 despite being critically wounded himself. In a ceremony at Fort Campbell's division headquarters, Assistant Division Commander (operations) Brig. Gen. Frank G. Helmick pinned Turner with the highest medal given thus far to 101st Airborne Division soldiers serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. "I didn't figure myself a hero. I just wanted to make sure everybody came home," Turner said after the medal and 101st Airborne coin were presented to him. "Nobody was going to die on my watch." Before the firefight in a suburb about 30 miles south of Baghdad, the Iraqis near the U.S. convoy were being friendly as usual, Turner said. But the scene quickly turned violent, and the soldiers were attacked with grenade and small-arms fire. Responding on instinct, Turner went into action and repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire as he treated wounded soldiers. He was struck by AK-47 bullets in the arm and leg and was hit by shrapnel. When we got hit, guys were going down, and I was the medical guy on the scene. It was a split-second decision," he said. During the 25-minute attack, Turner tended to the wounded until he finally had to be stopped. He was about to pass out from blood loss, said platoon leader Sgt. Neil Mulvany, who treated Turner's injuries. "He risked his life to save 16 other soldiers," Mulvany said. "That's a hero in my book." Of the 50 soldiers in the convoy, 22 were wounded. Turner has served in the Army for four years and returned to Fort Campbell from Iraq in May. He will be medically discharged from the Army soon. The Silver Star is awarded to any U.S. service member who shows gallantry in action. It is the third-highest combat medal given to soldiers. Chantal Escoto covers military affairs and can be reached by phone at 245-0216 or by e-mail at chantalescoto@theleafchronicle.com.

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Brig. Gen Frank Helmick, left, congratulates Pvt. Dwayne Turner, right, after awarding him
the Silver Star at Fort Campbell Thursday. Turner, a combat medic in the 101st Airborne
Division, treated 16 fellow soldiers, saving the lives of at least two, while suffering from
multiple untreated bullet and grenade shrapnel wounds during an attack in Iraq.
"He is a bona fide hero," Helmick said. Associated Press

5 February 2004

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U.S. soldiers from 101st Airborne Division roll up their unit's flag during the hand
 over ceremony to the Multi-National Brigade North at the military base in the
 suburbs of the town of Mosul, some 390 km north of capital Baghdad on
February 5, 2004. REUTERS/Ceerwan Aziz

Stryker contingent takes command in northern Iraq

MICHAEL GILBERT; The News Tribune

MOSUL, Iraq - The Fort Lewis contingent formally took over U.S. military operations in northern Iraq on Thursday.

Senior coalition commanders from across the country and dozens of local Iraqi leaders looked on as the 101st Airborne Division gave way to Task Force Olympia and the Stryker brigade.

Khessru Goran, the vice mayor of Mosul and Nineveh Province, said it was a bittersweet day.

"They've been to my house. They've played with my children," Goran said of his friends in the 101st, especially the commander, Maj. Gen. David Petraeus.

And of the new U.S. soldiers and their commander, Brig. Gen. Carter Ham?

"We will be good friends with them, too," Goran said.

Thursday's ceremony at the Mosul presidential palace completed the first phase of a rotation plan that will see virtually all U.S. forces in Iraq replaced with fresh troops in the next couple months. Arriving from Fort Lewis will be the Washington National Guard's 81st Armor Brigade and later a second wave of Strykers - the Army's 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division.

It's fitting that northern Iraq is the first to complete the change, said Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

"It's a wonderful day to be recognizing the partnership that exists between the coalition forces and the Iraqi people up here in the north, and recognize that it's the best in the country," he said.

Sanchez said the Fort Lewis-based Task Force Olympia and its subordinate unit, the Stryker brigade, are stepping into a region "where so much has been accomplished and yet so much remains to be done."

Ham, previously the deputy commanding general for readiness and training at Fort Lewis, told his boss his team is ready. The task force consists of about 100 officers and soldiers from I Corps at Fort Lewis who will direct U.S. military operations across the three northern provinces for most of the next year.

"We owe you, our nation and the people of Iraq our very best effort every day, and that's what you shall get," Ham said.

There have been smaller ceremonies the last few weeks as Stryker units have gradually taken over in the cities of Mosul, Qayyarah and Tall Afar. Soldiers with the 101st started flying home to Fort Campbell, Ky., in early January. The last of them will be gone in the next week or so. Some got on planes Thursday afternoon.

After the ceremony Ham greeted well-wishers and fielded questions from the local news media. The 101st's leaders have taken him around to meet leaders throughout the three provinces he's now responsible for, but to the Mosul public at large he's still an unknown figure.

A reporter for New Hope, a U.S.-sponsored newspaper, asked him if his much smaller number of U.S. troops - 6,000 or so to the 101st's 20,000 - is enough to provide security for the region.

"We have fewer American forces, but we have many more Iraqi security forces," Ham said. "Every day they are able to do more and more, because at the end of it all it must be Iraqi security forces that make things safe for the people of Iraq, not Americans."

A crew from Al-Arabiya TV asked if the new force would follow the same tactics as the 101st, and a radio reporter asked how U.S. forces would direct the activities of Mosul's political parties.

Ham smiled and said he couldn't talk about tactics. He said his job is to provide security for the Iraqi people, and that it's mostly up to Iraqis to determine the role of the parties.

"You will notice I am a soldier, not a politician," Ham said.

It was also a day for local leaders to say goodbye to Petraeus and the 101st, credited with getting civil and economic institutions farther along in Mosul and the northern provinces than anywhere else in Iraq.

Sanchez called the division's work "a remarkable display of civil-military operations. ... Probably the best in the history of our Army."

The division spent more than $50 million refurbishing local schools, government offices and infrastructure projects, on small-business loans, in youth centers and for sports programs, and other projects to restore the community after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

"The 101st has a good history," said editor Moyasser Hamed, who obtained one of the small-business loans to launch his newspaper, Akbar al Mosul. "We will miss them."

Goran, the vice mayor, predicted success for the Mosul government structures built under the 101st's guidance and for the new U.S. forces in the region.

Like the American commanders, he said it's a small number of locals who are fighting the coalition. He said much of the insurgency is being carried out by outsiders from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and other countries.

He said Saturday's suicide bombings at Kurdish political party events in Irbil were carried out by foreigners.

"I don't think the number of soldiers can make any difference," Goran said. "We worked 10 months with the 101. We know them well. It will take time to learn the new ones, to work with them. We will solve the problems. It will get better."

Staff writer Michael Gilbert is with the Stryker brigade in Iraq. Reach him at mjgilbert41@yahoo.com.

4 February 2004
  • Soldiers from the 501st Signal Battalion, 101st Airborne Division distributed humanitarian items in early January to the small village of Bwer, just south of Mosul in northern Iraq. Sgt. Maj. Edward Parker, 501st, coordinated with the Noncommissioned Officers' Academy in Fort Gordon, Ga., to donate supplies to the children of the village, which was adopted by the 501st. The NCO Academy sent boxes of food, children's clothes, toiletries and various school supplies to Parker for distribution. The soldiers took the boxes to the house of the village muktar, a religious and community leader, who will hand out the rest of the items to the people of the village. The 501st has joined the growing group of Americans, both military and civilian, who have adopted Iraqi villages and taken the residents under their wings. Since August, soldiers and people in the United States have sent hundreds of boxes filled with everything from books to soccer balls. So far, 35 American cities have been involved in Operation Adopt-a-Village. Besides donating items, some units in the 101st have funded the repair and refurbishing of schools and clinics. The Leaf-Chronicle

  • A surprise guest welcomed the 101st Airborne Division's "Strike" Brigade, also known as 502nd Infantry Regiment, or 2nd Brigade, at Campbell Army Airfield Sunday afternoon after spending nearly a year in Iraq. Former division commander Lt. Gen. Richard A. Cody was in town for an event later this week and made a welcome speech in Hangar 2 for more than 300 of the 502nd and other soldiers. "We couldn't be more proud of you," Cody said. "This country of 280 million people will always be home of the free as long as we have soldiers like these. Welcome home and a job well done." Cody's two sons, Capt. Clint Cody and 1st Lt. Tyler Cody, both Apache helicopter pilots with the division, as was their father once, will be home this week after serving in Iraq. Lt. Gen. Cody, a battalion commander during the first Gulf War with the 101st, fired the first Hellfire missiles of the war from his Apache, destroying Iraqi radar equipment in January 1991. Although Spc. Juan Rodriguez and Pfc. Miguel Castillo of 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment didn't have family meet them at the airfield, they had each other and took time to reflect on the war in Iraq. "Our first job when we got to Iraq was providing check points, registering Iraqi weapons and giving power back to (Iraqi) police," said Rodriguez, 22, "basically we were trying to keep them from attacking us." Castillo, 19, said the rocket-propelled grenade attacks at the hotel where they stayed in Mosul became a regular event, and one landed too close for comfort. "One went to my left, and one went up, but they missed me," Castillo said. Rodriguez said he became accustomed to the enemy attacks, but he isn't sure if his presence made a difference. "We probably won't know for a few years, but I hope so," he said. Although the 502nd Infantry Regiment traces its lineage to World War I with the 80th Infantry Division, it didn't link with the 101st Airborne Division until 1964 at Fort Campbell. The soldiers of 2nd Brigade participated in 12 Vietnam War campaigns with the unit returning to Fort Campbell in 1972 with many combat decorations. In 1991, 2nd Brigade along with 1st Brigade, led the division's largest helicopter assault in military history to seize the Middle Eastern terrain during Operation Desert Storm to establish an aviation forward operating base. The unit has since served in Panama in 1994 and participated in a six-month peacekeeping mission in Kosovo during 2001. Chantal Escoto covers military affairs and can be reached at 245-0216 or by e-mail at chantalescoto@theleafchronicle.com.
  • After playing football all afternoon in dozens of sandlot games across this large desert camp, the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division burned the midnight oil to watch the real deal, the Super Bowl, last night. While kickoff was at a reasonable 5:30 p.m. on Sunday in Nashville, the game began at 2:30 a.m. today nine time zones away. ''Oh yeah, I wouldn't miss this. I'm Carolina-born, and it's Carolina all the way,'' said Sgt. Robert McNeilly, who is a member of the 2nd Battalion of the 327th Infantry Regiment. McNeilly, with 6,000 other soldiers from the 101st Airborne, the 82nd Airborne and numerous support units, is temporarily bivouacked in this massive tent city waiting to fly home after serving a year in Operation Iraqi Freedom. ''I'm ready to roll toward home. I'd like to be there in person to watch the game with my family and newborn son,'' said McNeilly, a Morganton, N.C., native. ''But since I'm not, this'll do. Go, Panthers,'' the sergeant said, watching the game in the camp's dining hall before his team lost 32-29 to the New England Patriots. Munching on an early morning meal of Buffalo wings and pizza, hometown buddies Spc. Miral Meremikwu and Spc. Derek Grant, both of the 584th Maintenance Company, a support unit of the 101st Airborne, said they wanted to stay up and watch the game, because Houston, site of the contest, is their hometown.''I'm pulling for the Panthers because they seemed to be the underdog. A few years ago when the Patriots played in the Super Bowl and they were the underdogs, I pulled for them. I just like pulling for the underdog,'' said Meremikwu, who's been in the Army for about five years. He and Grant attended the same high school in Houston and years later found themselves in the same Army unit. ''It's been an enjoyable deployment, as enjoyable as they can be,'' Grant said. ''But both of us are ready to go home. We see what we're missing back in our hometown. I wish we were there.'' Staying up most of the night to watch the football championship game won't really affect the soldiers. Most have few responsibilities, because their equipment has been packed away and they are awaiting scheduled flights home next week. All 22,000 of the 101st Airborne are scheduled to be home by late March. By Leon Aligood, The Tennessean.
  • As troops from the 101st Aviation "Attack" Brigade are scheduled to return from Iraq today, one of its battalions received the top combat aviation honor of 2003 while serving in the Middle East. Aviators of 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, were awarded the Parker Award on Dec. 19 at Fort Rucker, Ala. The "Expect No Mercy" battalion is one of three attack helicopter battalions assigned to the 101st Aviation Brigade at Fort Campbell. In addition to 1st battalion, 2nd, 3rd and 6th battalions and 2-17th Cavalry (Kiowa Warriors) OH-58D are also under the wing of the 101st Brigade. The 1-101st was last posted in Kirkuk and Qayyarah-West, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 1-101 Aviation's first combat mission was a night attack deep in Iraq against one of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard forces in late March. The mission was a success, setting the conditions for the 3rd Infantry Division to continue their attack north toward Baghdad, according to the award citation. In early April, the battalion was given the task to conduct a movement against more of the Republican Guard forces. The battalion successfully employed direct and indirect fires against the enemy protecting the western flank of the 3rd Infantry Division as they entered the city limits of Baghdad. Later, the battalion deployed two attack helicopter companies from Qayyarah-West Airfield to Kirkuk Airbase, Iraq. The battalion has provided continuous support with one company to the 173rd Airborne Brigade while the second company supported the 1st and 3rd Brigade Combat Teams of the 4th Infantry Division as well as serving in a division reserve capacity. The battalion conducted a myriad of reconnaissance and security missions and raids to support the destruction or capture of specified targets, and Quick Reaction Force missions to facilitate various infantry operations. Compiled by Leaf-Chronicle military reporter Chantal Escoto.