Friday, December 30, 2005

82nd Airborne Returning From al Anbar

After the task force's convoy to Iraq from Kuwait, "we almost immediately started combat operations," Swift said. The "Wild West," as some paratroopers called it, was a hotbed of the insurgency. The task force used intelligence to target insurgent leaders, deny terrorists safe havens and protect the people of the region from the insurgents. The task force operated in Haqlaniyah, Habbaniyah and Ramadi. [snip]

Once the action was over, the paratroopers were able to relate to the Iraqis in the area. A D Company medic, Pfc. Dustin Lehmann, said he was surprised and pleased that when the unit moved into an area, people started bringing their sick children and other family members in to see him. "They rely on you and trust you to take care of them," Lehmann said. "And knowing you can help was an amazing feeling. We treated lot of small children with malaria, a lot of burn injuries and bullet wounds." [snip]

All in the unit were surprised at the level of insurgent intimidation. "In one town, this man wouldn't cooperate with them, so they kidnapped his son and left his headless body on the street in front of his house," Swift said. "In another, they kidnapped this woman's husband and raped her son right in front of her. [snip]

"(The insurgents) have nothing to offer," he said.

The paratroopers noticed quickly what effect they were having in these cities, towns and villages. "The first few days, no one would come out," said Army Sgt. Abel Peterson, a fire team leader with A Company. "But then you would see folks start coming out into the street. They felt safe seeing us around."

In one instance, his company cleared a street and one woman came out and hugged his platoon sergeant. "She had lost her husband to Saddam's thugs; her sons had been run out of town by the insurgents," he said. "But that night she knew she was safe. It sticks in my mind."

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