Operation Iraqi Freedom
The 75th Ranger Regiment is conducting classified missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom including airfield seizures and raids. Rangers participated in the successful raid to free a US Army POW. The first successful POW mission in the last 50 years.
Operation Desert Storm
Elements of Company B and 1st Platoon Company A, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment deployed to Saudi Arabia from February 12, 1991 to April 15, 1991, in support of OPERATION DESERT STORM. The Rangers conducted raids and provided a quick reaction force in cooperation with Allied forces; there were no Ranger casualties. The performance of these Rangers significantly contributed to the overall success of the operation, and upheld the proud traditions of the past.
The Battle of Hadithah Dam
Written from the perspective of a platoon sergeant, Company B, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
On the evening of March 31, 2003, Co. B, 3rd Ranger Battalion seized Objective Lynx, Hadithah Dam, on the Euphrates River in west-central Iraq in order to ensure that the dam was not prepared for destruction by enemy forces and to provide a line of communication across the river for follow on forces.
My account of this operation will begin Saturday, March 29, two nights prior at an airstrip in western Iraq that had been seized three days earlier by Co. A, 3rd Ranger Battalion. My platoon infiltrated into Iraq with the mission to disrupt enemy activity at key locations. The company planned a 48-72 hour load for the upcoming mission and planned on operating in and out of the airfield. We established an assembly area within Co. A’s perimeter and began priorities of work until the next cover of darkness. Just before sunset on March 30, Co. B departed to link up with a platoon from Co. C, 3rd Ranger Battalion and continued movement to a ROD site, or Rest Over Day, site.
We arrived just as the sun came up in our ROD site. We quickly established security and camouflaged our vehicles. This is when I found out we had just received a FRAGO, a short order to change our mission. Intelligence reported the Iraqi military had begun an IO, or information operations, campaign stating the U.S. may bomb Hadithah Dam. The concern was if the Iraqi military were to blow the dam it would flood southern Iraq and cause a huge humanitarian catastrophe and major problems for 3rd ID pushing north to Baghdad.
Co. B received the mission to seize Objective Lynx and ensure the dam wasn’t rigged to be blown. The enemy situation stated the dam was heavily guarded with 100-200 enemy personnel, numerous armored vehicles including T-55 Battle tanks and in excess of 50 anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) pieces. Within four hours, the commander established a plan, issued his orders and conducted rehearsals. First platoon’s mission would be to secure the western flank to allow 2nd platoon to clear the inside of the dam and allow our breachers to confirm the dam was not at risk. As the sun began to set on March 31, we departed our ROD sight for a 31 kilometer infiltration to Objective Lynx.
About 2 km out from the objective, one of our ground mobility vehicles (GMV’s) broke all four bolts on the steering box, disabling it. The mechanic, with the assistance of four of my men, removed one bolt from three other vehicles, removed the threaded portions left inside the frame on the broken vehicle and replaced three of the four bolts in 22 minutes.
The company moved in and, surprisingly, began the assault with no resistance. I was tasked to lead one of my squads with a M-240 machine gun team up a small hill and clear a building on the left-hand side of the road. This was about the time the entire company realized we had already driven up about one-third of the way of the dam. 3rd Platoon, Co. C was turning their vehicles around to find an alternate route to the main power facility at the base of the dam. My 1st Squad detained two guards immediately after arriving in position. I began to move my 3rd Squad with control of the M-240 to the crest of the small hill to begin clearance of the building. As soon as I got into position, the complexity of this mission became apparent.
We looked around and could see the entire dam structure. Until this point we didn’t appreciate how large it actually was. The top of the hill, where our platoon’s objective was, did not have the single structure we had planned for. It had 12 large concrete buildings. I immediately requested a second squad from the platoon leader to assist in clearing the objective. I ordered the 3rd squad leader to begin clearing the first building and establish a foothold on what was the key terrain on the dam. The gun team leader set his machine gun in to isolate the remainder of the hilltop. Third squad began clearing the building; it was empty with all doors locked. We had most of this building cleared when 3rd Platoon, Co.C made contact down in front of the main dam structure at the power relay station. It was a short engagement — some small arms and a couple .50-caliber bursts.
Once the building was secure, I moved the M-240 team to the roof to cover our movement. I began alternating the two squads between buildings across the objective. Everything was still pretty quiet at this point. Once we cleared to the far side of the hill to allow heavy guns to secure the southern flank, I called for all the vehicles to move up. It was about this time when my second squad moved across a 25-meter open area to a huge concrete mural of Saddam Hussein when everything got crazy.
All at once the lip of the hill opened up with small arms, machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) fire. I believe the Iraqis had moved out of the buildings to survivability positions at the base of the hill when they heard the coalition aircraft and were moving back up the hill when they began firing. Further out, more than 10 different mortar tubes began engaging the hill almost simultaneously. Amazingly, no one had been injured.
The platoon immediately returned fire and began what turned out to be a four-hour battle to push the enemy forces back at least 1,200m out of RPG range. The platoon leader and radio-telephone operator (RTO) began using aerial platforms to engage the mortar positions that now had our position zeroed in on. I quickly got all of our vehicles up in positions where the heavy gunners were barely over the crest of the down slope in front of us and began engaging the close-in mortars with the MK-19 40 millimeter grenade launcher and .50-caliber machine guns.
About 30 minutes into the firefight, my 1st Squad leader came up to me and pointed out an island he thought had a mortar tube firing on our location. As we both looked, the tube fired. I could not believe it. Due to the range of the island I secured an anti-tank gunner with a Javelin missile and he used it to engage the position that was dug into the island with rocks piled up in the front. We received no additional fire from the island. About 45 minutes later, we serviced the island with two 1000lbs bombs just to ensure destruction.
As this fight continued into the morning light, it continued to show more and more problems. The vast, open desert in front of us was nothing but interconnected trench lines and bunkers for as far as the eye could see. Approximately one hour after daylight, one of our battle positions reported a GMV heading south away from the dam. We called and got a report that it was Tactical Operations Center (TOC) 2’s vehicle moving to link up with 3rd Platoon, Co. C. They had missed their turn, pushed down the road and had turned back to find it. On their way back they had stopped in front of two buildings that were in front of us. We began to refer to these building as CAS 1 and 2.
The Iraqi forces continued to maneuver to and from these buildings. We had more than 20 bombs dropped on both buildings by the end of the first three days. Immediately after the bombing stopped, one of the personnel had gotten out of the vehicle, turned around and began running back to the vehicle and directly behind them from our location they were engulfed in small arms fire. They sped back to our location. The problem was that the road headed directly back towards us, so we were unable to return fire to help them get out of there without possibly hitting them. As soon as the road turned right, three of my positions opened fire on the ambush site.
My medics quickly moved to where the vehicle was coming up, expecting the worst. When the vehicle made it to our location it had been hit pretty bad and was crippled. The engine was barely running and the transmission was severely leaking fluid. One Ranger, who had gotten out of the back seat, was hit four times in his back plate uninjured. The driver had taken a round through the vehicle and hit his right foot. The two remaining Rangers in the vehicle were unscathed. As the medics began treating the driver, we moved the vehicle up into a firing position before it was deadlined.
As the day continued, the enemy forces would consolidate in groups of 50 to100 approximately 6-8km from our location. We used 120mm mortars to prevent their consolidation. They would then disperse and come at us in human waves of 10-15 personnel. This continued throughout the next few days. During the evening we began to fortify our positions as we tracked their movements with our thermal imagers. The first attempt the Iraqis made to move into our location that night was - I am sure - quite a shock to them. As they approached with weapons slung over their shoulders as if they were just going to walk right up on us, we engaged them about 600 to 800m out. After this, they never tried to walk right up to us again — they maneuvered. These human waves continued for the next two days, with at least one of our positions in contact every 30 minutes. These attempts made establishing a sleep plan very difficult.
Meanwhile, 2nd Platoon, Co. B had finished clearing the dam complex by mid-afternoon of Day One. They had two attempts to assault their battle point (BP) by vehicles. By the end of the first day the company had captured nine enemy prisoners of war and detained 25 civilian dam workers. During one of the attempts by the Iraqi forces on the eastern side of the dam, an Iraqi soldier was shot and rolled down one level of the earthen portion of the dam. Second platoon was under intense fire from an Iraqi 23mm machine gun in the low ground to the front. The 2nd Platoon sergeant and regimental command sergeant major maneuvered down the front of the dam under direct fire to assist the wounded Iraqi soldier. Unfortunately, this Iraqi soldier passed away a few hours later. Another wounded Iraqi had lost his lower jaw due to a .50 caliber bullet and our medics were able to save his life.
During the evening and throughout Day Two, the Iraqi forces continued attempts to retake the dam. Around mid-afternoon, one of my positions reported a kayak heading towards us. The gunner gave the kayak a warning shot. The Iraqi continued to head for a small island to the north west of the dam. The kayak departed after about three to four hours and headed for the shore. Believing this was obviously an attempt to gather intelligence, the platoon leader and I decided to have the kayak engaged. With one burst from the .50 caliber, my gunner sank the kayak and the Iraqi began to swim in to the shore. I dispatched a fire team to secure the prisoner and search him. The Iraqi was uninjured and did in fact have a number of sketches of our positions.
Day Three, around 11 a.m., an artillery shot came from the southwest impacting about midway down the dam on the front slope. This caused great concern since until this we had only received mortar fire. The men were smart enough to get a back azimuth to the artillery shot and our Air Force combat controller began calling in aircraft to find the gun tubes. We received an additional two rounds that day from what we had determined to be 155mm artillery. As the artillery rounds came in on the dam, all the Iraqi forces moved to the city in the south, Hadithah proper. They then loaded approximately 20 to 30 vehicles and fled further south. This was the last attempt by dismounts to assault our locations. We began to plan for the Iraqis to use a combined arms attack after slamming us for a few days with artillery.
At first light on Day Four, the 2nd Platoon, Co. B BP began to be hit hard by an artillery gun from the southwest, an artillery gun from the northeast and heavy mortars from just south of the dam. Within minutes, all three pieces had zeroed in on 2nd platoon and forced them to withdraw back inside the dam. The Air Force controllers quickly brought in aircraft and located and engaged the artillery piece to the north. We never received any more fire from the north.
My platoon began engaging the mortar position to the south with heavy guns, and we were quickly answered with artillery directed at our location. Within minutes the artillery was impacting inside our perimeter. Throughout the day, artillery continued non-stop, moving from one BP to another up and down the dam. During this barrage, we received more than 100 artillery rounds within the perimeter and more than 350 on the entire dam.
Later on Day Four, as our position was getting hit, an artillery round went over our position and impacted directly in front of the mortar firing position. I remember seeing one of the mortarmen flying up in the air from behind a concrete wall they were using for cover. I immediately called for my driver and medics to prepare to move down to their location. The mortar crew began motioning for a medic and we expected the worst as we moved out. The Iraqi observers must have seen this also as they began firing additional rounds right on the mortar’s location.
I stopped our GMV about 50m short of the location and had everyone dismount. The driver and gunner moved away from the vehicle up against the concrete wall. My medic, another Ranger we had cross trained to augment the platoon medic and myself moved up to the wounded Ranger. The two medics began to work on the Ranger who was unconscious and severely wounded. Every time we heard the artillery fire, we would hug the ground and a split-second later it would impact somewhere around us. My medics quickly stabilized him and we loaded up on a cargo vehicle to move him to the battalion casualty collection point at the center of the dam.
Once we moved from the mortar’s position, the artillery began focusing on the hill where my platoon was located. I got my medics and immediately moved back to the BP. On the way back, I got a report from the platoon leader that one of the vehicles had nearly taken a direct hit. The Iraqis had a position dug out to protect a vehicle. We used this to our advantage by pulling one of our gun jeeps into it. My weapons squad leader, a heavy gunner and forward observer manned this position. A 155mm artillery round impacted right on the top lip of the position. The over pressure of the round blew all three men to the rear of the hole and moved the GMV about two feet sideways. All three were extremely shaken up and a little hard of hearing, but other than that just fine. (Slides 15-18)
On Day Five we didn’t receive any artillery rounds. We all believed the aircraft had finally found the gun pieces firing on our location. Around mid-day the platoon received orders to move down and clear CAS 1 and 2. Once we arrived at the location it was obvious why the Iraqi forces continued to move to these buildings. Inside we found 12 rooms containing arms rooms and ammunition caches. Due to the amount of weapons and ammunition we were only able to clear one of the two buildings that day.
On Day Six the artillery began again. This was extremely demoralizing to the platoon. We all were extremely worn out. Dodging artillery rounds all day and digging all night was really starting to take its toll. Only a few rounds came in this day. Later in the afternoon, we received two M-1 Abrams tanks. They would pass over the dam and continue operations to the north. We also received orders to prepare for Co. B, 3rd Platoon to relieve us that evening and we’d fly back to the airfield we left seven days prior.
After the week was over, Co. B had used direct fires, 120mm mortars and various aerial platforms to kill or capture more than 230 enemy, 29 T-55 tanks, 3 heavy cargo trucks, 2 motorcycles, 9 S-60s, 4 ZSU 23-2s, 14 various AAA pieces, 28 155mm artillery pieces, 22 82mm mortar, 6 60mm mortars, 8 ammo caches, 10 military boats, and 1 kayak.