Tuesday, July 26, 2016

US Army Artillery Thunders in Anbar Province,Iraq - training not primary focus at air base

On 27 June 2016,US Soldiers blasted shells from an M109 A6 Paladin howitzer,which is a very powerful self-propelled artillery piece,at Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant militants during a fire mission at Al-Taqqadum Air Base in Habbaniya,Anbar Province.This illustrates the wide-ranging role of US artillery in the anti-ISIL Operation Inherent Resolve:it is not limited to the Mosul recapture build-up in the north of the country;now it is clearly being utilised to suppress ISIL activity in Anbar in Western Iraq as well.*
The air base is a joint environment,home to Task Force Al Taqqadum Advise and Assist site,with all four Pentagon branches of the military represented,along with Allies Italian and Australian troops and their Iraqi counterparts of the 8th,10th and 16th Iraqi Army Divisions;the Iraqi Anbar Operations Centre,or AOC;Anbar National Police;and the Iraqi Counterintelligence Service.Still classified as an expeditionary airfield,it is officially a US Marine Corps base served with a complete range of support by the US Air Force's 321st Contingency Response Element in combination with Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command,who will handle long-term security and logistics at the base,once the 321st withdraws.*
TFTQ,as the task force is known,operates out of Camp Manion at Taqqadum.It is an Operation Inherent Resolve force of Marines and Sailors from II Marine Expeditionary Force;the Marine augments from SPMAGTF-CR-CC;and members of the US Army's 1st Infantry Division.Its mission is to advise and assist the Iraqi Security Forces in the Ramadi area of Anbar,which,despite protracted combat operations and some notable successes,remains a somewhat unstable and contested zone.For example,as late as 25 July,Khalidiya Island in Eastern Ramadi was still the target of an extensive military operation by the ISF against ISIL strongholds and headquarters on the island.Also on that day,the ISF were reinforcing to counter reported plans by ISIL to converge on Haditha district from three directions west of Ramadi.*
To assist,the US Marines are embedded as full time advisors with the AOC,helping coordinate airstrikes and counterstrikes based on Iraqi reports of encounters with the enemy such as firefights;and intelligence data.USMC Colonel Christopher J. Douglas,TFTQ commander,said the assistance we provide is specifically in the form of intelligence,surveillance and reconnaissance flights and air support and strikes that are provided by coalition aircraft.All strikes and operations are approved by Iraqi leaders.*
The environment that we train in now is not a learning environment;we are very much in an operational environment where training is not the primary focus,said a USMC primary advisor to the 8th Iraqi Army Division.Still,they have conducted artillery,communications,medical,explosive ordnance disposal and engineering training as the occasion presented itself.*

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