- Hīt during the Iraq War
Hīt or Heet ( _ar. هيت) is a city in al-Anbar province,
Iraq. Hīt lies northwest of Ramadi, the provincial capital, in the Sunni Triangle.
Under U.S. occupation
The small city of
Hītis one of a string of Sunnipopulation centers along the Euphratesvalley in Anbar province that the U.S. occupation forces found to be volatile. It is considered to be the main route traveled by non-Iraqi insurgents on their way from Syriainto central Iraq.Fact|date=July 2007 Located on the river between the city of Hadithaand the provincial capital, Ramadi, Hīt has been the scene of intermittent fighting between U.S. forces and Iraqi and foreign insurgents. Unlike Ramadi or Haditha, Hīt does not fit into the regular rotation structure of U.S. forces in Anbar; lying just east of the regimental sector headquartered at Asad and just west of the Ramadi brigade sector, it has long been the territory of stand-alone Army and Marine battalions on short-term deployments. The Navea Training Center, which lies just to the south-east of Hīt, is used by the U.S. Army for training the New Iraqi Army.
March 2003 through February 2004
The first U.S. units (besides special operations forces that passed through during the invasion) to arrive in Hīt during the
2003 invasion of Iraqwere elements of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment. After September 2003, the (3d ACR) was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division based out of Ramadi. With 3d ACR stretched across a vast region of western Anbar, few forces and little effort was spared for Hīt; the city fell within the operating zone of the 2–3rd ACR, which was responsible both for providing convoy security in that sector of the Euphrates valley and for protecting the larger base nearby at Al Asad. Attacks on U.S. units in the area were sporadic.
March 2004 through March 2005
In March 2004, the 82nd Airborne handed responsibility for Al Anbar province over to the 1st Marine Division. The Marines' Regimental Combat Team 7 (RCT-7) took the reins in the far west from the 3d ACR. As widespread violence flared across most of Iraq, and especially in Al Anbar in early April with major battles taking place in Ramadi and
Fallujah, the 1st Marine Division arranged for RCT-7's operations in the west to be supporting efforts for Regimental Combat Team 1's and 1-1st BCT's operations in the more densely populated eastern areas of the province; as a result, during the spring of 2004, RCT-7 and two of its battalions ( 2nd Battalion 7th Marines(2/7) and 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion[1st LAR] ) were sent east to support these other operations. This left only one battalion ( 3rd Battalion 7th Marinesbased in Al Qaimnear the Syrian border) and a provisional unit formed around elements of 2nd Small Boat Company and other Marine units operating out of Al Asadto cover the whole of western Al Anbar. Marine presence in Hit decreased significantly with the loss of a battalion task force from the area. In the Marines' absence, Hīt was influenced by insurgent elements infiltrating from the Ramadi and Fallujah areas.
After 2/7 returned to the Hīt area from operations in support of
Operation Vigilant Resolve, the battalion re-established its presence in the city and insurgent activity abated. From April through September 2004, 2/7 conducted security and stability operations along the upper Euphrates River valley, at times having responsibility for the entire area west of Ramadi from the Highway 1/10 split, through the constellation of towns and villages composed of Hīt, Baghdadi, Haditha, and as far north as the town of Rawah. 2/7’s mission during this time was fourfold: defeat "Anti-Iraqi Forces (AIF)", conduct operations with Iraqi Security Forces, protect critical infrastructure, and secure key coalition supply routes.
2/7 focus of operations was in and around the city of Hīt. It worked extensively with the Hīt town council and citizens to establish a productive dialogue and the beginnings of local representative governance. The unit also worked with many tribes in the area, particularly with the Abu Nimur tribe to maintain relative security for the region; the Abu Nimur has a long and notable history in region. In addition 2/7 began and maintained a critical dialogue with the Hīt city religious leaders, working to change the minds of the local religious community as to the intentions of the coalition forces. U.S. military sources suggest that 2/7 civil affairs efforts injected nearly $3 million USD into local reconstruction and security efforts. Furthermore, the battalion established one of the first viable
Iraqi Security Forcepresences in the region by training local police forces and Iraqi National Guard(ING, formerly Iraqi Civil Defense Corpsunits) units. In a relatively short period of time, the ISF were capable of conducting small scale operations independent of the battalion.
2/7 was instrumental in establishing the 503rd ING Battalion. The 2/7 Combined Action Program platoon was the focus of this effort. 2/7’s CAP facilitated the organization, training, and equipping of the Iraqi-led efforts of more than 500 Iraqi soldiers of the 503rd Battalion. Local Iraqi police forces also benefited from 2/7 presence in the city of Hit, but the experience with the ING was much more productive. ( [http://www.smallwarsjournal.com/documents/skuta.htm] [http://www.smallwarsjournal.com/documents/capiraq.htm] )
The 503d was able to achieve an initial Iraqi-only capability for providing some aspects of local security within a four month period. In addition to daily security duties within the local area of operations, elements of the 503d Battalion conducted limited offensive operations in the Hīt area as well. For example, the 503d conducted several cordon and searches of local villages independent of 2/7. Another prominent example is the 503d being designated as the Regimental Combat Team-7 (RCT-7) main effort during an RCT attack to destroy insurgents in Hīt in mid-October 2004.
2nd Battalion, 7th Marines approach toward coalition presence in the Hīt area, incorporating local Iraqi civil, religious, and tribal communities, with the emerging Iraqi security force efforts, resulted in a model example of how to gain and maintain stability in an areas known for it violent backlash towards coalition efforts. The 2/7 model of utilizing Arab and Iraqi societal cultural keys to success was a template which other units adopted in part through 2004 and 2005.
The highlight of 2/7’s efforts came during the Iraqi national transfer of sovereignty from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to the Interim Iraqi Government (IIG). Local citizens had hope in a new future with this transfer of power.
The difficult and challenging security situation prevailed for the remainder of the year, when the 1st Marine Division and both of its RCTs continued to be largely focused on Fallujah. In late 2004 coalition units in the Hīt area were again repositioned to support operations in Fallujah during November 2004. This action depleted coalition presence in the western portion of Al Anbar even more so than during April 2004, reducing the span of tasks which U.S. units remaining in Al Anbar could perform. Without a sustained effort towards dialogue with local Iraqis and mentoring of Iraqi Security Forces in the Hīt area, the insurgency grew in intensity in the Hīt-Haditha-Rawah corridor; this situation was not reversed until mid-late 2006.
In September of 2004 the 2nd Battalion 7th Marines were relieved by
1st Battalion 23rd Marinesbased out of Texas. Initially the battalion was located at Al Asad Airbase but as the months passed and the conflict in Fallujah escalated, the battalions companies were tasked with separate areas of operation. The battalion was ordered to cover a majority of the Al Anbar province. It was during this time that the marines in the battalion engaged in the "Six Days of HIT." It began as an ambush on a US military convoy. That evening the 1st Battalion 23rd Marines's Scout/Sniper platoon was called upon to conduct reconnaissance on the western region of the city. At the same time, Bravo Company made their way to the eastern side of the city, via Ar Ramadi, to recover a police station which had been overtaken by groups of insurgents. In the six days that followed the battalion's Scout/Snipers, eventually accompanied by 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company and elements from US ARMY Special Forces, engaged and repelled hundreds of insurgents with minimal casualties.
March 2005 through February 2006
In April 2005, the 2nd Marine Division assumed control of Anbar, and Regimental Combat Team 2, Commanded by Colonel Davis, established a base of operations at Al Asad Air Base. 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, a Reserve Marine Corps unit out of Ohio, incorporated the City of Hit into their area of operation. Assisting 3/25 was Alph Company, 4th Assault Amphibian Bn, Reserve Marine Corps unit from Norfolk, VA, Gulfport, MS, and Tampa, FL. 3/25, formerly concentrating their operations out of the Forward Operating Base (FOB) six miles north of Hit, reached into the city, establishing two Firm Bases and one Combat Outpost. Firm Base One, which was the epicenter for Civil Affairs Operations, was positioned at the "Teacher's College" and the primary school in Hai Al Molamein and Hai Al Seneya (Teacher's District and Industrial District). Firm Base 2 was established at the Youth Center in the heart of the city, and Combat Outpost 3 was established at the "Pink Hotel" along the Euphrates river, near the Hit water treatment plan. After establishing a stronger presence in the city the insurgency began to take emboldened steps at ousting the Marines. 3/25 worked to bring stability and security to the City through presence patrols, active intelligence gathering, and Civil Military Operations / Civil Affairs, led by Captain John Cordone (CA Team Commander 5th CAG), who replaced Major Rick Croker, a highly effective Reserve Officer and policeman who was killed in action north of the city.
As the summer came to a close, the insurgency launched well aimed coordinated attacks against the Marines and the Iraqi Army unit that was assigned to the area. On August 1, around 6pm, a huge suicide vehicle borne IED detonated on Mobile Assault Platoon 9, a Weapons Company platoon composed largely of augmentees from other companies. The explosion was the largest of 5 IEDs suffered by MAP 9 during their tour. One Marine, Sgt James Graham, was killed instantly. Two Marines, LCpl Arturo Cordova and LCpl Richard Turner, were severely injured as well as Corpsman HM3 Jim Alunni. A dozen or so near by civilians were also killed or wounded. When the radio request for helicopter medevac was made, it was denied by the Army unit responsible for such missions. A Marine Corps cargo transport helicopter, not a designated medical ambulatory unit, happened to hear the radio traffic and responded to the call. Without their selfless act it is highly unlikely that any of the casualties would have survived. The Marine helicopter transported the wounded civilians as well as Americans to Al Asad air base for emergency care. The helicopter units moniker was the "Guardian Angels". Later that same evening, as MAP 9 was driving themselves back to Camp Hit with their destroyed humvee in tow, they were attacked again. This time a daisy chain of road side IEDs was detonated on the center of the formation, and was followed by small arms fire from the left flank. MAP 9 was able to fight their way through the ambush thanks to the purposeful and unwavering skill of its turreted machine gunners. There were no American or Iraqi army deaths or serious injuries suffered in this ambush. Insurgent casualties were evident,but unconfirmed. Key attacks focused on India Company, 3/25. On September 4th, around 10am, two suicide vehicle bombers attempted access to Firm Base One. Taking advantage of an innocent distraction created by some municipal workers, as well as a recent visit the Firm Base by a prominent Sheikh, one pick-up truck, and one bread truck, ladened with explosives, sped to the east entry control point. The vehicles exploded killing two Iraqi soldiers and wounding a large number of coalition forces. A 45 minute fire fight followed, to include several RPG shots at the buildings. At the same time another parked vehicle bomb exploded on the Hit Bridge, which crossed the Euphrates River.
During the autumn of 2005, it became increasingly clear to U.S. military commanders that as the elections of
October 15and December 15approached, more combat forces would be needed to bolster security along the upper Euphrates. 3/25 ended their deployment mid September and were replaced by the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. The Civil Affairs Team was replaced by Team 1, Detachment 3, 6th CAG, commanded by Major Tom Shoemake, which began their relief-in-place on September 4th at Firm Base One. As an example of the many policy inconsistencies that were to follow, 3/1 was replaced after only two weeks by the 2nd of the 114th Field Artillery. 3/1 moved north to take over Haditha Damn, while the 2/114, a Mississippi National Guard unit, began operations in Hit. Commanded by Lt Col Gary Huffman, the 2/114 was employed as a provisional infantry battalion with an attached Active Duty Tank Company: Alpha Troop, Task Force 2-11 Armored Cavalry Regiment. Alpha Troop, TF 2-11 ACR conducted their intra-theater deployment to Hit, Iraq under the direction of the Executive Officer, CPT George Kloppenburg and Troop 1SG, 1SG Wilfred Urioste. The Commander, CPT Kenneth E. A. Swift, who was on leave during their move to Hit, would join them two weeks later as they continued to conduct combat operations for the Troop's last two months in Iraq. Under Lt Col Huffman's command, operations in the City of Hit drove on consistent intelligence, civil-military operations, and special operations supported by an Operational Detachment "A" Team. Supporting coalition forces in the city for the month of November 2005, and in direct support of 2-114, was a small four man Air Naval Gunfire liaison Company (ANGLICO), Firepower Control Team that was able to provide specialized spotter missions, advanced communications, observation, reporting and terminal control of surface to surface fires and precision guided airstrikes. Lt Col Huffman, collaborating in depth with Major Shoemake, the ODA Team Leader and backed up by the ANGLICO team, made many bold decisions that assisted in discovering various insurgent and terrorist cells. 2/114 additionally oversaw the October 15 elections, and planted the seeds for a successful December 15 election.
After only 60 days, 2/114 was replaced by 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, part of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. 2/1 had just completed an operation across the Euphrates River, with mediocre result in weapons caches and insurgents discovered or killed. After the operation they took control of the City of Hit for two weeks.
Mid December saw the arrival of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit commanded by Colonel McKenzie, and 1st Battalion 2nd Marines commanded by Lt Col Andrew Smith, both capable leaders with tremendous understanding of counter-insurgency operations. The 22nd MEU later withdrew mid February after a highly successful tour, and was replaced by the 1st of the 36th Infantry under command of Lt Col Graves. In later March Major Shoemake's Civil Affairs Team was replaced by elements of 3rd CAG, led by Captain Brent Lilly.
The Fall and winter of 2005-2006 represents one of the challenges coalition forces has with the war in Iraq, predominately an inconsistent policy for assigning units to an area of operation. Not only does this challenge demonstrate strained commitment, but it also hinders effective intelligence gathering and consistent operational tempo. Recognizing this, higher command facilitated a decision to position 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division in the city for a one year tour.
March 2006 onwards
March 2006 was the start of the first consistent policy in Hit, Iraq. Having been positioned in Hit for one year, LtCol Graves tasked his staff to plan for goal oriented operations focusing on Stabilization Operations and Civil Military Operations. Lt Col Grave's Operations Officer orchestrated highly effective meetings to exploit previous successes, while learning from the mistakes as well.
In February 2007 Task Force 2-7 Infantry, from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Fort Stewart Georgia, commanded by LTC Douglas C. Crissman, took over responsibility of Hit from Task Force 1-36 Infantry and its attachment A co. 1/6. The Task Force consisted of a Headquarters Company (HHC) commanded by CPT John Busa, two Infantry Companies A CO. commanded by Kelvin Swint and B CO. commanded by CPT Daniel Fitch, an Armor Company D CO. commanded by CPT Thomas Frohnhoefer, an Engineer Company E CO. commanded by CPT Martin Ojeda and a Support Company F CO. commanded by CPT Jesse Wright. The Task Force's Executive Officers in Hit were MAJ Thomas Kelly and MAJ Paul Maxwell. The Task Force's Operations Officers in Hit were MAJ Paul Maxwell and MAJ Geoffery Fuller.
Almost immediately following the transfer of authority, the local Iraqi leaders pressed the TF 2-7 IN for an operation to clear Hit due to the high level of insurgents believed to be in the city. LTC Crissman, the TF commander, agreed to a clearance operation and OPERATION SHURTA NASIR was created. Operation Shurta Nasir (Police Victory) was TF 2-7IN’s first Task Force level operation and set the stage for stability and security within AO Hit. The intent of the operation was to clear the city of AIF and assist the Iraqi Police (IP’s) in establishing police stations within the city. Before the operation the Hit Police were over run while trying to establish new police station in the city. TF 2-7IN elements provided an outer cordon (with IA assistance), construction assets, and ground and air QRF support, while the IP’s conducted clearing operations and occupied new police stations.The operation began on 15 February, 2007 with a support package consisting of sustainment, medical and construction assets being pushed forward to FB4, as well as a platoon-sized QRF element. On 16 February, the TF TAC was moved to FB1 as a forward C2 element. Six blocking positions were occupied, preventing vehicle and pedestrian traffic into and out of the city, and a curfew was announced. RCT-2 Heavy Engineers, escorted by 2nd Plt E/2-7IN, began berming operations near the southern blocking positions to assist in enforcing the cordon.Once the cordon was set, IP’s established TCP’s within the city to enforce the curfew and began to occupy the two new IP stations in conjunction with the PTT. Blocking positions were established by platoons led by 1LT Scott T. Freas and 1LT Eric Perkins and IP’s began conducting clearing operations, beginning in the northwestern portion of Hit and moving toward the southern blocking positions, ultimately resulting in over twenty detainees and shifting the power in favor of the newly legitimized police force. At the conclusion of the four day operation, two new Iraqi Police stations were established; IP Station 2 in the middle of Hit was constructed by 2nd PLT E/2-7 IN, led by 1LT William C. Murray II and SSG Robert Puckett; IP Station 3 in the southern area of the city was constructed by the Task Force's Scout Platoon, led by 1LT Andrew Flemming and CPT Mark Cobos. Over 45 concrete barriers were emplaced at IP station 2 as well as over 1000 sandbags and more than a kilometer of razor wire. Police checkpoints were also established at the hospital and several key intersections, and the city was free of insurgents. The operation was finalized by a walk down the one time most dangerous street in Hit, "Cherry Street", by LTC Crissman, the Hit IP chief GEN. Hamid, Mayor Hikat and an entourage of Hit citizens. Cherry Street runs through the center of the city and is the home of the Hit outdoor market.
In Hit, A Company and B Company, along with the Civil Affairs team, PTT teams, a Psychological Operations team and other TF elements, continued to make progress. The TF began efforts in earnest through the expansion of the Joint Coordination Center co-located at FB1 under the leadership of CPT Mark Cobos. This JCC would prove to be an invaluable asset to the TF and the citizens of the AO over the next eight months. During this time, the commander worked tirelessly with CAG assistance to appoint a city mayor and develop a working city council. Through these efforts, a mayor, Sheik Hikmat, and a city council were organized. On the 20th of March, the TF witnessed the successful delivery of five billion Iraqi Dinar to the Hit bank. The TF opened the
civil-military operations centerat IP Station 2 on RTE CHERRY on 26 March beginning an operation that would assist with the governance and economic LOO’s as well as offer a place to accept and pay condolence claims. March also marketed the first sustained month of peace in Hit. Citizens began reopening shops along Cherry Street and along the water front of the Euphrates.
April saw many advancements within the Hit. On the 25th of April, the governor of the Anbar province visited the city of Hit to meet with the Mayor and city council members. This momentous visit marked the first time since the war began that the governor visited the city. During his visit, he certified the city council and recognized them as a legitimate entity. Another significant step ahead during this month was the clean-up and reimbursement for damages at COP 3 near the Hit bridge. Given the improved security situation in the city, the TF decided to reposition its forces and turn the once thriving business area back over to the citizens of Hit. On the 29th of April, the final piece of this story was made as the Task Force paid out almost $100,000 to business owners for them to rebuild their shops and restaurants.
TF 2-7IN assisted in the coordination for another delivery of five billion Iraqi Dinar to the Al Rasheed bank in Hit. The Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) made multiple visits to assess current and develop future projects across AO Hit. The legal system in Hit also reached some very important milestones. Establishing a “Rule of Law” had been a crucial step towards Iraqi self-sufficiency since American forces established a relatively safe and secure environment back in February. Hit was now one of the few cities in western Anbar Province with a fully-functioning courthouse with a full staff of lawyers, clerks, paralegals, and judge. The Task Force helped the Iraqis make improvements to their courthouse and also established a group of investigators to serve as the link between the police who arrest the criminals and the judge who determines their punishment. Like a group of detectives, the investigators researched alleged crimes and gathered the evidence to support any decision made by the judge. The IP arrested a man for kidnapping based on evidence gathered by the investigators. The judge was able to issue a warrant for his arrest and the individual was taken into Iraqi Police custody awaiting his trial.
TF 2-7 IN also initiated a local women’s group in Hit. With allegedly 53% of the local population being female, TF 2-7 IN attempted to take appropriate steps to engage with the female population in order to better address their needs. The American forces' Iraqi Women’s Engagement Program met each Tuesday evening with some of the Americans' female Cottonbalers and a female interpreter. Both U.S. and Iraqi doctors (male and female) were on hand to address their health concerns and even give quick exams to the women and their children.
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