Airmen aid coalition ground forces

Story and photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael O

One leaflet at a time

***image1***SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) — American Airman here and members of the Australian Defence Force recently teamed up to deliver critical information to Iraqi civilians in southern Iraq.

Flying in a C-130 Hercules, Airmen from the 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, worked in conjunction with Australians from Overwatch Battle Group (West)-4, as they conducted two one-day missions to drop 330,000 leaflets designed to solicit the help of Iraqi civilians to not harbor insurgents or bomb manufacturers.

“This is what the war is all about  —  finding the bad guys targeting U.S., coalition forces and innocent civilians,” said Capt. MacArthur Hoglund, the aircraft commander for the second leaflet airdrop.

“This mission was unique in that typically, we’re transporting the Soldiers and Marines to and from the fight. This time, we were soliciting the help of civilians on the ground to help us catch the bad guy out there making the bombs.”

Overwatch Battle Group (West) is a cavalry and mounted infantry battle group and forms part of Operation Catalyst, the Australian Defence Force contribution to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Iraq.

The battle group is comprised of more than 500 members based at Ali Base, Iraq, where it undertakes a security overwatch role for Al Muthanna and Dhi Qar provinces as part of a larger coalition force.

Working with the Iraqi government, the Australian Defence Force continues to contribute to Multi-National Force – Iraq efforts to develop a secure and stable environment in Iraq, assist national recovery programs and facilitate the transition to Iraq self-government.

“The Australian forces in southern Iraq appreciate the assistance provided by our American partners,” said Lt. Col. Websdane, the commanding officer of Overwatch Battle Group (West). “These were highly successful airdrops that have helped us pursue our mission, which is to provide overwatch security in Dhi Qar and Al Muthanna provinces.”

The C-130 aircrew members were excited about the opportunity to support the Overwatch Battle Group by showcasing one of the many capabilities of the aircraft.
“It’s imperative that everyone is on the same page and instinctively knows what Plan B is for whatever the situation is that might come up during the flight,” Captain Hoglund said.

“Everything we do in preparation is key to getting it right the first time, especially when missions like this only give you one chance to get it right.”

The crew spent the better part of two days discussing a variety of “what-ifs” that could come up during flight, including dust storms, fuel or engine problems, that might impede the operation, as well as contingency plans and defensive tactics on the way to the pick-up point to pick up the leaflets, Captain Hoglund said.

“I’ve done passenger and cargo airdrops before, but this was my first combat airdrop for leaflets,” said Staff Sgt. John Columbia, a loadmaster from Fort Worth, Texas, deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “I thought it was a blast. I learned a lot from this experience and from the others on the mission who’ve done this before.”

It felt great to be a part of this mission, not just because it was something new and different, but also because it was rewarding to be doing something for the warfighters on the ground, instead of the usual transport of passengers and cargo, Sergeant Columbia said.

“The overall success of this mission is a demonstration of the cooperation and integration of coalition forces and their ability to execute,” said Col. Gary Goldstone, the 386th Expeditionary Operations Group commander.