By Sgt. 1st Class Reginald Rogers, USA
BAGHDAD, Sep. 4, 2006 – Two Longbow Apache helicopters provided air-to-ground support to American soldiers by blasting enemy vehicles during action in western Baghdad yesterday, U.S. officials reported. The flight of choppers from Multinational Division Baghdad's Combat Aviation Brigade teamed up to assist U.S. ground forces from the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
The combined effort resulted in one terrorist killed, four captured and two terrorist's vehicles destroyed, officials said. The Apache crews were conducting a combat air patrol mission when they received the call to assist. At about 4:45 p.m., the pilots noticed two abandoned vehicles near where the attack was reported.
"The vehicles were staged for the (terrorists), who tried to engage the infantry guys," explained Army Maj. Byron Needum, one of the Apache pilots assigned to the CAB's 1st Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment. "When we got there, the infantry had already got the best of them and detained three. "They were still looking for more (terrorists)," Needum continued. "That's when we found the vehicles, and vehicles didn't fit the situation."
Apache teams rarely have to engage the enemy once they arrive on the scene, Needum said. "Normally when we get there, people don't want to 'play' anymore," he explained. "Even if we don't engage the enemy, our presence alone helps the ground guys out."
Helicopter crews have a picture-window view of enemy activity on the ground, Needum said. That advantage, he said, is often used to support U.S. ground forces. "We have a different vantage point, and we can see farther than you can on the ground," said Needum, who is also the company commander for his battalion's Headquarters and Headquarters Company. "I don't think they would have seen those (enemy) vehicles without us."
According to Chief Warrant Officer Scott Quaife, who piloted the second of the two Apaches, his team spotted the two vehicles upon arrival to the location, but could not engage without receiving confirmation that they belonged to the terrorists. "We spotted the two Bradleys, and they had already opened fire on the canal with their 25 mm guns," Quaife explained. "They said there were two possible (terrorists) running in the canal, but we didn't find anybody."
Then, Needum's helicopter crew noticed the two vehicles, Quaife recalled, "so we investigated the vehicles. We called the (ground unit) and told them we thought the vehicles were the enemy's." Quaife said the ground unit sent personnel to investigate, and once confirmation was given, the helicopters attacked the enemy vehicles.
"The ground unit's leadership approved the Apaches to destroy the vehicles to keep its soldiers safe," Quaife said. The ground unit reported that the two vehicles contained loaded AK-47s, he said, and possible improvised explosive device-making materials. The Apache team fired on the vehicles with at least 150 rounds from its 30 mm machine guns and shot four rockets, Quaife said. The barrage, he said, destroyed both vehicles.
"The lead vehicle blew up and caught on fire after being engaged by Needum's helicopter," Quaife said, noting his chopper crew "shot two rockets to help destroy the other vehicle." Officials said a post-engagement assessment showed that the ground unit had killed a terrorist, wounded another and detained three. The soldiers also found a weapons cache containing four rocket-propelled-grenades, two RPG launchers, an AK-47 rifle, three machine guns with 100 rounds, a pair of flares and numerous rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition.
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Rogers is assigned to the 4th Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office.)