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Combating the Insurgency: Air Force Combat Controllers at Najaf, Iraq


Combating the Insurgency: Air Force Combat Controllers at Najaf, Iraq


           In late January 2007, Iraqi police in Najaf went to arrest what they thought were only 30 members of the fanatical “Soldiers of Heaven” sect.  Instead they were ambushed by about 800 heavily-entrenched insurgents.

           Two US Army Special Forces teams that included USAF Combat Controllers TSgt Bryan Patton and SSgt David Orvosh arrived to help.  The battle raged, but Patton and Orvosh skillfully brought in a stream of close air support that bombed and strafed the enemy.

           As the fighting continued, another Special Forces team arrived, which included Combat Controller SSgt Ryan Wallace.  This team became pinned down by enemy fire.  At a critical moment, Wallace called in a 500-lb laser-guided bomb against a key enemy position only 100 meters away from where he was (for a 500-lb bomb, 300 meters is considered “danger close”).  It killed or stunned the 40 insurgents in the position.  Wallace and two others charged the position and killed the remaining enemy.  The destruction of this strongpoint proved to be the turning point in the battle.       

           About 370 insurgents were killed, mostly by air attack, and more than 400 were captured (including 14 high-value targets).  The three Combat Controllers’ actions were essential to victory in this battle. 

Two F-16 pilots--Maj August Marquardt and 1st Lt George Collings--played an important part in the battle.  Marquardt dropped bombs in support during the engagement, while Collings dropped the GBU-12 on the enemy trench.

Picture of Capt  GeorgeCollings receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross from his father  Maj. Gen. Michael Collings.For his skillful action, Collings was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.  His father, MGen Michael Collings, presented him with the decoration.




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