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

Staff Sgt. Ryan Wallace in full battle gear. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Staff Sgt. Ryan Wallace in full battle gear. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Local Iraqi SWAT commander standing next to an insurgent gun truck that was destroyed after the GBU-12 500-pound hit the trench next to the truck. The insurgents had several vehicle-mounted heavy machine guns. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Local Iraqi SWAT commander standing next to an insurgent gun truck that was destroyed after the GBU-12 500-pound hit the trench next to the truck. The insurgents had several vehicle-mounted heavy machine guns. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Enemy trench that the GBU-12 hit. The trench was 10 feet deep and the berm in front of it was 10 feet high, making the enemy position very difficult to assault. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Enemy trench that the GBU-12 hit. The trench was 10 feet deep and the berm in front of it was 10 feet high, making the enemy position very difficult to assault. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Copy of notes written by Staff Sgt. Ryan Wallace during the battle. He normally did not write these down -- as he put it, “Some things are more important than notes. Like shooting back, for one.” (U.S. Air Force photo)

Copy of notes written by Staff Sgt. Ryan Wallace during the battle. He normally did not write these down -- as he put it, “Some things are more important than notes. Like shooting back, for one.” (U.S. Air Force photo)

At the end of his tour in Iraq, Staff Sgt. Ryan Wallace visited Maj. August Marquart, the F-16 pilot who dropped the GBU-12 on the trench. Marquart (left) and Wallace are standing in front of the F-16 Marquart flew that day. (U.S. Air Force photo)

At the end of his tour in Iraq, Staff Sgt. Ryan Wallace visited Maj. August Marquart, the F-16 pilot who dropped the GBU-12 on the trench. Marquart (left) and Wallace are standing in front of the F-16 Marquart flew that day. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Part of the Warrior Airmen exhibit in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Part of the Warrior Airmen exhibit in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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 -- they were ambushed by about 800 heavily-entrenched insurgents. 

Two U.S. Army Special Forces teams that included USAF Combat Controllers Tech. Sgt. Bryan Patton and Staff Sgt. 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 Staff Sgt. Ryan Wallace. This team became pinned down by enemy fire. At a critical moment, Wallace called in a 500-pound laser-guided bomb against a key enemy position only 100 meters away from where he was (for a 500-pound 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.

Click here to return to the Warrior Airmen Overview.

 

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