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Mission 16 - Force Background & Histories
Sadr City
Friendly Forces

1st Cavalry, 2nd battalion, 5th Cavalry

1st Cavalry, 2nd Battallion, 5th CavalryThe "First Team" took to the battlefield in 1855, when the men of the 1st Cavalry protected America’s settlers in the Western frontier against Sioux, Comanche, Arapaho, Apache, and Ute Nations during the Indian Wars. Six years later, the 1st Cavalry entered into fierce, horse-mounted Civil War battles at Bullrun, Antietam, Gettysburg, Wilderness, and Appomattox. Just prior to World War I, the Cavalry engaged Pancho Villa's forces during the Mexican exploration, the last of the Cav’s large horse-mounted battles.

By 1940, technological advances like tanks and aircrafts replaced horses and, three years later, the 1st Cavalry Division entered the Southwest Pacific as foot soldiers following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The First Team fought in Korea, then Vietnam, where the 1st Cavalry’s signature patch was altered: the yellow background was changed to a drab, olive green to conceal the soldiers from enemy forces.

Today’s 1st Cavalry Division has more than 17,000 soldiers and is the foremost heavy-armored division in the US Army. Seven brigade-sized elements include combat aviation engineers, division artillery and division support brigades. The 1st Cavalry has an air defense artillery battalion, signal battalion, military intelligence battalion, personnel services battalion, chemical and military police companies, and a horse cavalry detachment.

The swift power of the 1st Cavalry is no military secret. Our government depends on these men to lead the way on the battlefield with the highest level of technology and human ingenuity. Former Commander of the Allied Forces, General Norman Schwarzkopf, in the opening days of Operation Desert Storm, barked a terse order that sums it up: "Send in the First Team. Destroy the Republican Guard. Let's go home." Back to top

Enemy Forces

Mahdi Army
The Mahdi army is the militia wing of The Active Religious Seminary, fighters headed by rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Once believed to include 5,500-7,000 trained combatants and active participants, heavy recruitment in the past months in regions like Sadr City push the membership estimate to more than ten thousand guerillas.

Ongoing fighting around the capital has progressively involved al-Sadr's army. In early April 2004, the Mahdi army attempted to occupy and gain control of police stations and government buildings in Baghdad, engaging coalition forces in battle using small arms and RPGs. The guerillas are also blamed for attacking British troops in Basra, assaulting the governor’s office and firing RPGs at coalition headquarters.

The Mahdi force survives with help from neighboring Iran. Money has been transferred from Iran to al-Sadr since 2003 in an attempt to settle an Iraqi Shiite power struggle in Karbala. To help prepare elements of the Mahdi Army, Iran's Revolutionary Guard is allegedly setting up camps and training centers along the border.

There is no official issue of weapons, as fighters usually possess a cache of their own guns dating back to a time when Sadr City was Saddam City, its people controlled and tormented by Saddam Hussein. Members of the Mahdi army see the US as "invaders," and view George W. Bush as their new oppressor. Back to top

Muqtada al-Sadr
Back in 1999, Grand Ayatollah Muhammed Sadiq al-Sadr and his two sons were assassinated on orders from Saddam Hussein. Having founded a political Islamic movement in the late 1950s, the Grand Ayatollah was revered by the neighborhood that now bears his name.

The only surviving son, Muqtada al-Sadr, is believed to be 30 years old. A moon-faced, pudgy young man, Muqtada has no earned status and little religious education. Much of his past is unknown, but by virtue of bearing his father’s last name, he has clout by association. Described as a maverick young cleric, al-Sadr has led numerous anti-US demonstrations against the "invaders," and assembled the menacing Mahdi army from poor Shiite men and boys.

Al-Sadr is wanted on murder charges in connection with last year’s killing of a rival, Sayyed Abdel Majid al-Khoei. Al-Khoei was hacked to death by a mob when he returned from exile in London to help run Najaf. Back to top

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