Despite the incredible performance of the Javelins, the T-55s were still in front of Press Hill and behind cover. After making “dry” runs on the targets, the F-14s finally started getting GBU-16s onto one of the tanks. They then began to designate targets with a laser designator for the F/A-18 Hornets that followed the Tomcats. With the remaining tanks, trucks, and MTLBs under a withering shower of LGBs, many of the ODA 391 and 392 SF soldiers moved over to the CCP site to assist with the wounded. Unfortunately, the loss of life was heavy: 17 Peshmerga and a BBC cameraman were killed and an additional 45 wounded, including two of the 10th SFG troopers.
By 1115, the Iraqis began to break, and a dozen soldiers tried to surrender to the SF soldiers. As they did, though, two Toyota SUVs roared up and six men in white uniforms got out, machine gunning the surrendering troops. Shocked by the sight, the TACPs called in an F/A-18, which literally vaporized both the SUVs and their occupants with a well-placed GBU-16.
By 1040, all of the survivors of the errant LGB had been evacuated, and all of the SF soldiers from ODAs 044, 391, and 392 could concentrate on finishing off the Iraqi armored force to their front. However, the supply of Javelin missiles was running short, and there still were Iraqi vehicles and troops trying to find a way to fight back. Despite the shortage of missiles, the ODA 044 gunner fired the 12th shot of the battle, killing another MTLB. This caused the remaining Iraqi vehicles to begin moving towards Press Hill, in an attempt to close with the SF soldiers. However, the SF soldiers fired four more Javelins, destroying a T-55 and another APC.
By 1115, the Iraqis began to break, and a dozen soldiers tried to surrender to the SF soldiers. As they did, though, two Toyota SUVs roared up and six men in white uniforms got out, machine gunning the surrendering troops. Shocked by the sight, the TACPs called in an F/A-18, which literally vaporized both the SUVs and their occupants with a well-placed GBU-16. As this bizarre episode came to an end, Maj. Hubbard and the two ODB 390 “War Pigs” rolled up to conduct another battlefield resupply, including eight of the invaluable Javelins. While this was going on, one of the ODB 390 headquarters personnel took a shot with a Javelin, killing still another MTLB. When one more Javelin shot went wide, a Javelin “cease fire” was declared. The SF soldiers finished off the rest of the Iraqi vehicles and personnel with CAS. It took two hours to complete the job, but by 1600, the Iraqis had all surrendered, died, or retreated.
At 1600, ODB 390’s “War Pigs” set up a 60mm mortar to provide a base of fire, and ODAs 391 and 392 moved forward into the killing zone to set up defensive positions for the night. They spent the night hours dueling with a single Iraqi 152mm howitzer that fired single rounds at them, and then tried to hit the artillery piece with CAS. The only other excitement occurred on the morning of April 7 when a single T-55 began to maneuver in front of them and was destroyed with a Javelin shot and CAS. With that, the SF soldiers and their Peshmerga fighters picked up and continued the advance down the Green Line. All told, the SF soldiers fired 19 Javelins for 17 hits (eight Tanks and APCs, along with four trucks), and not one missile was fired at less than 2,200 meters range. Officially, the maximum range of the Javelin is 2,000 meters, well short of the longest shot of the battle at 4,200 meters.
Aftermath and Lessons
Within a matter of days, Col. Cleveland’s JSOTF-N forces occupied Kirkuk and its oil production fields without a single well head blown or refinery tower damaged. Thanks to the victory at Debecka Pass and other SF-led battles along the Green Line, the Iraqi forces surrendered, dissolved, or just retreated in disarray. Just three weeks later, the major combat phase of OIF was officially over and sustainment/support operations under way. For their actions on April 6, 2003, Sergeants Adamec and Brown were awarded Silver Stars for their successes with the then-untried Javelin missiles. For Capt. Wright, Sgt. Ray, and a number of other “Roughnecks” there were Bronze Stars and Army Commendation Medals for their actions, both combat and lifesaving, at Debecka Pass. There also is a great deal of study going on about just what they did, how they did it, and what they did it with.
For Capt. Wright, Sgt. Ray, and a number of other “Roughnecks” there were Bronze Stars and Army Commendation Medals for their actions, both combat and lifesaving, at Debecka Pass. There also is a great deal of study going on about just what they did, how they did it, and what they did it with.
ODB 390 and its four ODAs operated in a manner very close to what the U.S. Army has in mind for its planned Objective Force, due to debut sometime in the middle of the next decade. Designed to be built around lighter, more agile, and deployable vehicles and systems, the Objective Force is intended to replace the heavy armored forces in use presently. It’s a hard sell, though – one made more difficult by the fine performance of systems like the M1 Abrams tanks and M2/3 Bradley fighting vehicles in OIF. However, the performance of the “Roughnecks” at Debecka Pass shows that a light, mounted force with fire-and-forget “brilliant” weapons, “on the battlefield” logistical resupply, and good communications to call in CAS, can defeat armored units many times their size, weight, and numbers, and not suffer significant casualties. In fact, the only allied casualties suffered at Debecka Pass were a result of the errant “Blue-on-Blue” GBU-16 strike. Even this incident showed the way to the future, as the SF medical sergeants made use of some of the new, high-technology bandages and medical supplies coming into military service. It is quite likely that the Battle of Debecka Pass will go down in history as the first real example of 21st century warfare.
Author’s Note: This article has been reviewed for security concerns and factual accuracy, and is based on a variety of sources including personal interviews with participants. For purposes of personnel and operational security, only soldiers already publicly identified by U.S. Special Operations Command, along with officers of lieutenant colonel rank and above, were named. Otherwise personnel were referred to by rank and team/position.
This article was first published in The Year in Special Operations: 2004 Edition.