Monday, December 26, 2005
By RYAN LENZ and ANTONIO CASTANEDA, Associated Press Writers - Dec 26
BEIJI, Iraq - U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jim Barlow, right, of Counce, Tennessee, wears a Santa Claus hat while piloting a C-130 cargo plane in Iraq, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2005. Approximately 160,000 American troops spent Christmas in Iraq this year. (AP Photo/Jacob Silberberg)
U.S. Army soldiers carried out raids in dusty Iraqi towns. Military doctors treated soldiers wounded by roadside bombs. Christmas in was just another day on the front lines for the U.S. military.
Troops woke long before sunrise on a cold, rainy Christmas morning to raid an upscale neighborhood a few miles from their base. In honor of the day, they dubbed the target "Whoville," after the town in the Dr. Seuss book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
Commanders said they ordered the operation because they did not know the identities of the neighborhood's residents and several roadside bombs had recently been planted near the district, which isn't far from Forward Operating Base Summerall in Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad,
U.S. patrols had never before ventured into the neighborhood, where the streets are lined with spacious homes.
Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade knew they weren't going to be welcome when they arrived in the dead of night. It just made sense to nickname the target after the village raided by Seuss' Grinch on Christmas morning, they said.
"It was appropriate. I did feel like the Grinch," said Pfc. John Parkes, 31, of Cortland, N.Y., a medic in one of several groups called "quick reaction teams" that respond to roadside explosions.
The raiders broke down doors, confiscated illegal machine guns, plastic bags of ammunition and gun clips. Iraqi law allows households to own AK-47s, but with limitations.
For many soldiers in the 101st, it was their second Christmas in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. The brigade, known as "Rakkasans," also raided a village on Thanksgiving morning this year.
Dave Haigler, Abilene, Texas
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