In the Spring of 2004, Coalition Forces, led by the United States Military, were engaged in a vicious counter-insurgency fight in the newly liberated Iraq. Just a year earlier, the Coalition had invaded Iraq and crushed Saddam Hussein’s armies in historical proportions. Cessation of major combat operations had been declared only 43 days after the war began.
The mission to uproot Saddam Hussein’s ruling party was complete and Saddam himself in custody. The task of assisting Iraqis in the establishment of a stable government and rebuilding the country’s infrastructure and economy lay ahead. Elements inside of Iraq were vying for control and influence in the yet-to-be established government, and many subsets of these elements would use fear, threats, and violence to manipulate the citizens of Iraq to comply. The Coalition, as the liberators of Iraq, were inherently involved in the struggle for establishment of a democratically elected government.
It was behind this backdrop in the Spring of 2004 that the Soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment “Blackhorse” stationed at Fort Irwin and the National Training Center, California were ordered to relinquish their role as the trainers of soon-to-be combatants and begin their own training for future counter-insurgency operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom III.
In June, 2004 the 58th Engineers deployed to Camp Victory near Baghdad International Airport and Camp Cuervo in Southeastern Baghdad. In January 2005, 1st and 2nd Squadrons as well as the Regimental Headquarters deployed to Iraq. 1st Squadron (Ironhorse) deployed to Camp Taji in Northern Baghdad and later moved to Camp Liberty near Baghdad International Airport. 2nd Squadron (Eaglehorse) deployed to Forward Operating Base Kalsu, 35 miles south of Baghdad. The Regimental Headquarters deployed to Camp Courage in Mosul taking on the role as Headquarters, Task Force Freedom and Multi-National Division North West (MND-NW). All units were deployed for approximately one year with the last elements of the Regiment returning home to Fort Irwin in February 2006.
The scene depicted in this breathtaking print is of a typical combat patrol conducting a cordon and search. Over the course of an evening, many of these cordon and search missions would be conducted. Planning for these missions would start as much as a month in advance to literally just hours prior to execution. On the night of the mission, a patrol could raid up to fifteen targets searching for suspected terrorists and hidden weapon caches. These operations often began in the late evening and ran into the early morning thus lending credence to the print’s title, “A Good Night’s Work.”
In the print we see a patrol leader reporting to his higher headquarters his current situation while in the HMMWV’s turret a gunner provides local security for Soldiers as they exploit a discovered weapons cache. To the patrol leader’s left is a Soldier removing an artillery shell from the discovered cache while to the immediate rear are four Soldiers with shovels looking into a hollowed out parcel of ground. Further back, we see four local nationals guarded by Blackhorse Troopers. This particular scene allows us to presume that these men were the suspected terrorists targeted by the evening’s operation and the cache found was their supply of weapons and munitions used in their attacks against Coalition Forces. To the far right, stands an M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle providing added security over the entire scene.
The entire scene depicts the difficulties faced and overcome by Blackhorse Troopers during their year long deployment yet resident in their demeanor is the calm professionalism and resolve in accomplishing the mission.
“A Good Night’s Work” – This print of 11th ACR Troopers at the break of dawn processing detainees and uncovering a cache of munitions is dedicated to the Troopers serving with the 11th ACR who gave the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Iraqi Freedom III. The Troopers listed below represent the best ideals upon which freedom is founded: SPC Casey Laware, CPL Tyler Dickens, CPL Kevin Price, CPT Stephen Frank, CPT Ralph Harting III, SGT John Smith, SPC Bryan Barron, SSG Saburant Parker, SPC Daniel Varnado, CPL Audrey Lunsford, SGT Adrian Orosco, SSG Milton Rivera-Vargas, SPC Javier Villanueva, 1LT Robert Oneto-Sikorski, SGT Jacob Dones, SPC Brian Derks, SSG Luis Pena-Romero, SGT Travis Cooper, SGT David Murray, SGT Mark Maida, SFC Randy Collins.