Air assault vs. air strike
While this is the biggest air ASSAULT in Iraq since April 22, 2003 (when the 101st Airborne assaulted from Iskandiriya to Mosul), keep one fact in perspective: There are not a lot of air assaults in Iraq to begin with. When the U.S. Army uses the term "air assault" they are referring specifically to air TRANSPORT -- moving infantrymen into an area via aircraft. An air STRIKE is when they are flying specifically to shoot at a target or targets with missiles, machine gun fire, etc.
In other words, what's happening today is really equivalent to transporting 1,500 infantrymen via convoy. But since this assault involves the 101st Airborne division, they move via the air rather than the ground. There have been countless operations in Iraq that have involved 1,500 troops or more moving via convoy -- helicopters are large targets so ground transport is the more common mode of transportation.
There have not been any reports of a single shot fired yet in this "Operation Swarmer," which occurred in broad daylight. Air strikes generally occur at night. Once the 1,500 troops are in place, Pentagon officials say the next few days will be spent primarily searching the area. So far, they have found five weapons caches, including artillery and mortar rounds, small arms munitions, medical supplies, IED-making materials and instruction manuals. There are more than 650 U.S. troops and 800 Iraqi troops involved. The assault was northwest of Samarra, in an isolated and relatively rural area.
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