Commemoration of the Second Battle of Fallujah, Operation AL FAJR


11/08/2014: The Marines and Sailors of 1st Marine Division commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the Second Battle of Fallujah, Operation AL FAJR, by hosting a ceremony at Camp Pendleton.

The ceremony honored all service members who participated in the historic battle, and reunited veterans from private to general officer in a day of commemoration. Retired Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski, commander of the 1st Marine Division during the battle, was the guest of honor.

Credit:1 Marine Expeditionary Force:11/7/14

Urban close air support (CAS) successfully employed in Fallujah in 2004 highlights the capability of Marine Corps-style command and control (C2) of aviation.

The CAS plan was built on Marine Corps C2 basics—procedural control and unity of command, which were enhanced with a common map or grid reference graphic (GRG).

This maximized the fantastic capability of aviation precision weapons and targeting technology, and in the case of Fallujah, made fixed-wing CAS an appropriate option for supporting fires, underscoring the utility and need for tactical aviation (TacAir) in the Marine Corps.

The main assault into Fallujah in November 2004 (Operation PHANTOM FURY/AL FAJR) commenced when eight GBU–31s, 2,000-pound joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs), dropped by Marine Fighter/Attack (All-Weather) Squadron 242 F/A–18Ds, smashed into a railroad-topped berm bordering Fallujah’s north side.

The bombs created breaching lanes for Marines of the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines to exploit later that day. In the follow-on battle, as the Marines, soldiers, and coalition troops fought door to door throughout the city, supporting fires were perpetual, a cacophony of precisely delivered destruction.

Air strikes came continuously and in harmony with other fires; most were “danger-close” and rapidly sequenced.[1]  One battalion air officer remarked:

“I tell you what, for like three weeks, it felt like nothing but a continuous faucet, a continuous fire hose of airplanes. I never knew a time in November when I had a TIC [troops in contact] when I didn’t get an airplane within about a minute”.[2]

Although sporadic fighting continued for weeks after, it took about 10 days for the main resistance to be squelched in Fallujah.

The high-tempo penetrating attack envisioned by Marine commanders was realized. It had been substantially facilitated by CAS.

The Fallujah operation was daunting. Any type of urban CAS qualifies as one of the most complex and demanding tasks known to modern warfare. In Fallujah the additional challenge of a counterinsurgency environment existed, thus the need to minimize collateral damage and win hearts and minds, something not achievable if a city is razed by aerial attacks under the glare of a ubiquitous media.

Also, it was a joint fight, both on the ground and in the air. Ground and aviation units from other Services and nations participated.

Finally there was the blue tracking problem.

There were lots of good guys fighting in Fallujah—ten battalions worth crammed into a five-kilometer square city composed of look-alike and densely packed, low-slung, brown/gray brick buildings.

For more from the above analysis of the Battle of Fallujah and lessons learned see the following: