Operation Marne Grand Slam
On February 15, 2008, Multi-National Division - Center (MND-C) transitioned from Operation Marne Thunderbolt to Operation Marne Grand Slam. During Marne Thunderbolt, the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT) of the 3rd Infantry Division (ID) focused on clearing Arab Jabour, which lies on the west bank of the Tigris River just south of Baghdad, of its al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) presence. In Operation Marne Grand Slam, the 3rd HBCT of the 3rd ID seeks to similarly push southwards on the eastern bank of the Tigris in the areas south of Salman Pak.
In its initial phase, Marne Grand Slam involved clearing a peninsula just along the Tigris River. In addition to targeting the members of AQI, Coalition forces attacked the group's infrastructure of safe houses, weapon caches and firing points to make it far more difficult for AQI to reconstitute in the area in the future.
The 3rd HBCT's move further southwards was facilitated by partners from the Republic of Georgia, who took control over more secure areas further North in the 3rd HBCT's area of operations, freeing up U.S. troops to move south.
U.S. commanders preceded the operation by having talks with local tribal leaders to set up a security cooperation arrangement in order to establish new Sons of Iraq (SoI) groups. These meetings organized SoI leaders and plotted locations for future security checkpoints.
Through early March, Coalition Soldiers captured and killed of 35 extremists, established a new Combat Outpost (COP Carver) southeast of Salman Pak, and unearthed 15 weapons caches. This was all enabled by assistance from the 6500 Sons of Iraq that operate in the area.
During this time, the 3rd HBCT, 3rd ID made inroads on economic and political development as well. The brigade established a governance center in Salman Pak, which allowed the local government to deliver services and address needs in the town. Because this had not been possible in the preceding three years, insurgents were more able to make inroads with the population.
Operation Marne Grand Slam is expected to last through mid-March, at which point MND-C plans to transition to Operation Marne Rugged, which will focus on clearing AQI insurgents from the Tigris River Valley near the city of Iskandariyah.