Command Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Wilson,
Hometown Soldier In On Capture of Saddam
BY JOHN CHAPPELL: Staff Writer
About 4 a.m. Sunday, Art and Nellie Wilson of Aberdeen got a phone call.
The Wilsons’ son, Command Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Wilson, is in Iraq. It was their daughter-in-law calling, but the news was good.
Soldiers had captured Saddam Hussein, and their son was a big part of it.
“Cathy called us between 4 and 5 o’clock Sunday morning,” Nellie Wilson said. “She said, ‘Mom, I’m not sure, but I’m almost sure that Larry was involved. When they started talking about the 4th Infantry Division and the 1st Brigade, I knew he had to have been involved. He is the command sergeant major.’
“Then she talked to him later on. He had seen Hussein when they took him out of the hole. That $750,000 you heard about? He was part of the team that put that on the vehicles to be taken away. I am very, very proud of him.”
Lawrence Wilson entered the Army from Aberdeen in February 1977. He married the former Cathy Williams of Southern Pines. Both are graduates of Pinecrest High School.
Wilson is command sergeant major to the 1st Brigade Combat Team. His commander is Col. James Hickey.
“He and Col. Hickey were right there with all the guys,” Cathy Williams said in a telephone interview Monday. “It is awesome. The kids are going, ‘Dad made history!’ I am so proud of them.”
To keep Saddam’s capture secret, the Army interrupted e-mail and telephone communication.
Cathy Wilson finally spoke to her husband Sunday afternoon. He’d been working 24 hours straight.
“He called me in the afternoon when the phones finally would work and he could get through,” she said. “I congratulated him, and of course he played dumb with me and pretended he didn’t know what I was talking about. Then he had a good laugh on me. I asked him who was in on it, and he told me. He is just really proud of the guys.”
Lawrence Wilson e-mailed The Pilot Tuesday, giving his personal account of Saddam’s capture.
The brigade had been conducting raids and other combat operations around Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit since April. The region is filled with his supporters
They questioned Saddam loyalists. Every capture added to the division’s store of knowledge.
A five-hour raid Dec. 4 in Tikrit brought in lower-level supporters, but not the chief man of five families who comprised the heart of Saddam’s protection. Wilson and Hickey learned he had escaped, fleeing to the nearby ancient town of Samarra.
Another Army unit then carried out a raid there. They captured several men and found $1.9 million in cash, but not the potential informant Hickey sought.
“The capture of Saddam started on the 12th of December with the capture of a individual who was very close to Saddam,” Wilson said. “The individual was questioned about the whereabouts of Saddam, and he stated he knew of two places where he might be.”
Hickey sent for the man.
“These two places were 15 minutes west of Tikrit, so he was flown to Tikrit where he was questioned more by Special Operation forces,” Wilson said. “He got here on the 13th of December and Colonel Hickey was called sometime mid morning about this informant and the information he had.”
Just before noon, they learned Saddam was possibly in an underground bunker in one of two locations.
“Once Colonel Hickey knew of this, he informed Major Reed, our operations officer, to send warning orders to G Troop 1-10 CAV (the recon troop for Wilson’s brigade combat team), our 299th Engineer Battalion, and our 4th Battalion 42nd Field Artillery for a possible raid in Ad-Dawr for HVT 1 — High Value Target Number One: Saddam Hussein,” he wrote. “We started making the plan for the raid and developing a time line.”
Saddam was thought to be in or near one of two farmhouses near the town of Ad-Dwar, a few miles from his birthplace in Uja. One of his most trusted aides, Izzat Ibrahim al-DouriAd-Dwar, is from Ad-Dwar.
The two houses were on the banks of the Tigris, opposite one of many palaces where Saddam used to come to swim. Saddam took refuge here before coming to power, staging operations in the 1960s against an Iraqi government he would later overthrow.
Troops secured a two-square-kilometer area around the houses.
“Colonel Hickey had a briefing with the special operations force to insure we were good and to set a time line,” Wilson wrote. “The 1st Battalion Combat Team was to go into Ad-Dawr with the special operations forces to capture Saddam.”
They code-named the houses Wolverine One and Wolverine Two.
“The command group was made up of Colonel Hickey, Major (Bryan) Reed, myself, our drivers, three Humvees and two Bradley’s with three-man crews.”
The command team left their forward operating base at 6:30 p.m. to link up with the forces.
“The 299th Engineers Battalion would secure the west side of the Tigris River to ensure no one crosses the river,” Wilson wrote. “We also had attack helicopters (64 Apaches) on standby if we needed them, call sign Viper. The special operations forces also had helicopters. They would secure the targets by air to ensure no one escaped their target areas.”
At the link-up site there would be two Special Pperations forces, G troop (divided into two platoons), the command group and a command element for special operations forces.
“The two assault forces were made up of one Special Operation forces team and a platoon from G troop,” Wilson wrote. “The other assault was made up of one Special Forces team and another platoon of G troop. The assault teams would depart at the same time, which was 1930 [7:30] and would close on Wolverine 1 and Wolverine 2 by 2000 [8:00]. The command and control group would follow behind the assault forces.”
By 8:15 p.m., some 20 to 30 Special Operations troops equipped with night vision goggles and laser-aimed weapons had Wolverines One and Two, but not Saddam.
Soldiers spotted two men running from another house about 200 yards away. The men were arrested, and a search of the area began.
Between the farmhouses was a small walled compound, soldiers found a metal lean-to and a mud hut.
One soldier noticed a white rug lying oddly on the ground nearby. Pulling it aside, troops found a mud- and dirt-covered lid made of foam plastic.
They pulled it up, peering into the dark shaft beneath, preparing to throw in grenades. A man appeared to be lying on the floor at the bottom.
Could he be one of the two most wanted men on earth? Their call came to Wilson’s command unit.
“At 2015 [8:15], we received a radio message from the assault team on Wolverine 2 stating that they might have Saddam and they would confirm ASAP,” he said.
The Green Beret at the top shouted down, “Who are you?”
A bearded, bedraggled man crawled out, raising his hands.
“I am Saddam Hussein; I am the president of Iraq, and I’m willing to negotiate,” he said in English, according to Reed.
“President Bush sends his regards,” a soldier replied.
“At 2026 [8:26], they confirmed that they captured Saddam and were preparing him to be moved to a secure area in Tikrit by OH 58 helicopter,” Wilson said.
He and Hickey saw Hussein secured and helicoptered south within the hour.
“The soldiers who executed this raid are great Americans and soldiers,” Wilson wrote. “These brave soldiers are sons, daughters, moms, dads, brothers and sisters. These soldiers are your silent heroes and I’m telling this story for them.”
Since the end of major combat, his brigade made more than 500 raids.
“It has been a long and hard eight months, and the capture of Saddam is a sweet victory,” Wilson wrote. “Yes, we congratulated each other with handshakes, slaps on the backs and a ‘You did a great job.’ I have been a soldier for over 25 years and I love the Army, the 1st Brigade Combat Team, the 4th Infantry Division. But most of all — I love the soldiers.”
The Pilot Newspaper - Local News
Iraq War News
December 16, 2003
Dear Patti Patton-Bader:
I'm sending this to you because you must have a soldier over there or have a
close friend or family member over there. The rest of this letter will be
posted on my website today. I know the email is long but I think it is
really important that you read it entirely. - Frankie
The news of Saddam Hussein's capture in our media is driving a general
belief that the war in Iraq will soon be "over". The troops have conveyed
to me that this means that there will be an increase of attacks against our
troops and the Iraqis who support us there. I've never taken any political
stance on the war in Iraq and I have supporters in Washington DC who are
both Republicans and Democrats. I have never made what I do about politics.
I'm a simple person who believes in my heart that people are good and that
if you ask them to help they will. The only reason I am posting this is to
let you know what I found out.
Firstly, I have been in contact with our troops in Iraq for over many months
now. Many of our soldiers, sailors and marines email me and tell me how
difficult the job is and how thinly they are spread out. They are being
deployed for longer periods of time. My family and I had the wonderful
opportunity to go to Washington DC when my son Chris was home on an 8-day
leave from Iraq. We got to meet with Senator John McCain of Arizona and
Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. I got a small lesson on the politics of the
war and I listened to everything that was said. Senator McCain's position
"The push to increase is legitimate. Actually, Senator McCain has been
pushing to increase troop numbers for more than six years. The
administration is opposed, and DoD (at least the civilian leadership like
Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz) insists that we have enough soldiers. This will be a
huge issue this coming year. I think that there will be significant effort
in the coming year to put an increase in the FY-05 Defense Authorization
I have been worried about all of the National Guard that have written to us
telling us how much of a hardship it has been to them and their families -
long deployments since 9/11 and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of our
regular Army troops are not going to re-enlist and are counting the days
until they ETS out of the Army.
The supplies that the National Guard units have are sparse compared to
regular Army units and I have even sent supplies to National Guard units in
the USA who are deploying. If the military was getting our troops what
they need, why then would I have to be sending 2000 air conditioners, over
4000 space heaters, new combat boots to our troops in Iraq? I ask you if
the system worked - why am I here and why do our troops not have what they
need? I was told on the phone by a representative of US Army Community and
Family Support that all of the free internet access for our troops is
sitting in warehouses in Kuwait because "we have no one who will go into
Iraq and install it". Here is a link that shows where our soldiers in the
101st Airborne Division installed 233 computers with Internet access for
Iraqis in Mosul when our soldiers have to pay for internet access and phone
calls home. I ask you Why?
December 11, 2003
Release Number: 03-12-27
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
101ST DONATES MORE THAN 230 COMPUTERS TO MOSUL CITY HALL
MOSUL, Iraq - A 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) program to provide
computers to the employees of Mosul City Hall made its final contribution
Thursday, bringing the total number of computers donated to more than 230.
The project has been in effect since September, and the last of the 233
computers were installed Thursday by Chief Warrant Officer Carrie McLeish
and Master Sgt. Paul Franks, automation technicians for the division's G-6
office. The team has been in charge of installing new computers and the
Internet in several buildings in Northern Iraq, including the University of
Mosul and the Oil Ministry of Nineveh Province. Coalition Forces have spent
more than $150,000 on the project.
Every computer in Mosul City Hall donated by the 101st was also hooked to
the Internet, offering better global communication than the workforce there
has ever had access to. The project consequently will also allow Coalition
Forces, as well as leaders from smaller cities and villages outside Mosul,
to communicate with the governor of Nineveh Province, Ghanim al-Basso, whose
office is in the city headquarters.
"This will allow Coalition Forces to communicate with the governor of
Nineveh and it also allows the governor to communicate with citizens outside
Mosul," McLeish said.
Soldiers also installed Microsoft XP and Office XP to each computer.
"Microsoft XP is a lot better than [Microsoft 2000] in its Arabic
translation," McLeish said, "So it's pretty useful to a lot of the workers
Concurrent with the donation of computers and software, soldiers have also
been training a group of Iraqi citizens to maintain the computer system
after the division redeploys. McLeish said the three main targets for
training are web page upkeep, basic computer skills and networking
"We want to educate people on what Coalition Forces are doing here in Iraq,"
McLeish said. "We want to stop misinformation about what our goals are here
and provide Iraqis with a bigger picture. This is a big step."
I would like you all to think about this issue because I do hear from the
troops themselves and I'm telling you they say, they are too few and are
being asked to do so much. I just don't understand why we can't increase
our troop strength and why it has to be about if we are supporting the
President and the current administration or not. All I know is that our
troops need us right now and they need a voice.
I saw an important part in the Stars & Stripes article I've pasted below and
this is it:
"Tauscher's bill is co-sponsored by 25 House Democrats, but the lawmaker
said she anticipate gaining bipartisan support when Congress returns Jan.
My second point is this: I am contacting my members of Congress and my
Senator to ask them to support an increase of troop strength - because I
know the troops need help.
If I have offended you by posting this I am sorry. It is just so important
to me because I hear from the soldiers themselves that I posted it in the
As you celebrate the holidays, please think about what you would want for
our American soldiers, sailors, air force and marines. They are the ones
with their lives on the line for us to be able to exercise our right to make
changes in laws and to have the freedom we enjoy everyday. I thank God for
our troops every day.
Here linked is an official letter (see my website www.operationac.com and
click on OPAC News to see the actual letter it will be up by 5pm eastern
time today) from the Army where they say they do not need any more air
conditioners from our organization. I would hope that we as Americans hold
them to their commitment to have these ECUs (Environmental Control Units) in
place by next April 2004. I hope and pray that not one soldier dies of
heat stroke like so many others did in the heat of the last Iraqi summer.
I am going to continue, with your support, in getting ANY supplies,
including air conditioners to our troops in Iraq and I plan to use a private
carrier to get them to Baghdad. I ask you all to please hold our military
leaders at the Pentagon responsible and make sure the right thing is done
for our troops.
Thank you for reading,
Lawmakers call for increase in Army, Air Force, Marines troop numbers
By Sandra Jontz and Lisa Burgess, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Friday, December 12, 2003
ARLINGTON, Va. - House legislators want U.S. military leaders to beef up end
strength in the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force in the next five years with
a stop-gap measure to relieve strain on both active and reserve element
forces.The lawmakers are not calling for a boost in the Navy.
U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D- Calif., introduced a bill in the House of
Representatives on Tuesday, calling for an 8 percent increase in troop
numbers across the three services.
The measure would increase the Army's active force end strength from 482,400
to 522,400; the Air Force from 359,300 to 388,000; and the Marine Corps from
175,000 to 190,000.
But the military leadership isn't clamoring for more troops, Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday during a press briefing. "If at any
moment there was an analysis that suggested one of the services was too
small, obviously we would recommend an increase in it," Rumsfeld said. "We
just don't have that kind of analysis at the present time. And I don't
believe anyone else does."
Four of the Army's 10 active duty divisions will be rotating back from Iraq
next year, and sticking to reconstituting timelines, would not be
combat-ready for roughly six months.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed Rumsfeld's
assessment that no more troops are needed. When asked if the military would
be ready to handle another conflict, Myers said: [T]hat's an unqualified
The Congressional Budget Office has not analyzed the anticipated cost, but
the Army portion alone would cost roughly $1 billion a year, said Tauscher,
a member of the Armed Services Committee. "We understand it's expensive, but
frankly, it's about priorities."
The military should brace itself for a possible mass exodus of disenchanted
guard and reserve forces, she said, and more active duty forces could
mitigate the blow.
"We are deeply, deeply concerned, not only for the readiness of troops
rotating out of Iraq and Afghanistan but we continue to be concerned, and
frankly deeply worried, that we are creating irreparable harm to our guard
and reserves by these extended deployments."
The increase of forces also would provide "the cushion we need in number and
readiness should we find ourselves in a situation" of another conflict, she
Tauscher's bill is co-sponsored by 25 House Democrats, but the lawmaker said
she anticipate gaining bipartisan support when Congress returns Jan. 20.
Deployed commanders don't want more soldiers on the ground, Army Chief of
Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker said during a Dec. 3 conference at which he and
other top military's leaders spoke.
"There is no commander in Iraq or Afghanistan that is asking for more
people," Schoomaker said. "We constantly are in dialogue about what the
requirements are over there, and there's nobody who's asking for a bigger
force over there; they feel they have the force that's required."
Under the presidential directive, 1 million reservists can be mobilized for
up to two years; "and we're not anywhere near that," Schoomaker said. "Right
now, we're mobilizing 40 percent of the reserve component."
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee said before adding more forces,
U.S. leaders should consider the long-term picture.
"The way I look at the battlefield is this what we're going to be doing
five or 10 years from now?" Hagee asked. "In other words, have we arrived at
a point where we're going to have forces spread throughout the world [in]
the Sinai, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan?"
Adm. Vern Clark, the chief of Naval Operations, said he is pursuing less end
strength. "I'm going after less end strength [because] that's where I'm
going to get resources to recapitalize" the Navy, he said.
"Two dynamics are at play," said April Boyd, a Tauscher spokeswoman. "The
reason for no Navy increase is that they are trying to reduce their number
of ships; less ships equals less people. Also, there are pilot programs
under way to further reduce manpower requirements on ships."
However, the Army "has a more immediate problem" than adding end strength:
finding ways to tap all of its personnel for deployments before it tackles
the large job of adding more, Schoomaker said.
"One of the major things that we're doing right now is mining the structure
that we have and mining it to get it in balance so we can access to the
force structure we're paying for, and making sure it's ready and available
to us," he said, calling the current Army personnel structure "bankrupt."
If the Army can't find ways to get full use out of the reserves, "we're
going to have to spend a premium on the most expensive option," adding more
end strength, he said.
"We may end up coming up having to ask for more force structure," Schoomaker
said. "But I am not prepared at this time to give up on the fact that we're
making quite a bit of headway right now" in finding ways to better manage
The following is a transcript from Lou Dobbs' show on CNN Last night where
Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher was a guest. I thought it was a good interview
and worth adding to this:
DOBBS: My guest tonight says the U.S. military needs to be bigger to help
support the hundreds of thousands of troops already serving this country
around the world.
Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher has introduced a bill that would increase the
number of Army, Marine, and Air Force servicemen and women by just about
eight percent over a period of some five years.
A member of the House Armed Services Committee, she joins us tonight from
Good to have you with us.
REP. ELLEN TAUSCHER (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Lou.
DOBBS: This legislation that you've introduced, there seems to be, despite
the fact that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld continues to press back, if you
will, on the idea that we need more troops, it seems to be gaining
Is that a correct impression?
TAUSCHER: It is. I think what we now know after September 11 is that the war
on terrorism is very, very labor intensive. And certainly, our experiences
in Afghanistan and Iraq has shown us that we need boots on the ground.
Certainly our Army, our Marines and our Air Force and the Navy have done a
spectacular job. But we're relying too much right now on our guard and
reserve, and frankly I'm deeply concerned about our recruiting retention
rates for the guard and reserve.
So I propose that we lift the floor of the minimum number allowed into the
military by eight percent over the next five years, specifically for the
Army, the Air Force and the Marines. DOBBS: And Congresswoman, as you point
out, the demands that we're putting right now on our men and women in the
National Guard and the reserves is far from typical of the role that they
thought they were going to be assuming. Or that the Pentagon had been
planning for literally decades, isn't it?
TAUSCHER: No, I think Secretary Rumsfeld is right. I supported, since I
joined the Armed Services Committee seven years ago the transformation of
our military. And that is all well and good and necessary for us to do.
But we cannot be in a very labor intensive war on terrorism as we see now in
the Middle East, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and have guard and reserve have their
deployments doubled and tripled and have them lose their jobs, have their
families lose their primary wage earner, have their children be without
their family, spouses without any support, and we really have to make some
sense out of this.
And I think this is a temporary measure. We are gaining bipartisan support,
both in the House and the Senate. I would hope that the Pentagon would begin
to work with us to make this right as soon as possible.
DOBBS: And what are the next legislative steps?
TAUSCHER: Well, we would -- we have some hearings obviously in the House
Armed Services Committee. I think you'll see some action on the Senate side
from somebody like Senator Jack Reid. And I think that what we really need
to do is understand what the resistance from the Pentagon really is about.
I know this is going to be expensive. And I know that's the first question I
asked, how much is it going to cost? And frankly, it looks like it will cost
about $3 billion to $4 billion over five years. That's a lot of money, but
it's a small amount of money compared to the overall defense budget of about
$400 billion a year.
And it certainly is a small amount of money considering the costs that the
Guard and reserve families and the American people are bearing right now in
Iraq and in Afghanistan.
DOBBS: An immense strain on our reserves and our National Guard.
Congresswoman Tauscher, thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.
TAUSCHER: Thank you.
Iraq War News