The 173rd Brigade parachutes into Northern Iraq on 26 March 2003.
In March of 2003, the Turkish government refused to allow American ground forces, which were positioned at their ports, to move through Turkey in order to establish a northern front in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. America needed another option and the Sky Soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade provided that option. On the 26th of March at 2000 hours, fifteen C-17 aircraft delivered 20 heavy platforms and 959 paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade onto Bashur Drop Zone vicinity Bashur, Iraq. This combat parachute assault was the initiation of Operation Northern Delay and established the Coalition's northern front.
The parachute assault force consisted of HHC, 173rd Airborne Brigade, 1st-508th Infantry (Airborne), 2nd-503rd Infantry (Airborne), 74th Long Range Surveillance Detachment, D Battery 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Combat Support Company, 501st Forward Support Company, 250th Forward Surgical Team, ODA (-), 2nd Battalion 10th SFG, 4th ASOS (USAF), and the 86th Expeditionary Contingency Response Group (-) (USAF). The paratroopers were under the command of Colonel William C. Mayville Jr., commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The chariots from which the Sky Soldiers were delivered into battle were the C-17s of the 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings from McChord AFB, Washington and the 437th Airlift Wing and 315th Reserve Airlift Wing from Charleston AFB, South Carolina. The C-17s were under the command of Colonel Robert "Dice" R. Allardice, commander of the 62d Airlift Wing. This airborne operation was not only the largest since the 1990 invasion of Panama, but was the first airborne personnel insertion ever conducted with the C-17. The professionalism and courage of both the paratroopers and the aircrews were beyond reproach.
The successful establishment of a northern front was essential to the coalition battle plan. Without a northern front six Iraqi divisions arrayed in northern Iraq remained free to move south to reinforce Baghdad. Fast moving coalition forces were closing on Baghdad with the expectation of having to capture the Iraqi capitol from three defensively arrayed divisions. Six additional Iraqi divisions streaming from the north could dramatically affect the balance of power around Baghdad.
Another critical factor was the oil rich area of Kirkuk. The oil wealth of the Kirkuk area would be crucial to rebuilding Iraq but the Iraqi army had shown a willingness to destroy their countries own future simply to spite the Coalition. Securing the oil fields and airbases of Kirkuk was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
The success of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in its securing of Bashur and Kirkuk and its subsequent control and rebuilding of Kirkuk Province and later the As Sulaymaniyah Province was unmatched in theater. The Sky Soldiers integrated forces from fifteen other units, to include five Army divisions, to accomplish every mission. The Sky Soldiers added to the reputation of the Herd, so hard won in Vietnam.
This print is dedicated to the team members who served with and supported the Herd, past and present. The sacrifices they've made and the blood they've shed in the service of their country demonstrate the true cost of freedom. The print's name is derived from the last words spoken by Colonel Mayville prior to loading the aircraft - "Commanders, it's time to move the Herd."