Many of our readers fought in this war and don’t need a rundown of events, but as the days stretch on, it draws further and further away. Many of today’s youth may be too young to remember — today’s 18-year-olds were only three years old at the beginning of the war.

On March 20, 2003, the United States kicked off Operation Iraqi Freedom as they poured troops across the border and into the country. Special Operations units had already been working in the area — some as early as the March 17, many on March 19. The U.S. was joined by the British, Polish and Australian militaries, and they moved quickly through Iraq, their areas of operation softened by airstrikes and indirect fire. By April 9, Baghdad was taken. In the ensuing years of fighting, many more countries would find themselves involved in the conflict in one way or another, and the majority of coalition casualties would occur after the completion of the invasion.

The definition of what constitutes winning a war is often debated, especially in the instance of the war in Iraq. If it means that all fighting ceases and peace across the board is attained, then victory was not achieved by the time coalition forces controlled the country. If victory meant the occupation of all land and formal enemy forces had been subdued and/or defeated, then it was achieved. On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush gave his “mission accomplished” speech that would garner a lot of controversy, though he never actually said “mission accomplished” in his speech (it was written on a banner on the carrier he was speaking on).

The “victory” speech would be one of many points of controversy throughout the duration of the war. As it progressed, the international community would become very critical of the U.S. involvement in Iraq, though polls throughout Iraq itself were not so clearly in the opposition. The conflict would stretch out for almost nine years before the U.S. pulled the majority of its forces out in December of 2011.

According to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President Bush, the coalition’s aim was to “disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.”

Many of the battles would become important battles in SOF history. For example, the battle of Haditha Dam involved Rangers from 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, as well as elements from Delta Force. The rescue of Jessica Lynch also occurred during this time, consisting of Rangers, SEALs, PJs, Marines and other supporting elements. SOF units were active throughout the country, consistently playing pivotal roles in a conflict of this nature.

President George W. Bush on the invasion of Iraq: