A Paratrooper Unit in Iraq

A Paratrooper Unit in Iraq

Thursday, November 26, 2020

The 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment of the famed 82nd Airborne Division was assembled in 2005 as the Army’s first airborne reconnaissance squadron. The 5-73 CAV, also known as Headhunter in honor of the commander’s radio call sign, was only half the size of a full-strength battalion but it soon took on a big job in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Headhunter: 5-73 CAV and Their Fight for Iraq’s Diyala River Valley, the latest title in the AUSA Book Program, details the unit’s mission to hunt down terrorist factions. Their work was later recognized with a Presidential Unit Citation. Author Peter C. Svoboda invested years researching and interviewing the paratroopers to tell the story of their deployment from the soldier’s point of view.

The AUSA Book Program sat down with Svoboda to discuss the new book:


AUSA: This is your first book, written after a full career in another field. What inspired you to tell this story?

Svoboda: I was moved by my dad’s World War II service as a paratrooper in the Airborne Command and the 82nd Airborne Division.


AUSA: Why did you decide to write about this particular unit of the 82nd Airborne?

Svoboda: After interviewing Drew Poppas who was 5-73’s commanding officer, I was drawn to the story of 5-73’s campaign to rid Diyala Province of Al Qaeda terrorists as well as their insurgent affiliates. It was so compelling I knew that this story had to be told.


AUSA: You note that the 5-73 CAV was filled with a combination of cavalry scouts and infantry riflemen. How did the two cultures blend?

Svoboda: The different mindsets created an initial challenge. The running joke was that the riflemen had to be taught to get in the gun trucks and the cav scouts had to be taught to get out. When 5-73 went to support the relief effort in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina the two began to blend. Once in Kuwait, rigorous training further strengthened that bond. Poppas emphasized the shared vision of the Spartan mindset of collectively holding the line and counting on each other.


AUSA: What did you find most surprising as you worked on the book?

Svoboda: I was pleasantly surprised and gratified with the willingness of these paratroopers and their loved ones to share these powerful stories. Their accounts were heartfelt and moving. It was an honor to be able to shape their words into this work.


AUSA: What project would you like to tackle next?

Svoboda: I am writing a series of short stories that will trace the 82nd’s deployments during the War on Terror. Beginning with the first Afghanistan deployment, moving through the initial combat in Iraq, and followed by the various deployments of the 82nd, it will focus on the human element of what the paratroopers and their family members have experienced as well as their struggles following these deployments.


To order a copy of Headhunter, please visit www.ausa.org/books.