Photo Information

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq - Pvt. Bryan Smith, a combat engineer with 2nd Platoon, Company A, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, uses his AN/PSS-12 metal detector to search for buried weapons and explosive devices in a village outside Saqlawiyah codenamed 'Shadyville' June 29. Combat engineers assisted Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment personnel and Iraqi Security Forces during 'Operation Shadyville,' a mission that netted several suspected insurgent supporters, two improvised explosive devices, and 50 AK-47 assault rifles.

Photo by Cpl Mike Escobar

Alabama Marines saves lives after surprise discovery

29 Jun 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar

Many young men who join the United States Marine Corps during their late teenage years may often fantasize about saving a comrade’s life while fighting a war overseas.

Although this 20-year old Bessemer, Ala., native is no longer an adolescent, that dream became reality June 29 when he unearthed an insurgent-made improvised explosive device.

“I was walking along, sweeping the fields, when I got a big hit,” explained Lance Cpl. Patrick Jernigan, a combat engineer with 2nd Platoon, Company A, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion.  “I kicked the dirt around a little bit, and I saw a bag sticking out, so I pulled it out.  That’s when I saw the IED with some wires hanging out of it, sitting inside the bag.”

The 2002 Valleydale Academy graduate and his fellow engineers were scouring the fields and houses in a small village they called ‘Shadyville’ outside Fallujah during an intelligence-gathering mission at the time of Jernigan’s discovery.  They used AN/PSS-12 metal detectors to probe the ground for hidden weapons caches and IEDs. 

Currently, these roadside bombs are one of the most effect weapons insurgents use in Iraq.

“The IED we found was an HE (high explosive) 155mm artillery shell,” Jernigan explained.  “The wires sticking out of it were disconnected, and there was no trigger device, so I knew it was safe (to approach it).  I was thinking to myself, ‘That’s one less thing they can place on the road.’”

As the engineers conducted their metal detector sweeps, troops from Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and Iraqi soldiers provided security and spoke with each home owner to find out who lived there, if they possessed any weapons, and what community services they required.

Meanwhile, Marines from the battalion’s Combined Anti-Armor Teams maintained a defensive perimeter around the village, effectively preventing anyone from entering or exiting ‘Shadyville’ while the searches took place.

Altogether, troops participating in Operation Shadyville searched 244 houses and netted several suspected insurgent supporters, two IEDs, and 50 AK-47 assault rifles.  The combat engineers worked hand-in-hand with Company A’s infantrymen and the ISF to confiscate these findings.

Although ‘Shadyville’ residents may legally possess rifles for home self-defense, military forces confiscate these weapons and hand them a receipt of ownership.  The weapons are then taken to Saqlawiyah’s city council, where citizens may claim them after presenting their receipt and some sort of statement signed by local government authorities stating that they may posses such arms.  This is done to allow the local council to register and keep track of what weapons are in which households.

Operation Shadyville, however, was only one mission in a long string of counter-insurgency operations Jernigan and his fellow engineers have performed since arriving in Iraq.  Teams of combat engineers accompany Marine infantrymen and Iraqi soldiers during every raid and offensive operation they conduct throughout Fallujah and the surrounding areas.

Already, they have uncovered numerous munitions caches containing items such as mortar and artillery rounds, wiring, and cell phone parts, all materials insurgents use to manufacture IEDs

However, Jernigan’s find on June 29 ranks as one of his more noteworthy accomplishments as a combat engineer, he said.

“This is one of the biggest hits I’ve gotten,” Jernigan added.  “It makes me feel pretty good about myself, and it makes me glad to have this job sometimes.”

Company A, 2nd CEB personnel continue assisting their infantry brethren and ISF unearth weapons caches throughout a country littered with munitions dumps.