ZAIDON, Iraq -- The sun was rising on the second day of Operation Trifecta and it was time for Sgt. Chad T. Johnson, a combat engineer attached to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, and his engineers to impair insurgent operations in the Zaidon area.
The Rockford, Ill., native was given the task of helping a platoon from Company F search vast areas of farm land looking for weapons and explosives the insurgents are suspected to have hidden there.
“This is one of the primary missions for the engineers in this area of operation,” stated Johnson, a 1994 graduate of Auburn High School. “Finding the caches is the pay off for us. We could be walking around for hours and be tired, but if we find a good cache it is all worth it.”
Starting at daybreak, Johnson, whose team includes Lance Cpl. Bryan Fishel, headed out with another sweep team and an infantry squad from Company F. Sweeping through numerous fields and along the sides of canals was the order of the day for Johnson and this group of Marines. There were suspected barrels of TNT in the area they were searching that day.
At around 11:00 a.m. Johnson’s sweep team noticed part of a fiberglass pipe protruding from the ground with a piece of corrugated steel bent over one end. Running the metal detector over the area Johnson’s team received a positive hit and they decided to investigate.
Clearing away enough dirt to peel back the metal on the end of the pipe they placed two chemical lights in the end of the pipe and also used a flashlight. Getting enough light to see inside they saw right away they would have to keep digging.
“The insurgents tried to waterproof the section of pipe by using plastic and metal on one end and sandbags on the other,” Johnson stated. “It didn’t work all that well because the bottom half of the pipe was all mud.”
After assessing what was being stored in the pipe, Johnson’s team had to methodically weed through the mortars and various improvised explosive device components that were in terrible condition. Some of the mortars were missing safety devices and were unstable.
Johnson’s team took around five hours to remove the ordnance from the cache. Approximately 200 meters from the pipe was a storage container that also gave a positive hit with the metal detector. After searching around the edges of the container a second cache was discovered and excavated.
After a long day of digging and sweeping Johnson’s team and the engineers were successful in getting a large quantity ordnance out of the insurgent’s hands.
“All the engineers did an excellent job of scouring the area to uncover these pockets of weapons,” Johnson said. “We hurt the insurgent’s ability to fight the coalition forces in this AO.”
The operation uncovered more than 1,000 mortars, artillery rounds and rockets; 20,000 rounds of ammunition for small arms and over a dozen weapon systems. Johnson and the engineers were the tip of the sword for this operation and reduced the insurgent’s ability to fight against a free Iraq.