BARWANAH, Iraq -- The day is chilly and windy in the middle of a wadi on the outskirts of Barwanah where aside from the view of the city, there is nothing except barren desert.
Iraqi Army soldiers and Marines with 2nd Platoon, L Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, were conducting routine security patrols roughly 500 meters east of southern Barwanah Jan.14 and heading back to their base after a long day’s work.
That is when Friday, one of L Company's interpreters, noticed a discoloration in the dirt.
It appears that the bad weather depressed the dirt and, because of the recent rain, left it a different color. After digging around in the dirt, they started finding ordnance.
“It appears that these munitions were hastily buried within the last couple of days,” said Capt. Shannon Neller, commanding officer of L Co.
The Iraqi soldiers and Marines conducted a thorough search of the area and unearthed a total of 11 buried weapons caches within a 300 meter radius that terrorists planned to use during attacks in the area.
When all 11 caches were unearthed, they contained 139 artillery rounds, 56 mortar rounds, 47 122mm rockets, 94 14.5mm armor piercing incendiary rounds and 19 100-pound bags of propellant.
“There were 12 Iraqi Army soldiers directly involved in finding and digging up these caches. This gives them a sense of ownership and pride in what they’re doing,” said 2nd Lt. Geoff Meno, 2nd Platoon Commander with L Co.
Although these caches were found by Marines and Iraqi Army soldiers patrolling, citizens of the Haditha region have increasingly provided information to disrupt insurgent activities so their community will be safe from insurgent attacks.
Insurgents utilize weapons caches as a means of convenience, hiding weapons and bomb making material in various locations so Iraqi Army or Coalition Forces don’t catch them. If not found, these weapons are employed to kill Coalition Forces and innocent Iraqi civilians. For example, the day following the Iraqi National Parliamentary Elections insurgents targeted a polling site in Barwanah with indirect fire, only to kill four children and wound two others playing soccer.
“Taking these caches out of the hands of insurgents puts a tremendous dent in their logistics. Every round that the Marines and Iraqi Army take off the streets is one less (improvised explosive device) … one more saved life,” said Meno.
The Marines proudly piled the cache findings so the explosive ordnance disposal experts could destroy them on the spot.
“It is going to take between 2-3 satchels full of C4 to blow all this stuff,” said Chief Petty Officer Brad Bundy, EOD team leader.
After moving to a safe distance, the Marines were able to see the culmination of their labor with the destruction of the cache findings, totaling more than 4,000 pounds of high explosives taken out of the hands of insurgents.
A massive cloud of smoke and fire rose high above the surface of the earth as fragments from the ordnance littered the area with remnants of attacks never to happen, thanks to the efforts of the Marines and Iraqi Army soldiers.
“This is a testament to the vigilance of the Iraqi Army soldiers and Marines. They’ve been doing a hell of a job out here. It is nice for them to see what they are doing occasionally comes with a tangible pay off,” said Meno.