AL QA’IM, Iraq -- Marines with 4th Combat Engineer Battalion in direct support of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, Regimental Combat Team-2 uncovered six weapons caches during Operation River Roundup here June 4.
The engineer’s mission during the operation was to find weapons caches north of the Euphrates River.
The mission was a success because of two Charleston, W.Va., natives’ discoveries.
Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Pett, a 27-year-old combat engineer and 2003 Marshall University graduate, was responsible for finding five of the six caches.
“All of the caches were relatively close to each other, only about 200 meters apart,” explained the 1996 Winfield High School graduate.
As he was sweeping an area by the river with a mine detector, Pett found the first cache which included mortar rounds, rocket propelled grenades and mines.
He continued searching the area when he came across the second hole filled with AK-47s, magazines, grenades and a flak jacket.
The first two finds drove him to continue his search with even more motivation.
“Finding the first ones drove me to find the rest of them. I figured ‘I already found these caches, I know there are more around here,” Pett explained.
He was correct, finding three more caches in the same area. These caches included RPG rounds, 25mm rounds, 10 boxes of explosives and receivers for improvised explosive devices.
While Pett was discovering these caches, 22-year-old Cpl. Christopher N. Blount was further east along the river heading west toward Pett’s position when he found a huge cache.
“It was buried in a box about 4 feet long, 3ft wide and 3ft deep. I was just walking along sweeping and then bam! There it was,” explained the 2001 Fairhaven Christian High School graduate.
Inside the buried box were RPG launchers, rockets, machine guns, rifles and a sand bag full of 7.62mm rounds.
The Marines swept the area for five hours and the discovery of the six caches was the reward for their long hours.
“Every time I found something I would go back to where I started and double-checked,” Blount explained.
“You know you have to put yourself in the insurgents’ shoes and think about where they would hide these weapons and ammunition,” Pett described.
The Marines of 4th CEB detained four men during their sweep believed to be involved in hiding the weapons caches.
For Pett and Blount, finding the caches meant more than just finding weapons.
“I felt like we saved Marines lives by getting that stuff destroyed,” Blount explained while Pett summed it up. “It’s an incredible feeling to take weapons out of the enemy’s hands.”