AR RAMADI, Iraq -- The insurgency here was dealt a blow when Marines with 4th Platoon, Company A, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, discovered and destroyed several weapons caches.
Acting on intelligence reports from 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, the Camp Pendleton-based 1st CEB searched an area of farmland on the outskirts of the city and made a significant find.
According to Staff Sgt. Ray A. Valdez, the guide for 4th Platoon, he and his fellow Marines found 15 AK-47s; 12 bolt action rifles; three RPK machine guns; three rocket propelled grenade launchers; 200 60 mm shells, 100 82 mm shells; 20 120 mm shells; 10 155 mm shells; 40 pounds of P-C4 explosives; 30 hand grenades and 50 52 mm high explosive anti-tank missiles during their search mission that had them trudging through the fields for more than 16 hours.
“We received word that insurgents were stockpiling weapons out in the fields,” said the 30-year-old from San Antonio. “We knew we’d find weapons but not an amount this large.”
Armed with shovels, metal detectors and their superb training, the engineers worked in teams and combed the area.
Private First Class Brandon H. Griffin, a combat engineer with 4th Platoon, said the timeline for the sweep was extended after they came across the first large cache.
“We were only supposed to be out here for three hours,” the 21-year-old from Hot Springs, Ark., said as he was rigging C-4 explosives to a neatly stacked pile of weapons. “During that time, we were only finding small arms; nothing big. Then, right when we were wrapping things up, we found a big cache like this one.”
Griffin and Sgt. Miguel A Cira were preparing to destroy what they’d found in a controlled detonation when another team of engineers passed over a spot in the field that set off the metal detector registering another possible cache.
“We dug down and found a lid,” he said. “We opened it up, and the container was full of weapons.”
The 2002 Lake Hamilton High School graduate explained the weapons were hidden in a large septic tank buried approximately one foot under the ground. The tank’s interior was more than six feet in diameter, he added
“We were excited when we found the big cache,” he said.
The find motivated the engineers to continue searching. They found six more tanks filled with weapons.
“We just kept finding them,” he said. “We ended up being out here from (5 a.m.) to (10 p.m.)”
Griffin and his comrades were exhausted but gratified by the results of their efforts.
“The work was long and tiring, but in the long run it was worth it,” he said. “We took away weapons the insurgents would’ve used against us and other (coalition forces).”