HUSAYBAH, Iraq -- Marines with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion discovered an abandoned house rigged to explode while clearing buildings here as part of Operation Steel Curtain.
Regimental Combat Team 2 and approximately 1,000 Iraqi Army soldiers conducted Operation Steel Curtain here and in the surrounding cities to defeat anti-Iraqi forces and establish a presence to disrupt insurgent efforts along the Iraqi border.
“Our main mission was to conduct random house searches while searching for caches and mines on our way to block a bridge,” said Sgt. Saul Pando Jr., a 23-year-old section leader with 2nd Platoon, Company D. “Upon entering the house, we noticed wires running from the door we had entered leading to a small cache of explosives near the door.”
Pando immediately called for an evacuation of the house until the combat engineers could enter and assess the situation.
“The room had been previously set to blow with two land mines and a 107 mm rocket as a fail-safe,” said Lance Cpl. Marcello T. Bueno, a 21-year-old combat engineer. “After disconnecting the remaining wires, we discovered a small amount of weapons in the corner of the room.”
The resulting search of the house uncovered a propane tank filled with explosives, AK magazines, timer systems and other IED making material.
“I was nervous at first because the explosives were prepped to explode, but I was confident in my abilities and I disabled them,” said Bueno, a Kaufman, Texas, native. “We definitely saved some lives here by destroying this weaponry.”
After finding the small cache, Pando, an Oklahoma City native on his third tour in Iraq, saw a noticeable boost in the morale of the troops.
“These guys are young and eager and to find something like this, even though it is small, on the first day of an operation is a plus,” said Pando, a 2001 Putnam City High School graduate. “They know that they have made an impact on the operation, the insurgents’ efforts and ultimately saved other Marines’ lives.”
The engineers destroyed all the materials before continuing the mission.
“I hope this will be the first on the road to stabilizing this region and completing a successful operation,” said Bueno, a 2002 Kaufman High School graduate. “This will definitely be a highlight of my deployment … the time I brought the house down.”