NORTH OF FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Marines work long hours and travel vast areas to snatch weapons from insurgents.
Engineers from C Company, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, had luck on their side in a three-day operation to uncover weapons caches in the area north of Fallujah Jan. 18-20.
“The objective was to go to an area where no one’s really been,” said Cpl. Timothy W. Literal, 23, a squad leader with 1st CEB, from Portsmouth, Ohio. “The battalion felt there would be bulk weapons caches up there. They conducted census operations and we worked in coordination with them sweeping.”
Marines walked through desert terrain from morning to night for three days. On a map they covered 31.4 km, but they traveled much more than that because they swept side-to-side, up, down and around berms and dunes. Marines were anxious to find something.
“I just wanted to find something because we walked so far,” said Lance Cpl. Mark A. Prado, a 19-year-old combat engineer from Gonzales, Texas. “The last day alone we walked 11 (kilometers).”
The first day of searching showed promise for the days to come. They uncovered around 30 mortar rounds, three rifles and over 800 AK-47 bullets. It was a good surprise to some of the Marines who thought they wouldn’t find much in the area.
“We went up to the area last week and didn’t find a lot so we thought it was going to be the same,” Literal said. “I felt it would be a better week though. I thought we would find more this time.”
Day two of the operation had Marines searching excitedly for weapons hidden in berms in the area. They waited to hear the ringing of their metal detectors when there was something hidden in the ground, intent on finding contraband.
“We always keep focused on trying to keep weapons out of the enemy’s hands,” said Cpl. Kevin D. Fuller, a 32-year-old engineer squad leader with 1st CEB from Jackson, Tenn. “We’ve done it for the whole seven months we’ve been here.”
The engineers’ dedication to confiscating weapons pushed them to continue the mission and find a big cache.
“The second day we found seven 14.5 mm heavy machine-guns,” Literal said. “I was happy to see the weapons because we’ve been finding 14.5 mm rounds all deployment and we wanted to find the gun that went with them. We ended up finding seven of them.”
The heavy weaponry highlighted the day but was not the only cache found on the second day of searching. Engineers also uncovered over 3,000 AK-47 rifle rounds, around 500 7.92 mm rounds, 71 weapons magazines and multiple rifles, Fuller said.
“The caches motivated us to find more stuff,” Prado said.
Engineers began the third day fueled by the excitement of the caches they uncovered the day before and went to work again. They did not appear tired at all. They were ready for another day of counter-insurgency operations.
On the final day they landed a big blow to insurgency again.
“The third day we found 4,222 14.5 mm rounds and a missile,” Literal said.
Marines discovered on the cache and began to dig up ammunition boxes. One after another Marines pulled out case after case. Most had ammunition others had fuses. At the bottom of the hole they jerked out a crate with a missile inside. The large cache was a good ending to a successful operation.
“I think the operation was good,” Fuller said. “We made it a little safer for Coalition Forces to travel. For the Iraqi people we gave them a little peace in their area because the stuff is no longer there.”