GHARMAH, Iraq -- They dug up the buried weapons by the truckload.
Marines from 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment’s engineer platoon along with soldiers from the Iraqi Army, discovered several weapons caches northeast of Fallujah during Operation Hastings.
The operation combined Marines with soldiers from 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division. The goal of the joint operation was to take weapons out of the hands of insurgents.
“We linked up with the Iraqi Army to search for weapons caches and to basically show them what the engineers do,” said Pfc. Ryan C. Freeman, a 19-year-old from Stockbridge, Ga.
The operation began April 4, with the Marines picking up a platoon of Iraqi soldiers from their base at Camp Delta. The combined forces spent the next three days combing a large area in the battalion’s area of operation.
“We are covering a lot of ground,” Freeman said. “It’s not as far as we normally cover, but we are utilizing the Iraqi forces and training them this time.”
Iraqi forces took perimeter to provide security while the engineers searched through mounds of dirt and around abandoned buildings. The Iraqi soldiers also searched houses and spoke with local villagers.
“It’s a good sign that the Iraqis are adapting and that their training is coming along,” said Lance Cpl. Gabriel H. Garza, a 19-year-old electrician from Willcox, Ariz. “They seem to be functioning well, and interacting with the community.”
The Marines and Iraqis didn’t find any huge caches with large amounts of munitions, but more than 15 smaller caches were found. The yield varied in amounts of weapons and munitions.
“We have found a little here and a little there,” said 2nd Lt. Ahmed Nasser Hussin, the 30-year-old Iraqi platoon commander from Al Nasiriyah, Iraq. “But, put it all together and we found a lot.”
The Marines and Iraqi soldiers found two heavy machine guns, two AK-47 and four SKS assault rifles, two rocket-propelled grenade launchers, a sniper scope, four grenades, 10 sticks of PE4 explosive, more than 20 AK-47 magazines and more than 15,000 rounds. In the mix they located various weapons parts, mortar rounds and artillery rounds that could be used to make improvised explosive devices.
“I thought the operation worked out well,” said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony J. Easton, the 30-year-old platoon sergeant from Saint Cloud, Minn. “This is the first time I have worked with the Iraqis. They are a lot more disciplined than I expected.”
Marines and Iraqis worked diligently during the three days to ensure the countryside was no longer a haven for insurgent stockpiles.
“The insurgents hide munitions everywhere,” Freeman said.