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Engineers continue weapons searches

14 Jun 2006 | Cpl. William Skelton

Hours in the hot desert sun didn’t turn up a load of weapons, but it did let combat engineers know they are doing their job.

The combat engineers attached to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment continued weapons cache searches in the stretches of desert north of Fallujah, June 14.

“Even though we didn’t find a ton of weapons out here we know that they were here at one time,” said Cpl. Jose L. Rodriguez, a 22-year-old assaultman from Fremont, Calif. “We found the empty bunkers where stuff was hidden.  To me, that just proves we are doing our job.”

The engineers began their mission after receiving intelligence through the battalion.  Once an insurgent is captured and detained, they are questioned concerning weapons caches and other information.

“Intelligence told us there is a large weapons cache in the area, so we are going to follow up on it,” said 1st Lt. Joshua Guide, the 30-year-old combat engineer officer from San Clemente, Calif.

Most times, the intelligence proves to be fruitful, but sometimes the Marines arrive a day late. The engineers found the site where the bunkers were, but they were found empty.

“I think that the insurgents realize what happens when we catch one of their own,” said Sgt. Christian Calvin, a 26-year-old combat engineer from Morganfield, Ky. “They are getting smarter. They know when we catch one of them we will get information from them.”

Marines traveled to the northwestern corner of the battalion’s battle zone.  There, they searched multiple wells that covered the landscape. 

“The large wells are popular sites for burying weapons caches,” Calvin said. “In the area where we were today, there were several to search.”

The engineers swept each well in teams.  One Marine carried a metal detector, one carried a shovel, and while others provided security. 

“We had five or six teams on the ground searching every well,” Rodriguez said. “When we work as a platoon we can cover a lot of ground in a day’s time.”

The platoon found one rocket-propelled grenade launcher and two rifles during the sweep.  Though the day didn’t render a large amount of weapons, the engineers kept a positive outlook on the search.

“We do a good job of searching for the caches,” Calvin said. “At least we know that this area is clear now.”

The engineers perform an average of fifteen missions per month, Calvin explained.  Most missions result in large finds that take weapons out of the hands of insurgents.

“The missions we go out on vary in length,” Calvin said. “Some are one day missions like today, but some take us anywhere from two to five days.”

Marines plan to continue searching the battalion’s area for caches.

“We will keep on searching for weapons until we leave the area,” Rodriguez said. “For every weapon we find, that is one less the insurgents can use against Marines and civilians working and living in the area.”