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Darkhorse Marines find, destroy stacks of buried munitions

25 Feb 2006 | Cpl. Mark Sixbey

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Edward looked at the stacks of unearthed munitions and shook his head in disbelief.

“We’re going to need more C-4,” Edward said.

The 29-year-old explosive ordnance disposal technician with Mobile Unit 3, Detachment 9, 8th Engineer Support Battalion was witness to the largest weapons cache discovery made by Marines from L Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, since they arrived in Iraq nearly a month ago.  The weapons are commonly used against Marines and Iraqi Security Forces in improvised explosive devices.

The company made the find during Operation Iron Fist Feb. 25.  They are serving in Iraq with Regimental Combat Team 5.

The Marines spent nearly four hours uncovering and counting the buried munitions.  Cpl. Adam Green, a combat engineer with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, attached to L Company, said he was happy with the day’s find.

“We put a good dent in the insurgents’ ability to hit us with IEDs,” said the 22-year-old from Spokane, Wash.  “When you find something like this, it takes away their ability to attack Marine and Coalition forces.”

The first cache they found held 24 82 mm mortars and one 87 mm Chinese mortar. A second buried site yielded 415 82 mm recoilless rifle rounds, 212 82 mm high-explosive mortars, 170 100 mm high-explosive rounds, 32 82 mm inert mortars, and 10 82 mm high-explosive mortars, and two 160 mm high-explosive mortar rounds. 

As engineers swept the area for buried weapons, the company conducted vehicle searches with help from the Iraqi Security Forces.  They stopped one vehicle with illegal weapons and sniper ammunition.

“It’s a very good morning,” said 1st Sgt. Christopher Reed, L Company's first sergeant, a 32-year-old from Kirkland, Wash. “This is a good step towards establishing the security of the area.”

Capt. William Allen, the company commander, said insurgent attacks were frequent in the area around the discovered weapons cache and the goal of Iron Fist was to determine the source of the attacks.

“We were looking to confirm or deny the insurgent activity was being transported into the area,” said Allen, 35, from Woodstock, Va.  “Hopefully we’ve put a dent in the rocket activity.”

He then added the mission goals went beyond protecting coalition forces.

“It’s about joint operations with the Iraqi Security Forces and letting the Iraqi citizens see them working hand in hand with us,” Allen said.  “It will hopefully instill some confidence in their ability to protect their people.”

The caches were significant in size, said Navy Chief Petty Officer Stephen Kellogg, an EOD technician, also from 8th Engineer Support Battalion. 

Kellogg supervised nearly 60 controlled detonations since his unit arrived in October 2005 and said this cache was in his top ten.

“The stuff in the containers was in very good shape,” said the 34-year old from Houston.  “It would be dangerous in the hands of the enemy.”

He added that the rounds buried in plastic sacks were in marginal condition, but that wouldn’t stop insurgents from making IEDs with them.

“We saved a lot of lives today,” Green said.

The Marines evacuated the local Iraqi citizens from the area and the caches were detonated on site. 

Reed credited his Marines’ keen attention and initiative to making the discovery.

“The Marines are doing an outstanding job keeping focused on the mission,” Reed said.  “This is what happens when they stay focused.”