CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Cpl. Joshua D. Milligan’s first words when he uncovered his largest weapons cache can’t be printed.
He used the word “holy,” but there was nothing religious about the second word.
Scouts from TOW Platoon, 2nd Tank Battalion, recently uncovered their largest weapons cache yet. They found the enormous stash of weapons in the back of a blue “Bongo” truck while conducting snap vehicle checkpoints along one of the regularly patrolled roads near Fallujah. They detained two insurgents along with confiscating hundreds of munitions and weapons.
TOW Platoon is attached to Team Gator, centered around D Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion. They are serving in the Fallujah area with Regimental Combat Team 5.
“I told the other Marines to get over here, I needed them to flex cuff these guys,” said Milligan, a 22-year-old from Greenville, S.C. “It seemed like such a dumb place to hide it.”
Milligan and his team of scouts were conducting routine operations along a main highway near Fallujah when they pulled the blue Bongo truck over to inspect it. Initially, they had nothing to suspect there would be any weapons. Bongo trucks are driven by many Iraqis, especially farmers.
Marines approached the truck and asked the drivers to get out.
“They were really calm,” Milligan said. “I asked them to open the back and they didn’t hesitate. Inside, there were rice bags, covered in blankets and plastic chairs. It looked like they just threw them in.”
Milligan said that caused him to raise an eyebrow. It appeared to him that the rice bags were being intentionally covered. Marines started to question the Iraqi men.
One man produced an identification card, titled “National Counter-terrorism of Iraq,” according to Sgt. Thomas W. Busch, a 26-year-old from St. Paul, Neb. He said he never heard of any organization such as that and his suspicions were soon borne out.
Milligan continued his search while Marines spoke to the two Iraqi men. He reached his hands under the blankets and felt what he thought was a handle to a rocket-propelled grenade launcher inside one of the rice bags. That’s when he uttered the two words that can’t be printed.
Milligan cut open the bag and had proof. Inside were several RPG launchers, rusted, but otherwise usable.
“Not even the Iraqi Army is allowed to have RPGs, so we knew we had something,” Busch said.
Marines got to work getting the loot from inside the truck. They only grew more amazed.
Cpl. Andrew C. Lumbard, a 22-year-old from Canton, N.Y., described the truck as being about 15-feet long and six-feet wide. It was filled with the white rice bags.
“We started unloading from the front, and that part was all mortars,” said Cpl. John R. Morris, a 21-year-old from Chapel Hill, N.C. “We could tell everything was something bad. We pulled out mortars, ammo and flaks with plates.”
In addition to the other items, Marines uncovered more than 150 mortars, more than 100 pounds of TNT, binoculars, thermal sights, plastic explosives and nearly 40 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. Multiple parts for making improvised explosive devices were also seized.
“There were probably more than 30,000 small-arms rounds in there too,” Busch added. “It took almost an hour to get it all unloaded. I couldn’t believe how much was in the back of that Bongo.”
Busch added that the most they usually found on a snap-VCP was an occasional pistol. This was the find of their deployment.
“It was a pretty sweet time for us,” Busch said.
“It probably made it worth it, sitting out there and sweating your butt off for two-and-a-half months,” Lumbard said.
Milligan said there’s a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing they put a dent in the insurgents’ supply of weapons. They know that each weapon taken out of their hands means another Marine’s life saved.
“It feels good to be out there and find something,” Milligan said. “It helps with morale.”
It’s not the first time this team of scouts came up with strong results. They’ve found 13 IEDs and another two detonated, but yielded no harm, according to Busch. They’ve shot a couple of IED emplacing teams, killing at least one, wounding another and capturing still one more. Last deployment, they caught another team of insurgents moving IEDs.
This find, though, takes the cake.
“That’s in there for the high point of the deployment,” Busch said. “The recruiter never tells you you’ll go through three years of bull to get 10 minutes of fame.”