AL KHARMA, Iraq -- A convoy of Marines from I Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, was struck by the blast from an improvised explosive device Sept. 27 on their way to conduct a presence patrol in the Al Kharma area.
Several Marines quickly set up security as dust and debris began to settle. The Marines would end up lucky this day, first for sustaining no casualties from the explosion and second for what they soon would find.
"It is a good thing that we came out of it with no one getting hurt, usually it is hard to come out of an IED attack without taking several injuries," said Cpl. Cesar L. Gomez, a team leader with Company I, 3/1.
Trying to find anyone who may have been involved with the IED, the Marines scoured the area and surrounding houses.
"Our enemy is determined but we are more determined," said Sgt. Justin W. Green, a squad leader with Company I, 3/1. The enemy will not stop us from completing our mission."
The Marines were not able to find any wires to trace back to an enemy observation post. However, as the Marines scanned the premises with medal detectors for clues or other possible IEDs, they discovered something else.
About 300 yards from the explosion, the Marines worked to dig up twenty-two 82 mm mortar shells, twenty-one rocket propelled grenade rounds, two RPG launchers and just under thirty .50-caliber anti-aircraft rounds.
"Finding a weapons cache of this size is like scoring a touchdown in a football game," said Staff Sgt. John T. Norred, a platoon sergeant with Company I, 3/1. "There is a sense of pride amongst the platoon when they find a huge supply of weapons and ammunition."
Norred realized the importance of taking these weapons out of the hands of the Anti-Iraqi Forces.
"You know for a fact that this weapon is not going to hurt a fellow Marine," said Norred, 32, a native of Decatur, Ga. "This isn't going to hurt one of my friends. I'm taking this stuff off the street."
We usually don't find this much in a normal cache, said Gomez, 22, a native of New York.
Although spirits were high as the Marines piled the seized munitions in the humvee, they realized the day's findings were merely a drop in the bucket.
"It is only a portion of what is out there, but every little bit counts," said Green, a Whately, Mass., native.
The Marines plan to continue in their efforts to remove illegal weapons caches from the area.
"You try not to dwell on the bad things that can happen out here. We just have to focus on completing our mission," said Green, 23. "Our platoon takes a sense of pride in going above and beyond what we are called to do."