Featured News

Combat Engineers conduct cache sweeps

6 Feb 2008 | Cpl. Scott T. McAdam Jr.

Marine Combat engineers are know for building and tearing down structures.

 However, engineer platoons like 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, are making a name for themselves by finding weapons caches along the Euphrates River.

 The platoon completed the mission with assistance from members of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division.

 According to Gunnery Sgt. Paul A. Marion, platoon sergeant, 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, these sweeps reduce the amount of weapons and improvised explosive device materials being pushed up and down the Euphrates River and in turn reducing the risk of locals stumbling across a cache and getting injured.

 “Cache sweeps are reducing the IEDs in country and taking away the insurgent’s greatest weapon,” added Marion, who is from Courtland, N.Y.

 Since the start of their deployment in September 2007, the combat engineers have found more than 155 weapons caches and more than 17,000 pieces of ordnance.

 During the cache searches, the Marines walk anywhere from four to 12 kilometers a day searching the banks of the river and inland areas to uncover locations where ordnance and weapons have been hidden.

 Using mine detectors, Marines assemble in a formation to scan the area, carefully listening to the beep of the detector while having one of their counterparts’ dig where the signal is strongest.

 “In this area, we’ve run into a lot of ordnance,” said Sgt. Edward A. Hall, platoon guide for 3rd platoon, Charlie Co.

 “We’ve pretty much found everything across the spectrum — anti-aircraft rounds, mortar rounds, rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and artillery rounds. You never know what you’re going to find.”

 If ordnance is uncovered, Marines try to identify what type of ordnance they’ve found and the quantity discovered. Platoon leaders use books to help identify ordnances not easily recognized.

 “A lot of the ordnance in Iraq is not new and is not in any condition where it could be fired or used for its original purpose,” said 1st Lt. Ethan H. Driscoll, from Portland, Ore., and the combat engineer platoon commander.

 After discovery, a call is placed to an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team standing by, and they will come to the site to properly dispose of it.

 According to Hall, the great part about being a combat engineer is that it’s a multi-faceted job. They are tasked with missions from building structures, putting up barriers for entry and control points, electrical wiring and cache sweeps.

 “We have a great mix of Marines here who have taken each challenge and turned it into a success,” added Hall, who is from Burlington, Kan.

 The platoon is scheduled to leave Iraq in the coming months and return to Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command 29 Palms, Calif.

 “I think it’s a good thing we’re doing here,” said Cpl. Matthew A. Bishop, basic electrician, 3rd platoon, Charlie Co., from La Grange, Ga. native. “I feel like I’m making a difference out here.”