SUBYHAT, Iraq -- March 13 started as a normal day for the Marines of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1. They were set to patrol the streets and talk to local Iraqi leaders, when the local Iraqi Police and Sons of Iraq stopped them.
“One of them pulled us aside and said, ‘Come over here, you need to check this out,” said Sgt. Nathan Aja, section leader, JUMP section, Company G, 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines. “They saw something that didn’t look right to them so they brought us over to it and we began to dig it up.”
What they found was surprising. The Marines and Iraqi Security Forces dug up approximately 4,000 pounds of explosives and ammunition.
The Marines began to dig with the ISF and first came across two artillery rounds that had been prepped with detonation wires.
“The artillery rounds we found were ready to go to be used,” said Aja, a 25-year-old native of Rocklin, Calif. “All they would have to do is drop them in a hiding place and detonate them. We’re not sure how long they have been there, but they were definitely staged there so someone could just come back and use it.”
The rounds were just the beginning of their find. After finding the artillery rounds along with approximately 370 anti-aircraft rounds, the Marines and ISF dug up 37 barrels of homemade explosive similar to TNT.
“We just kept digging and this stuff just kept popping up,” said Lance Cpl. Anthony Vincenty, vehicle commander, JUMP section, Co. G, 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines.
“This was the biggest cache I have ever found. It was really surprising. Even the guys in EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) said they have never seen a find this big. I’m just glad that we got it off the street because now they (the insurgents) can’t use it.”
For some of the Marines that are new to the unit, this was their first find and they were astounded by the unearthed cache.
“When we showed up, we first came across the arty round, then we kept digging and found all the barrels all within a 20-meter radius,” said Lance Cpl. Stephen Peters, a driver with the JUMP section, Co. G, 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines, and a 20-year-old native of Warwick, N.Y. “This was my first time finding a cache. It was very exciting to find it. After we found it I was talking to my seniors and they were amazed at how much we had dug up, and these are guys that found a lot of caches their last deployment, so it made it that much better to be a part of it.”
The key to the Marines finding this explosive cache was the partnership with the ISF in the area.
“I place a lot more trust in the Iraqis this deployment because they’re starting to take control of their country,” said Vincenty, a 23-year-old native of Stanton Island, N.Y. “They’re doing a lot better than last year. They are a lot more knowledgeable of what they’re doing but more importantly, they seem to take a lot more pride in what they are doing and in their country. There are a lot more Iraqi flags flying around and the security forces are wearing their uniforms with pride.”
Aja said that the Iraqis are hands on with what they are doing, standing post and taking care of situations by themselves, leaving the Marines in a position of supervision.
“Compared to last year, this is a different mission,” said Vincenty, who also deployed last year with the Island Warriors. “They’re doing their own checkpoints and conducting business on their own. We just check up on them and make sure they’re doing everything right.”
The Hawaii-based unit is currently deployed as part of Regimental Combat Team 1 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.