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Unearthed munitions end with big bang in Latifiyah

-- Task Force 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, Soldiers moved in on an anti-Iraqi insurgent in the Latifiyah area of north Babil on Jan. 18. They detained their target without a hitch.

The operation ended with more than just the successful apprehension of a suspect, however.

Working off a tip gathered while on site, Task Force 2-12 Cavalry Soldiers, working with their attached Estonian light infantry platoon, Stone, found five weapons caches with a total roundup of more than two tons of raw explosives, dozens of artillery and mortar rounds, and an assortment of grenades, anti-personnel mines, armor-piercing ammunition and launchers.

Sgt. Samuel Jones, a Task Force signal systems support specialist who works as a radio operator with the Stone Platoon, recalled the events leading up to one of the bigger finds of the day; two tons of raw explosives.

"We detained our main objective and were waiting, and then one of our sources came up and said there were caches on another guy's land further off our objective, he said. He had already been in jail for planting [vehicle-borne explosive devices], so we and Annihilator went to his land."

"We just kept going, going, going, and when we got 300 meters off of his land we found these white sacks," he said. "So we started digging these white sacks out of the ground. And working about seven feet into the ground we pulled out 26 sacks."

The find, two tons of raw explosives, resulted in the first of three controlled detonations an explosive ordnance disposal team made on site that day.

"It was like a nuclear bomb, to tell you the truth." He said, The ground actually went up and then it pushed up like mushroom cloud. I was sitting there thinking about if that was an improvised explosive device. There would be nothing left."

After finding the cache of explosives, the Task Force Soldiers decided to conduct a more thorough sweep of the area, consisting mostly of farmland. Capt. Andrus Meriloj, the Stone Platoon commander, explained how his troops found the buried caches using metal detectors.

"When we found the first spot it was actually easy because there were signs that something was there," Meriloj said. "Then one squad was searching in one place, and two others in different places. That's how we found caches in the different places. It was just luck, and some experience we have gained here."

Jones, who has worked with all three rotations of Estonian Soldiers who have been attached to Task Force 2-12 during the past year, said he wasn't surprised to see the Estonian troops find caches on this farmland. It was their second time searching the property, and during their first search they had found a cache as well.

"It's a tradition for Stone," Jones said. "Their first raid, they always hit the jackpot. After finding all that stuff [the first time], I knew this place was loaded."

It was loaded with two more caches of explosives and another large cache of artillery rounds, armaments and ammunition. Capt. Dave Perry, the Task Force 2-12 Cavalry assistant operations officer, said the Stone platoon's attitude probably helped contribute to the amount of munitions found during the search.

"They are a first-rate organization by any standard," Perry said, "They're disciplined, they're brave and they are competent in what they do. They're very thorough searchers and they're good in a fight, so we've had a great experience working with the Estonians. They always achieve what they set out to accomplish."

On the second controlled detonation of the day, the explosive ordnance disposal team let Perry play trigger man on the remote detonation device.

"That was fun," Perry said. "I haven't ever blown that much demo before. I worked with demolitions in the past, but have never blown a charge that size before, and it was good to know that I had something to do with the destruction of equipment that could be used against Army Soldiers." (By Spc. Andy Miller

122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Release #050120p

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