Can you dig it? 2-14 Inf. hunts for weapons in Abu Ghraib
BAGHDAD, Iraq - “Life is a garden: dig it,” one Soldier says, quoting the movie Joe Dirt before he begins to move earth with a rusted shovel.
When not conducting combat operations, Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), treat the town of Abu Ghraib like a giant treasure hunt as they leave no stone unturned in the search for weapons caches.
First Lt. Joshua Betty, a platoon leader from College Station, Texas, said digging for potential weapons is a daily routine for him and his Soldiers. Entire patrols are often dedicated to searching large areas for buried munitions.
“We’re denying the enemy the ability to operate,” Betty said. “It’s become a big part of our operations. It’s really starting to pay off.”
The cache hunters aren’t alone combing a beach for buried treasure, however. Soldiers from Company B, 27th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Airborne), 20th Engineer Brigade (Combat) (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C. assist 2-14 Infantry Soldiers with mine detectors. The engineers scour fields, roads and yards looking for the tone that indicates metal, said Pfc. Samuel L. Goll, a Morris, Ok., native with the 27th Eng. Bn.
“Whenever we get one, we work them like a horse,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas E. Larkin, a Carthage, N.Y. resident with 2-14 Infantry.
“They’re always out there,” Betty said. “They do a really good job. They find lots of stuff for us.”
The combination of digging and detecting has paid dividends, Betty said. Since mid November, 2-14 Infantry has unearthed more than 90 caches in the Abu Ghraib district. Many Soldiers can now spot a potential cache by glancing at oddly colored grass or soft dirt surrounded by hard earth. Keen eyes during expeditions aid them all over the town, including backyards and gardens. One time the Soldiers found a large cache buried in an Iraqi’s front yard.
“We found like 60 mortar rounds,” Goll said.
Soldiers from 2-14 Infantry often search the outsides of Iraqis’ houses, Betty said. Instead of barging in, however, they ask for permission to search the grounds. The majority of Iraqis are receptive to the Soldiers’ search.
“They’re very inviting for the most part,” Betty said.
Part of their willingness to help may reflect on Abu Ghraib residents’ desire to be rid of terrorist activity, Larkin said. Sometimes Iraqis will even lead 2-14 Infantry Soldiers to caches.
“They’re getting sick of it too,” Larkin said. “They don’t want it in their backyard.”
Several Soldiers said they feel they are improving the situation in Iraq by uncovering caches. They do admit, however, that there are far more munitions hidden that are yet to be discovered.
“We feel like we’re making a dent, but this country has thousands of weapons,” Larkin said. “We do our best to find every one.”
Goll said he feels frustrated when he returns from a patrol without finding any munitions. But Betty said he and other Soldiers still go out every day hoping to take terrorism down one cache at a time.
“Even if we found one cache a month, that’s one less piece of ordnance, one less mortar round that can be used to shoot at us,” he said.
Note: Story by Spc. Matthew McLaughlin, 10th Mountain Division PAO.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq - Spc. Robert Fairfax, a Wilmington, N.C. native with the 27th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Airborne), Fort Bragg, walks through a field of scrap metal while on patrol. Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) use Soldiers from the 27th Eng. Bn. (Combat) (Airborne) to search for caches and other weapons made of metal. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew McLaughlin)
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Staff Sgt. Russell Odonnell, a native of Bradford, R.I. with 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, inspects a bag of coins buried in a garden. Soldiers use metal detectors to find caches, which often turns up surprising results. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew McLaughlin)
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) turn what remains of a car over to search underneath it. Terrorists often bury caches in areas they believe Soldiers will not look. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew McLaughlin)
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Sgt. Ruben Paredes, a Roosevelt, N.Y. resident with 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, digs after an engineer detects metal in Abu Ghraib. Soldiers from 2-14 Infantry often spend hours digging for hidden weapons. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew McLaughlin)
Text for release and opsec review provided by the 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office. For contact 3 ID PAO at DAVID.ABRAMS@id3.army.mil.
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