Dagger Soldiers, IA search sand, swamp for weapons
July 1, 2009
BAGHDAD - The sight of a platoon of American Soldiers and their Iraqi Army partners in the desert with metal detectors and shovels may look like a treasure hunt, but was, in reality, a search for weapons caches reported to be hidden in the area.
In the ongoing effort to deny insurgents weapons, the Soldiers of Company D, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, dug into sand and swamp near the village of Khadir in Abu Ghraib, here, June 23.
The "Death Dealers" of Co. D, took a rugged dirt path to reach the sand dune, overlooking the nearby village of Khadir. While some Soldiers pulled security, others used metal detectors to look for buried objects that could be weapons or explosives. Capt. Jake Turner, an infantry officer who commands Co. D, said there was good reason to search the dune.
"We did a joint combat patrol in order to search for caches. There has been a previous history of caches in the area," said Turner, a native of Millinocket, Maine, assigned to Co. D, 1st CAB, 63rd Armor Regt., 2nd BCT, 1st Inf. Div. "Beforehand, I talked with an [Iraqi Army] lieutenant about possible locations and we came up with a game plan."
Spc. Thomas Marcello of Honolulu and Pfc. Daniel Parker of Jacksonville, Fla., both infantrymen assigned to Co. D, 1st CAB, 63rd Armor Regt., 2nd BCT, 1st Inf. Div., slowly walked through the sand and along gullies with metal detectors, which emitted an electronic whine. The Soldiers were listening for sustained beeps that are the tell-tale signs of buried metallic objects.
"If it's a small piece, it will be a little beep, but if it's something large, it will be a big beep," said Marcello.
A few times, the detectors gave off beeps and IA soldiers from the 3rd Company, 4th Battalion, 24th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, turned the sand with shovels. Only small pieces of rusted metal that appeared to be garbage were found. The Soldiers also searched a swampy area near the Euphrates River, but did not find any weapons caches. However, Turner said he was not discouraged, as the mission gave the Americans and the IA a chance to apply their training.
"Unfortunately, nothing was found," Turner said. "A lot of the times I measure success not by results, but by the continued improvement of the IA."
Turner said the non-commissioned officers of Co. D, have done a good job of training the IA, and the training showed during the cache search.
"I am very proud of the NCO-led instruction in this company," Turner said. "The NCOs have done a good job coaching, teaching and mentoring for the IA."
Turner also noted that the IA took up security positions on the summit of the sand dune, providing 360-degree security in all directions.
"I was very impressed that the IA instinctively went to the high ground without being told," Turner said. "Today we got to see how the ISF training works in the real world."
In the real world, insurgents often use the natural cover of palm trees, swamps and sand dunes to hide weapons, but the continued efforts of American Soldiers and the IA working to uncover caches will keep insurgents on the run.