Keeping their guard up
May 18, 2011
DIWANIYAH, Iraq - A routine route security mission on May 3 turned out to be a success for members of Company M, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment.
"Maddog" Company's 3rd Platoon, "Blue Pits," were traveling near Forward Operating Base Endeavor when the suspicious actions of a distant bystander were identified by one of the platoon's Soldiers.
"This was supposed to be a regular route security patrol," said 1st Lt. Riley Emter, 3rd Platoon leader, originally from Sheridan, Wyo. "We usually gather intelligence from local checkpoints and make a few stops to observe what's going on in the area."
During the mission the platoon stopped their vehicles to watch the activity of local people and traffic passing along the road. One of the platoon's Soldiers, serving as a gunner on his armored vehicle that day, focused his attention on a small group of men standing near the road.
"There were three guys up ahead of us just standing there staring at our vehicles and sort of looking around, too," said Spc. Cesar Nunez, an armored vehicle crewman with 3rd Platoon, and a native of Los Angeles
Nunez reported what he saw to the vehicle commander and was instructed to keep an eye on them.
One of the men among the group continually ran from one side of the street back to the other, pausing a few seconds on each side. Nunez said at this point his suspicion of the man grew stronger.
Shortly afterward, as the vehicles began to move forward along the route again, the man produced a small object from his pocket and held it up toward the passing trucks.
"The man raised the object just as the convoy was at about 90 degrees to him," said Nunez. "That's when I said to my vehicle commander, 'Hey, I think we're being videotaped.'"
Emter said when the information was reported to him, he immediately had the convoy swing around and encircle a small area around the suspicious man.
When the Soldiers approached the man, he had stopped an old woman who was passing by and was acting as if he were merely standing there having a conversation with her.
"Some Iraqi Police officers came to the scene when they saw us pull over," said Emter. "They helped us in questioning the man."
From the result of some basic questioning, and the man's nervous actions during that time, Emter said he decided to detain him. Soldiers further checked the man's background using handheld identification equipment.
The phone the man was using contained footage of the platoon's vehicles. Other suspicions video footage was found in the phone's memory, and the man had five extra memory cards for the phone. Nunez said information gathered this way can be used to plan attacks on American forces.
"The whole platoon was pretty high spirited after the mission was over," said Emter. "Sometimes it's pretty frustrating. We get attacked, and we can't always identify where it comes from. I think we felt a sense of accomplishment."
The Iraqi Police, along with 3rd platoon, brought the man back to the Najaf Anti-Terror Unit, who took him into custody for further investigation.
"The success of this mission was based on the consistent training we get and the leadership we have here in Maddog," said Nunez. "Every day we're reminded to watch our sectors and never drop our guard. Our company is never complacent, and we won't let anyone hurt us because we will find them first."