TAJI, Iraq - Soldiers from a Pennsylvania Army National Guard unit worked with Iraqi Army Soldiers, June 3, to confirm that insurgents have not reseeded a small portion of desert area, northwest of Taji, with weapon caches.
The joint mission also provided IA Soldiers an opportunity to hone air assault skills as the Iraqis participated in a helicopter insertion into the search point with their 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team counterparts.
"Today's mission was a combined air assault operation. The purpose was to confirm or deny whether the area is being used by the enemy for logistics," said Capt. Greg Holloway, of Slippery Rock, Pa., commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, 56th SBCT.
Holloway said insurgents have used the location in the past for hiding weapons. U.S. and Iraqi forces periodically search such areas to ensure insurgents don't begin using them again.
"We try to get out and search those areas," Holloway said. "Overall, we confirmed that it's not being used. Also, we were giving the Iraqi Army some general experience in using Army aircraft."
Nearly 50 Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers and IA Soldiers participated in the mission. After scrambling from a pair of UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, Soldiers divided into search teams and used metal detectors and two military working dogs to search an area near Nubai.
"This was historically a cache site. There have been some things found here in the past," said Staff Sgt. Craig Stevens, of Pottsville, Pa.
Though the Soldiers discovered no weapons caches on this mission, Stevens said the times when weapons are found are rewarding. Stevens said anything found by Iraqi and U.S. forces is that many fewer weapons available to insurgents.
"We've found some timing devices and initiators," Stevens said of previous searches by his squad in other areas. "It's kind of exciting when you find something."
Spc. Elam Scott, also of Pottstown, Pa., operated a metal detector for one team and pinpointed his team's search locations using GPS technology. His team excavated several small areas but found only old, expended rounds and other bits of metal. Finding no new caches confirmed what areas have not been used by insurgents. Even though the searches turned up nothing, a gain was made.
"It's a good opportunity to work with the Iraqi Army," Scott said.
A team of Soldiers secured the perimeter of the area while the search teams worked. Holloway said there was very little civilian traffic in the area. He said that traffic was related to farming or related to a fuel depot in the area.
"Just people living their lives in the middle of nowhere," Holloway said.