News: Caches sweep uncovers new leads, trust
Story by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell
BAGHDAD — A concerned local citizen tips a community leader in the rural village of Hay al-Skri in northern Baghdad. There might be a weapons cache buried on a farm.
Soldiers of 2nd Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, are quick to move and arrive at the farm, May 8, with tools to search for weapons and explosives.
"We follow up on leads for weapons caches with tips that we receive," said Staff Sgt. Paul Jones, a Waynesboro, Pa., native and cavalry scout squad leader assigned to C Troop. "The locals give us information because they want to save their kids too. They live here and are tired of getting blown up."
The Soldiers quickly cordon off the farm, make their presence known and talk to the military-aged males at the farm, next to a school. Parents herd the children into a line on a curb. Despite their curiosity, the children bury their heads in their books.
"Overall, you got the insurgency placing these caches at places like this and when you find them, the locals come out and thank you," said Cpl. Bryan Eveland, a cavalry scout team leader from Waterville, Pa., also assigned to C Troop.
As the search continues, Iraqi security forces help in the interviewing process and also provide security at the farmhouse.
"Especially in rural areas, it's good to have the ISF because people don't have contact with American forces all that much," said Sgt. Matt Coble, a Reedsville, Pa., native and cavalry scout team leader assigned to C Troop. "People might feel more comfortable and more responsive to us with the ISF there."
While the troops systematically scour the different fields using metal detectors and shovels, the mission develops into two objectives — to provide security for the people here and to build a trustworthy relationship with the community.
"People in the community realize we're out to make the community safe," added Coble. "That's our number one goal. But hopefully it will also encourage community members to speak up. If they come to us with information, then we'll do something about it."
According to Jones, this isn't an overnight process. And like today, following up on leads sometimes doesn't lead to a cache, only another lead. Yet, the Soldiers aren't disheartened because being out in sector everyday builds relationships.
"From what I've seen being on the ground, the trust is there," explained Coble. "We're going after guys that shouldn't be there and the population sees us and knows that we're there for their security. And as long as we can continue to integrate ISF into missions like we did today, it's going to be better off for everybody," he said.
Although the suspected weapons cache was not found after hours of searching, more information was uncovered leading the Soldiers onward to track down another lead with the ISF. The children sat diligently by as the adults said goodbye and their neighbors looked on, maybe realizing that their farming community just became a little safer.