News: Combat Engineers Clean Up Aftermath Left by Zarqawi Airstrike
Days after the death of coalition forces" prime target, Al-Zarqawi, the ruins of Zarqawi's house remains a monolithic symbol of victory in the global war on terrorism.
Despite the symbolism the wreckage yields, Soldiers from C Company, 14th Engineer Battalion are leveling the plot of land the house once stood on as a testament to the reconstruction efforts in Iraq amidst the destruction war may bring to a country.
"We dropped the bomb and made the mess," said Capt. Ryan T. Smith, company commander of the 14th Engineer Battalion and Ione, Wash., native. "We want to get it cleaned back up, so whoever owned this land can still use it."
The air-strike left the area littered with rubble and debris from the house, as well as knocking over many of the date palms that the region is known for. The engineers" mission was to clean the area of the rubble and level the land.
Before the engineers leveled the area with their bulldozers, Iraqi Army troops arrived on scene to witness the aftermath of the attack. Many of the Iraqi Army didn't wish to see the area cleared of debris, wanting the site to remain as a monument to Zarqawi's defeat.
"This is a positive step for the people of Iraq and a milestone for the Iraqi Army," said 1st Lt. James P. Hester, a Graham, Texas, native and platoon leader for the scout platoon, Bravo Troop, 1-32nd Cavalry, who provided security while the engineers cleared the area. "The Iraqi Army wants to keep the hole to remind them of our victory here, but it's important for us to clean the area up so that it can be used in the future."
Clearing the area and leveling off the land took engineers seven hours, but that wasn't their only involvement. They've been working at this site since the night of the attack on Zarqawi.
"This is our third day out here," Smith said. "The first night we were out here moving debris to help recover casualties and intelligence, the second day we moved all the rubble into piles and today we're clearing all the debris and leveling it all."
There were possibilities of danger during the three days, with IEDs at the site being the most notable, but the 14th Engineer Battalion are combat engineers trained as trailblazers, or IED hunters. Once they made sure the area was safe from any IED attacks, they were free to work.
"The only challenges we faced here was making sure that we removed any unidentified explosive objects from the initial debris, and making sure the rubble wasn't booby trapped when we returned," Smith said.
After C Company leveled the area it was hard to tell a house once stood there. But, despite the location of Zarqawi's demise being cleaned up, a victory in the war on terrorism and the struggle to free Iraq from an insurgency's grip has been felt by all.