News: Iraqi locals find explosives cache; tip off Marines
Story by Pfc. Jeremiah Murphy
By Pfc. Jerry Murphy
Regimental Combat Team 1
SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq – With the help of local Iraqis and engineers from 4th Engineer Support Battalion, Marines of 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, uncovered homemade explosives (HME) strewn about the rubble of an old schoolhouse, March 28.
The Marines received intelligence from local Iraqis that there was possibly two buckets of explosives scattered throughout the remains of the school.
"The Iraqis helping us out like this all the time (ensures) the fact that they're not all terrorists," said Lance Cpl. Corey A. Gress, a rifleman with Company E, 2nd Bn., 24th Marines. "They do help us out a lot out here, all the time."
Before the Marines found the explosives and turned it over to explosive ordinance disposal (EOD), they searched the area the night before to see if they could locate the HME and set up a plan for the extraction of the ordinance.
"It was pitch-black and we couldn't see much," said Cpl. Isaac H. Flint, a 23-year-old combat engineer team leader with 4th ESB. "(Another Marine) said he saw a plastic container with writing on it way back in the rubble, but we couldn't get to it."
The container was believed to have 35 pounds of explosives along with detonation cord.
The Marines returned to their combat outpost (COP) for the night and put together a plan to return to the sight the next day and retrieve the container. Upon returning, two Marines crawled into the small space where the container was located, and began rummaging through the debris to get to the container.
"It was pretty tight in there, but we got to the first (container) right away and figured out a way to get it out," said Gress, a resident of Waterloo, Iowa. "Intel told us there was a second container, but there were some really small spots we couldn't get to."
After realizing they weren't going to fit into some smaller spots, the Marines called EOD. They came to the school to pick up the HME and took a sample of the explosive.
Upon returning to the COP, the Marines made a call to Camp Fallujah and worked out a time that they could pick up a military working dog and his handler to return to the school the next day. With the help of the dog, a 3-year-old German Sheppard named Sgt. Slovi, the Marines searched through some of the smaller areas the Marines could not get to.
"Having the dog with us not only makes it easier to check small spots, but it's also a safety precaution," said Cpl. James E. Kibler, a combat engineer from Lexington, Va. "It's hard as hell to see some areas with just our eyesight."
This is not the first time the Marines were guided by the information given to them by local Iraqis; in fact, it has become a common occurrence according to Marines.
"The Iraqi civilians give us (intelligence) all the time. Some of it's good, some bad, but either way, they are trying to help us in any way possible," said Kibler, 22. "In the initial invasion, the civilians were scared of us, now they just want to help. They know when something bad is going to happen and they tell us. They just want to be happy just like we do."
With one more weapon taken away from the enemy and many more to find, the Marines are confident that, with the help the Iraqi people, they will locate as many weapons caches, improvised explosive devices or ordinance strewn about rubble as they can up until their departure from theatre.