News: Trust leads to weapons cache find
Story by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell
BAGHDAD — A concerned local citizen contacted the Soldiers of Company A, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment about a site insurgents used to store weapons here, just northwest of Abu Ghraib.
With the help of local Iraqi army soldiers, the Fort Lewis-based troops assigned to 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, quickly sprang into action and dug up an insurgent weapons cache in northwestern Baghdad, Nov. 1.
The combined search uncovered a mortar tube, a tripod and a base plate used by insurgents for launching indirect fire.
For these Soldiers who have been in Iraq for almost two months, it is a tangible sign they are helping the security situation here, said Spc. Eric Marquez, an infantryman from El Paso, Texas, assigned to Company A, 4th Bn., 9th Inf. Regt., 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div.
"I was pretty excited ... I broke a little sweat, but it was worth it," Marquez explained after digging up suspected cache sites in full body armor.
Marquez added, most of the time the information or the tip doesn't work out, so this mission has been the best one yet.
"This is the first thing that we've found since we've been here," stated a sweat-soaked and dirt-covered Marquez.
Though it wasn't a major find and there's plenty of work to be done, Sgt. James Hall, an infantry team leader from Orangeville, Calif., did admit that it's a positive step.
"Insurgents can't use it anymore to shoot indirect fire on our FOBs (Forward Operating Bases), so it's a good feeling and a good find," said Hall, assigned to Company A, 4th Bn., 9th Inf. Regt., 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. "It also makes the community feel like we're still here to find the bad guys."
In rural areas such as this, earning the trust of the community can be a tough task, but doing something about the weapons in the area can go a long way, explained Staff Sgt. Henry McCormick, a human intelligence collector from Oceanside, Calif., assigned to Company A, 4th Bn., 9th Inf. Regt., 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div.
According to McCormick, one of the biggest steps in building a relationship is trust, so he ensures that local citizens feel comfortable and safe if they want to give U.S. forces information about insurgents.
His help led to the tip that found the mortar tube buried in the field.
"They (locals who offer information) believe in what we're doing and that we can help make a difference with the security of this country," said McCormick. "A large part is that they want to protect their village and their friends, so they give us information because they can trust us."
McCormick also thinks that there is another, deeper connection that some Iraqis have with U.S. Soldiers that breeds trust.
"They see that we're away from our friends and families and then think, 'Hey, they're sacrificing by being over here, so it's alright to sacrifice some things too to try and make a difference,'" said McCormick about the willingness of locals to give him information.
Though not everybody is willing to step up and point out where insurgents operate, it's a good sign when people do and it pays off, he added.
The pay off for U.S. and Iraqi security forces is that one more weapon is off the streets and the community is a little safer. Today, the Soldiers of Able Company are one step closer to creating a trusting and safe community.