By Sgt. Whitney Houston
2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Locating weapons caches continues to be an instrumental element in the success of the Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Multi- National Division – Baghdad Soldiers conducted a weapons cache search on the east bank of the Tigris River, Sept. 14, 2008, near Camp Taji, northwest of Baghdad.
The mission was conducted by a platoon with the 66th Engineer Company "Sappers," along with a squad of infantry Soldiers assigned to Company B "Boars Eye," 52nd Infantry Regiment, attached to 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment "Wolfhounds," both units from 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team "Warrior," 25th Infantry Division. Joining them were two canine teams from the 34th Military Police Detachment, which is based out of Fort Knox, Ky.
This mission was not typical for a platoon from an engineer company. Their major responsibility is extracting improvised explosive devices and other ordnances from tactical routes.
"Normally, we'll assign a squad to do a cache search with infantry battalions," said 1st Lt. Darell Coffey, native of Winona, Miss. and platoon leader with the 66th Eng. Co. "They would serve as subject matter experts and bring their mine detectors and have an assigned section to search. But this time, we took our whole platoon out there to do the cache search ourselves."
The engineer company has incorporated these search missions for a change in mission to avoid complacency and help the infantry battalions.
"Our primary role as engineers is route clearance," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Best, native of Williamsport, Penn., who is a platoon sergeant with the 66th En Co. "Every day we clear roads for eight to 10 hours. Our guys need a change of pace, and it also helps the infantry clear more of their battle space of any weapons."
The engineer Soldiers took the cache-clearance mission head on, overcame many obstacles and learned lessons to apply for future operations.
"You have limited access because of buildings and houses. A lot of vegetation gets in the way, which limits your advance; you have canals you need to cross and dusty weather limits your air assets," Coffey said. "But because this was the first mission of its type, we can assess all of these factors and know more fully how to deal with them for next time."