By Sgt. Michael Tuttle
5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
SAMARRA, Iraq – Two "substantial" weapons caches were found here recently during anti-insurgent operations.
Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment uncovered the weapons and explosives buried in orange groves off of a main road outside the city.
The caches included a grenade launcher and rocket propelled grenades, hundreds of mortar rounds, multiple anti-aircraft weapons, heavy machine guns and anti-tank weapons. Bomb making materials were also found including fuses, detonation cord and copper wire.
"This area around Samarra has been a hotbed of insurgent activity," said Capt. Jason Holder, B Company commander. "These weapons, if left in the insurgents' hands, could have wreaked major havoc on Coalition Forces."
Video equipment, used to record crimes and recruit future insurgents, was also found.
Both caches were designed for long term use so that insurgents could retrieve the hidden weapons as needed, said Capt. Adisa King, A Co. commander. Some of the munitions were rusted, indicating that they had been buried for a long time.
"They (insurgents) were going to come back to this location when their short supply ran out," King said.
The first cache was found when B Co., while conducting a reconnaissance mission, found a shovel hanging from a tree in the orange groves. Believing the shovel was left as a marker, the company began thoroughly searching the area.
The orange groves were in A Co.'s area of operations and the search was turned over to them. Joined by explosive ordnance disposal and military working dogs, A Co. spent more than a day in the citrus stench combing the rows of orange trees with mine sweepers and digging up weapons.
"We brought one dog team when we began our search," said 1st Lt. Brendan Hagan, A Co. platoon leader. "We found so much we brought out another dog team."
The second cache was found in a field owned by the same man who owns the land where the first was discovered. Again, a shovel was found marking the area.
Sgt. Chris Dyer, an A Co. team leader, crawled through the brush and started digging an area of loose dirt. He found one barrel containing weapons a foot deep. He dug five feet deeper and uncovered a dozen more barrels holding weapons.
"You can tell the field hadn't been tended in years, it was just high brush," Dyer said. "But they definitely put some time into laying out the weapons."
The second cache was spread over three locations within a 100 square meter area.
"This is a substantial find and it's going to set them back," said 2nd Lt. Patrick Orourke, B Co. platoon leader. "But we like to think about it in terms of how many lives might have been saved, not number of rounds."
A controlled detonation conducted by EOD at the cache sites destroyed the munitions.