|TAJI, Iraq, Oct. 17, 2005 — A U.S. Army combat engineer sifts through the sun-bleached sand and uncovers a shiny rocket tube as other soldiers scramble into the pit to pry the tube from the ground.
They've been at this for hours and found hundreds of pounds of explosives, but the site isn't empty yet.
The soldiers of 70th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, found the weapons cache in a remote area northwest of Baghdad and worked to uncover the munitions for several days.
| "Just like a good fisherman can look at the water and say, 'Hey, there are probably fish over there,' our guys have developed the ability to do that (with weapons caches) as well."
U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony M. Cady
Since the battalion, nicknamed "Kodiaks," started digging in the arid, desert-like terrain, they have unearthed more than 700 mortar rounds (ranging from 60-millimeter to 120-millimeter), more than 700 rocket-propelled grenades, hundreds of rockets and 51,000 rounds of anti-aircraft ammunition.
The Kodiak soldiers, assisted by troops from 977th Military Police Company, also found several mortar tubes, various explosives, small-arms weapons, homemade rocket launchers, wires and timing devices.
"Any time we find a cache this size, we take a lot of pride in it. It's a big win for us," said U.S. Army Capt. Jesse Curry, commander of 70th Engineer Battalion's C Company. "We know that these are rounds that won't be buried on the side of the road in our sector or around Baghdad."
The catalyst for the cache discovery was a routine patrol conducted by C Company miles away from the site.
"We found the cache based on a 'snap' traffic stop and that led us out to this site in the first place," said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony M. Cady, command sergeant major for the Kodiaks. "It's kind of like a piece of string frayed on a sweater. We just pulled on it and instead of the piece of string ending, we ended up with a whole sweater."
During their combat operations, the C Company patrol pulled over a truck and found fuses inside. The soldiers detained the two men in the truck, questioned them and got the information that led them to the general area of the weapons site.
Once they were there, they had to rely on their experience and instincts to unearth all the hidden munitions.
"We started off with picks and shovels," Curry said. "You identify where you think there is a cache, and you call your buddies over with the picks and shovels and start digging."
"The combat engineers in the Kodiak Battalion have become very adept at identifying what appears to be likely places that anti-Iraqi forces have stored their munitions," Cady said. "Just like a good fisherman can look at the water and say, 'Hey, there are probably fish over there,' our guys have developed the ability to do that (with weapons caches) as well."