|Maj. Strong reporting From Iraq
Attaching story and photos from recent mission near Babel, Iraq from Major Arnold Strong, State Public Affairs Officer, Oregon National Guard. Currently on assignment with 2nd Battalion, 2-162 Infantry, Oregon Army National Guard assigned to the 39th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
Stopping IEDs, One Wire at a Time
21 Feb 05
Yusifiya, Iraq – The mission has become routine: clear the route, begin dismounted patrolling and look for evidence of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) or weapons caches. No one thought it would prove successful within minutes of its launch.
On February 21st, in an early morning mission, 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 2-162nd Infantry, dismounted their armored HMMWVs and deployed in a wide platoon wedge, walking through farm fields and crossing knee to waist deep canals, searching for evidence of . Within minutes of beginning their patrol, Sgt. Robert “MEDICINE MAN” Dalke, 28, from Medford, Ore., called out “I’ve got wire!”
1st Lieut. Cory Michael “SURESHOT” Jones, 27, of Grant’s Pass, Ore., immediately jumped to action. “Let’s follow it,” he said. As the unit followed the wire for about forty meters, collecting it as we went, Spec. Andrew “REAPER” Stocker, 23, of Wilsonville, Ore., called out, “I think I’ve hit the jackpot.” As the platoon leader closed in on Stocker’s location, it became clear that it was a jackpot indeed. A several hundred meter spool of copper wire lay hurriedly covered by two mud rocks on top of a mud berm that provided a clear view of vehicle traffic on a main avenue of approach.
“It was clear that it was more hastily laid than the usual,” said Stocker. “It’s obvious these guys were in a hurry,” he explained.
Stocker has proven to be a major force multiplier. In the limited free time of this deployment, he has mastered elementary Iraqi Arabic and is rarely far from his platoon leader as both the assigned forward observer and, in many ways more importantly, as the resident linguist.
The platoon leader, realizing that his unit had discovered a command detonation point for an IED called his platoon sergeant on his Motorola radio.
The platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st First Class Shannon “PUCK” Compton, 38, of Roseburg, Ore., a combat engineer who proudly wears the Army’s newest distinctive tab, the “Sapper” badge, on his shoulder, had already traced the wire to the road. Working with the 1st squad leader, Staff Sgt. James “DEVIL DOG” Borja, 40, from Troutdale, Ore., they began the process of identifying the exact point where the bomb was deployed.
Working directly with Specialist Robert Lybarger, 21, also of Roseburg, Compton walked the young soldier through the steps of unburying the device. Their digging produced significant results: four pieces of ordnance daisy-chained together to produce a massive bomb. Three 124 mm artillery rounds were wired together with a single 126mm round, the total combined payload approximately 400 lbs. of explosives, capable of destroying a M2 Bradley, never mind the up armored M114 HMMWVs that this unit is driving.
The steely nerve of this young soldier was extraordinary to witness. As Lybarger dug around the unexploded ordnance, his quiet cool stilled his hand as he slowly trenched around the four heavy artillery pieces.
Describing the experience, Lybarger said, “It’s hard to explain. I won’t lie, all I was thinking was ‘this thing is going to blow any second.” Asked to explain how that felt, this young employee of the Roseburg Subway restaurant back home said, “As long as I was saving my fellow soldier’s lives, I was okay with it.”
As the platoon continued to clear the fields surrounding the road, meeting with locals and asking questions about any suspicious activity, the soldiers awaited the arrival of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team. Several hours later, the team arrived and the reason for their delay became obvious, the team, joined by a platoon of Marine Corps engineers, had hit an IED of their own before having to respond to two other sites.
Within minutes of their arrival the EOD team removed the explosives from the road, moving them ten meters off the road, laced the ordnance with C4 explosives and, after vacating the area, destroyed the weapon, disabling insurgent activity in the area.
“This was an outstanding day,” said Jones. “Big payoff, removed the obstacle, and got home safe,” he concluded.
Major Arnold V. Strong is the Public Affairs Officer for the Oregon National Guard. He is currently deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, to report on the actions of the Oregon National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry, deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom II, as part of the Global War on Terror. He will continue to send regular updates over the course of the next several weeks to inform the citizens of Oregon about the accomplishments of the citizen-soldiers of the Oregon National Guard. He will return to Oregon with the unit in March.
State Deputy Public Affairs Officer
Oregon National Guard
503-584-3917, cell 503-931-5179