BARWANAH, Iraq -- The Marines of Golf Company, call sign Joker, a part of the California-based Battalion Landing Team 2/4 with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, continued the search for improvised explosive devices and weapons as well as securing the city.
Sweeping through the city, a place that has been relatively quiet of insurgent activity in previous weeks, the Marines of 3rd Platoon were able to find an IED site that has been eluding Marines operating in the area for some time.
Roughly a kilometer and a half wide, the city is made up of mostly palm groves, residential and commercial buildings. This particular area has been known as a favorite of anti-coalition forces to hide their weapons, explained Staff Sgt. Michael Williams, 3rd Platoon commander for Golf Company.
Acting on intelligence of weapons and IEDs being hidden in the area, the key site being looked at was a bombed- out Iraqi Police station hiding an IED, explained Williams, a native of Cincinnati.
“We’ve been getting a lot of intelligence that insurgents have been storing weapons on the Euphrates River edge, so we figured that we would go ahead and sweep our sector to see if there were any weapons,” said Williams. “It’s not only a show of our force clearing the area to keep ourselves safe, but also to clean that area up of insurgents for the locals.”
The IED was a significant find, explained Williams, due to the fact it was on a route regularly used by Marines and other coalition forces. The area had been searched on numerous occasions, but up until 3rd Platoon’s search, had yet to be found.
The IED looked as though it had been there a reasonable amount of time, said Williams, but it was definitely set to go off at any time. The command wire was traced several meters to the river bank, which could have afforded an insurgent a good view of the street while remaining fairly concealed.
“It was in a great position. I actually walked back to the site and got down on the ground and looked in the direction of where the IED was. It had a direct line of site. If triggerman had any experience he could definitely time the passing of troops and vehicles and definitely ignite that IED,” Williams explained.
The IED was actually two rounds wired together, commonly referred to as daisy-chained. One round, a 155mm artillery round, was wired to a 120mm mortar round. The results obviously would not have been good, said Williams. It could have destroyed vehicles and there could have been several casualties.
“It would definitely have slowed our momentum. Either way, it would have been a victory for the insurgents,” he said.
It really comes as no surprise to Williams that his Marines found the IED site on their first patrol down to the IP station, considering that sweeping for weapons has been an ongoing job for them, he explained.
“It’s kind of an art form now. They know where to look and know what to look for. Things that are the normal run of the mill things you see here in Iraq are looked at as suspicious. I’m glad they found it, but if it wasn’t my platoon it would have been somebody from Golf Company,” said Williams.
The IED was found by Lance Cpl. William West, a combat engineer attached to BLT 2/4. While conducting sweeping operations, it was West and his metal detector that keyed in on the IED site.
At first it was thought of a water pipe running underneath the road, however, further exploitation of the scene uncovered the potentially lethal IED.
“When I realized what it was, my first thought was not to move it. Immediately after that I tried to get all the Marines as far away as possible,” said West, a native of Juneau, Alaska.
“You could have just hooked a 9 volt battery up to the wires—it could have gone off,” explained West.
West said the kill radius for a 155mm round is about 100 meters; however, Marines need to be at least 300 meters away to prevent contact with fragments.
While the Marines are still finding IEDs, Williams knows danger is present in the city along with the presence of insurgents. He also believes Barwanah is slowly becoming a safer place because of his Marines and the rest of Golf Company and BLT 2/4.
“Honestly, I do believe that since our arrival here in this area it’s a lot safer. There are a lot of Marines in a relatively small area; it really cuts down on the movement of the insurgency. Now, will I go out there and take a midnight stroll, it’s not that at all [because it’s not that safe]. I definitely feel safer when I out on patrols with my squads,” said Williams.