With the contract signed, we were off for the main mission of the day: digging up, or “exploiting” a cache that Bandit troop discovered the day prior. 1LT Lenon and his men had reached the site the night before- they uncovered enough in fleeting daylight to confirm the presence of arms and ammunition, and posted a guard over the site for the night. The initial search had turned up a recoilless rifle- about 8 feet of steel all told, and Bandit troop anticipated more heavy digging, so we went first in search of a power shovel.
This is one of the newest MRAPs. These trucks are huge.
There were no engineer assets at PB Meade, so we headed west to a small OP manned by Iraqi Army soldiers and a few American troops. There were several bulldozers, a crane, and a large power shovel at the OP- the only problem was that the shovel operator had the day off, and had left with the keys. Several White platoon soldiers offered to hotwire the shovel and figure out how to operate it, bringing to mind a spectacle LT Lenon described as “A bull in a china shop… that shovel jerking around, and rounds flying everywhere”. We left the OP to head back the direction we had come to start digging up the cache by hand, while LT Lenon called up to the Bandit troop operations center to tell them about the setback. Bandit called back- we were to wait at the OP while they called around for a shovel operator.
1LT Lenon waits for direction
LT Lenon sighed and said “They’re just going to call up to Squadron, who will call over here, and the guys here will tell them what we already know- there’s no one around who can operate the thing, and we’ll just waste more time.” Sure enough, Bandit called back down a few minutes later to tell us that no one could operate the shovel and that if we moved out now, we would have no engineer support. LT Lenon replied “Roger… I understand that if I leave with no digging equipment, I will nothing to dig with at the cache site.” The driver of the MRAP turned around and said to me: “You getting this? Make sure to tell people how much sense the Army makes.”
We drove ten minutes down the road to the cache site; 5 small hills with old cement bunkers crumbling on top of them. Last night, White platoon had dug up the side of one of the hills, exposing a large caliber recoilless rifle and a large caliber round. Their intent was to spend the day running over the rest of the hills with metal detectors, and digging up anything else buried there.
By mid-day, White platoon had satisfied themselves that the recoilless rifle and two rounds were all that remained of the cache. The rest had already been taken, or had never existed in the first place. White platoon packed up to return to base- on the way home, they dropped me off to spend the rest of the day with Red platoon.