We did five days out in the desert doing an area recon. The dynamics of the desert to the south west of Mosul were somewhat interesting. Known locally as the Jeezera, meaning island in Arabic, this area was home to some very remote villages that served as waystations for smugglers and terrorists flowing across the border from Syria. More than one foreign fighter had been intercepted by Special Operations teams in this region as they made thier way to Mosul. Village leaders are called Muqtar and are about as two faced as they come. When you meet with them they will tell you that there is no Sunni or Shia in their village and that they don’t support terrorism. It was pretty clear to us that they were mistaking their mouth for a bull’s asshole.
Once the would-be terrrorists moved from the Syrian border and leap frogged village-to-village they could make their way to a series of hills or berm lines that stretched from just South of Tal Afar most of the way to Mosul. My ODA patrolled this area and uncovered IED making materials a few months later.
Additionally, there were scattered villages out in the jeezera that were completely abandoned. The reasons for this appeared to be economic in origin. The people who lived there simply were not able to make a living on that terrain and moved on. There were also semi-nomadic peoples who ranged out into the desert and then collapsed towards city centers when the dry season hit and it became difficult to find water.
The politics that effected this overall situation are elborated upon in my previous article. This entire region south of Mosul/Tal Afar was more or less considered to be an intelligence black hole where there were few patrols and no one really knew what was going on there day to day. This was a situation that my ODA attempted to correct but we also had other respondsibilities and the LRS unit on FOB Sykes did much better work in this regard.
As mentioned previously, the most interesting part of this patrol (other than telling a Muqtar that I was going to send in the ninjas in black helicopters) was when a LRS Private identified an enemy cache buried just outside one of the villages.
In this picture you can see me (wearing tigerstripes) down in the pit with a LRS Sergeant uncovering the cache. The LRS PL, PSG, and Iraqi ISWAT soldiers were just waiting for me to step on a landline or pull on a tripwire! I’m bettting the LRS guys were sure to tap out some Copenhagen Snuff beforehand. We did uncover an 82mm mortar, two 60mm mortars, maybe a half dozen PKM’s, a few dozen AK’s, a few SVD’s, Det-Chord, and loads of RPG rounds and other ammunition. I’m ashamed to say that I did not have sufficient explosives to demo a cache of this size myself so we had to call in EOD from FOB Sykes.
A LRS trooper recently reminded me of how all this went down! Of course it wasn’t until around midnight that EOD actually arrived. They were driving in and the LRS guys were trying to walk them into our location by waving an IR laser. Maybe it was half an hour that the EOD guys spent driving around the desert, unable to locate our laser being waved in the air until one of the LRS guys asked them if they even had their NODs on. Oh. Yeah…
Anyway, here is how we ended the night. Enjoy.