CAMP TAJI, Iraq --
Marines with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), delivered roughly 900 captured enemy weapons to the Taji National Maintenance Depot aboard Camp Taji, Iraq, July 28, 2009.
This was one in a series of transfers that have taken place since 2004 under an agreement requiring enemy weapons captured by the U.S. military to be turned over to the Iraqi government for future use by the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police.
Staff Sgt. Alex P. Barros, the Maintenance Chief for Engineer Ordnance Maintenance Platoon, 2nd Supply Battalion Reinforced, explained that the weapons they delivered have been found and captured by units operating in Combined Area of Operations East within the last year, acquired primarily from weapons cache sweeps conducted in the region.
“We’re a collection point for the MLG and a consolidation point for the drop off to Taji,” Barros said. “Anyone who’s in the area that acquires weapons, they bring them to us at TQ.”
Barros explained the detailed process they go through with every weapon they receive. Each weapon is identified and classified by type and serial number; they are inspected for ammunition, and classified for their serviceability.
“When classifying [the weapons] as serviceable or unserviceable, we perform a quick function check so see if the weapons’ main parts operate,” Barros said. “With the weapons that fail the function check, we look for what would make the weapon serviceable.
“If it’s something simple, like missing a firing pin or spring, we still classify it as serviceable, since it can be easily rebuilt in Taji. Rusted weapons and those missing a lot of parts are unserviceable.”
Once the weapons have been identified, inspected and classified, the information is then reported to the MLG’s Equipment Readiness Section while the actual weapons are safeguarded by engineer ordnance Marines. When they have collected approximately 1,000 weapons, the Marines are ready to make a trip to the weapons depot at Camp Taji, the central collection point for all captured enemy weapons in Iraq.
From all of the captured weapons that have been collected at Camp Taji over the past year, only authorized weapons currently used by the Iraqi Army will be refurbished and given back to IA soldiers and Iraqi policemen for reuse.
“I think in a way it’s a two-fold thing,” Barros said. “We’re keeping the weapons out of the insurgents’ hands and giving them to the Iraqi government to safeguard themselves. It’s safer for Iraqi citizens and coalition forces operating here.”
Some of the weapons the Marines turned over dated as far back as the early 1900’s. There were weapons from countries like Belgium, China, Germany, Egypt and Iraq.
Lee F. Omoso, a small arms advisor at the depot, oversees the weapons turn in process to ensure that everything runs smoothly. He said the depot receives anywhere from 5 to more than 1,000 weapons a week.
“Our job is to go through everything, decide what’s good to give to the Iraqi small arms shop and destroy the rest,” Omoso said.
Turning over the weapons to an Iraqi small arms shop allows the Iraqis to fix the weapons they will be using.
“This will give them an opportunity to learn how to maintain their equipment and take pride in it,” Omoso said. “What they do at the depot is important, because it takes the weapons out of the enemy’s hands.
“For every weapon that is sitting here, it’s one less out there shooting or killing,” Omoso said.
Working as a team, the Marines from EO Platoon and the service members and civilians at the depot sorted through the delivery of weapons easily and quickly.
“The operation went really well,” Barros said. “We received a lot of help [from our Transportation Support Company and from our liaisons at the depot], that made it really easy. An evolution that only took a couple days would probably have taken a couple weeks without their help.”