Photo Information

Corporal Matthew G. Coleman, of San Juan, New Mexico, a combat engineer with Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, carefully scoops dirt away from a stack of mortar shells hidden in a rocky hillside by insurgents near Hit, Iraq, Jan. 7, 2006. The cache was one of several discovered by BLT 1/2 during Operation Hedgehog, the most recent counterinsurgency undertaken by the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) in Iraq.

Photo by Sgt. Richard D. Stephens

Operation Hedgehog unearths insurgent explosive caches

14 Jan 2006 | Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

For four long, backbreaking days, Marine combat engineers and infantrymen unearthed cache after cache of insurgent ordnance and weaponry in and around Hit, Iraq during Operation Hedgehog.

Marines from the Combat Engineer Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines kicked off the operation with a search of long-suspected hide sites throughout Hit and soon began unearthing treasure troves of insurgent arms.

“This was our biggest find to date,” said 1st Lt. Antonio Agnone, the combat engineer platoon leader for BLT 1/2.  “We’ve uncovered numerous, and significant caches the insurgents have hidden in Hit in places where they thought they would have easy access to them.”

Agnone and his Marines unearthed nearly 500 rockets and artillery and mortar rounds, along with approx. 100 tank rounds and substantial quantities of rocket propellant, fuzes, and blasting caps.  Such supplies are the components insurgents commonly use to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs), two of which were also found.  Also discovered was a stockpile of assault rifles and ammunition of various caliber.

According to Agnone, what amazed many of his Marines was the lengths the insurgents would go to hide the caches, going so far as to defile a local cemetery.

Acting on a tip, the Marines carefully searched the cemetery and found caches in grave spots adorned with both head and foot markers.

“We went over the area very carefully with mine detectors,” explained Agnone, a native of Columbus, Ohio, “and that led us to the sites.  We were very careful and didn’t disturb any civilian graves in the process.”

Shouldering the bulk of the effort were the individual combat engineers like those led by squad leader Cpl. Jeffrey R. Wass, an Erie, N.Y. native who deployed with most of the CEB platoon to Afghanistan in 2004.

“Corporal Wass and all the Marines did a superb job,” said Agnone.  “They were really excited about the finds because engineering is such a broad field and by doing this we’ve had a direct impact on insurgent operations instead of just preparing defensive positions.”

As usual, the Marines aren’t planning to rest on their laurels.

“We’re pushing ahead to do more of the same,” added Agnone, commenting on future operations planned by the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) in and around Hit.  “We’ll continue looking for more hide sites and suspected caches to deny these weapons to the insurgents.”

In addition to BLT 1/2, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, MEU Service Support Group 22, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced).  The MEU is in Iraq’s Al Anbar province conducting counterinsurgency operations.

For more information on the MEU’s role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, visit the unit’s web site at
22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit