Reporters' Notebook: Strange things keep popping up in Iraq
January 21, 2005
The residential trailers on Baghdad’s Camp Liberty don’t have lawns, but one of them sure does have a heck of a lawn ornament.
Soldiers from 3rd Platoon, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment have an inert, 20-foot-tall SA-2 surface-to-air missile leaning against their trailer, and it’s almost become a tourist attraction since they brought it to camp two weeks ago.
“Ever since then, it’s become a photo opportunity for people,” said Sgt. 1st Class David Simpson.
The missile’s top can be seen poking up into the air from the main road running through camp.
Simpson, who shares half of the trailer with platoon leader 1st Lt. Joshua Betty, said that they’ll frequently walk out of their trailer and see people gawking or taking pictures.
Army Kiowa helicopters found the missile on a sheik’s land north of Abu Ghraib and called in Simpson’s platoon to check it out. When they arrived, they realized that it had no fuel and no warhead.
They were ordered to bring it to camp, so they loaded it on top of a Humvee and drove it back. Later, in the same area, two other SA-2 missiles were found and officials snagged them instead. Simpson and Betty got to keep theirs, and now it leans against their trailer.
“It’s kind of like our pet now,” said Simpson.
Capt. Scott Shaw, the company commander, said he considers the missile as nothing more than an Iraqi lawn gnome.
Simpson said he’d like to bring the missile back to Fort Drum, N.Y., when they redeploy.
“I don’t know if we can get it into our conex [shipping container],” he said. “We would if we could.”
Soldiers conducting random checks of vehicles in Iraq never know what they’re going to turn up. While looking for illegal weapons, explosives or components of roadside bombs, the soldiers also find almost anything else they can imagine, or sometimes, things they never thought they’d see.
This week, scout platoon members of Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, set up an inspection point on a road outside of Ramadi. They searched each vehicle and its occupants, usually turning up nothing.
A few hours into the mission, a group of three men in an orange-and-white sedan pulled up. The first two men exited and opened the doors and hood at the soldiers’ command. But the third man refused to open the trunk.
The soldiers repeated the order, but the man still refused, making a strange noise and throwing up confused hand gestures. Finally, the man opened the trunk. Up popped one furry head. And then another, and another. The men were transporting at least four small sheep in the back of the car.
“I’ve got to get a picture of this,” said Pfc. Matthew Thacker, retrieving a small disposable camera from his Humvee.
“My wife is never gonna believe it. She’s gonna crack up.”