CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq — Gunnery Sgt. Jeff Dagenhart’s sixth sense kicked into overdrive Sunday while he was patrolling a major Iraqi highway that some Marines have dubbed “the most dangerous road in the world.”
He liked nothing about the young man perched on a motorcycle in the median of Main Service Road Mobile, a thoroughfare between Iraq and Jordan, of which the 25 miles between Baghdad and Fallujah is patrolled day and night by Marines of Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.
When the platoon began approaching the man early Sunday afternoon, the suspect tried to hide in a palm grove, said Dagenhart, 35, platoon leader of 2nd Platoon, Weapons Company.
“He was sitting near a [known] IED [improvised explosive device] spot, he seemed to be observing, he was riding a motorcycle, I could see the shovel handle,” Dagenhart said. “Then he tried to evade us, and he got caught.”
Inside the motorcycle’s sidecar, the Marines found a shovel, several canisters, sharp metal pieces, a slice of a metallic mine, an empty sandbag and an empty beer can, among other things.
“This is some of the stuff they’re known to use, stuff that would really mess up our day and mess up our Marines,” Dagenhart said.
Using a field kit, Dagenhart tested the man and the motorcycle for gunshot residue, getting a positive reading from the suspect’s hands, the handle of a shovel and various areas on the motorcycle, including the handle bars, brake and gas tank, Dagenhart reported to Capt. Ed Nevgloski, commanding officer of 3-8’s Weapons Company.
The man was found in the general area where several hours earlier, forces reported hearing small-arms fire, Nevgloski said.
Marines detained the suspect, cuffing his hands behind his back and taking him to a temporary detention facility. The MAM, or what the military calls “military-aged man” didn’t struggle as Marines led him away from the area.
Dagenhart rode the motorcycle back to the unit’s home base.
Day and night, Weapons Company links up with U.S.-trained Iraqi Security Forces to patrol the two major roadways that run through their sector, which they’ve named MSR Mobile and MSR Michigan.
The Marines have encountered dozens and dozens of roadside bombs and car bombs along the routes, Nevgloski said.
“We’re keeping the road safe for convoys,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua Johnson, 19. “I’ve seen enough death and destruction already, and the more people like this we can keep off the streets, the better.”
On Sunday, Nevgloski beamed with pride.
“Good catch, guys. Hoorah.”