Wrong number: Interpreter answers cell phone, dupes insurgents
By JEFF SCHOGOL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 22, 2006
IBRAHIM AL MARKHUR, Iraq — One misplaced cell phone and one savvy interpreter equaled one dead insurgent, several pieces of intelligence and a whole lot of captured weapons.
On a routine patrol, U.S. troops with 1st Battalion, 68th Armor came upon a house in the midst of dense greenery and at the end of a dusty country road.
Staff Sgt. Matthew Nicodemus, 33, said he immediately noticed that no Iraqi men were around.
Suddenly, a cell phone inside the home rang, said Nicodemus, of Altoona, Pa.
“The interpreter went in and answered the phone, and on the other end of the phone the person said, in Arabic, ‘Hey, coalition forces are here, go ahead and run away,’ and he specifically said, ‘Go and run into the palm groves all around here,’ ” Nicodemus said.
The troops then fanned out into the palm groves and found several weapons including several rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades, two AK-47s and a new sniper’s rifle, Nicodemus said.
They also found a hand-written map of a U.S. military base, diagrams on how to build rockets and a CD-ROM with several thousand files written in Arabic, said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Greer, 35, of San Luis Obispo, Calif.
If that weren’t enough, the insurgent kept calling the interpreter back to ask what the Americans were doing.
The interpreter kept the act going.
“He’s basically acting like, you know, he’s watching us ... making sure everything is fine,” Nicodemus said.
The U.S. troops knew the insurgents were coming back and decided to lie in wait for them.
Many troops said they were psyched by the prospect of killing the person on the other end of the phone.
“I love this [expletive],” said Sgt. Nicholas Hake-Jordan, 23, of Springfield, Ore.
The troops didn’t have to wait long.
Shortly after U.S. troops set up, the insurgents called the interpreter and said they would be by in about 10 minutes to attack the Americans, said Staff Sgt. Art Hoffman, 30.
When seven insurgents got to the house, they ran into a wall of U.S. fire, said Hoffman, of Baltimore.
“The first guy that came in the door just dropped like a rock. The other two guys behind him got hit pretty hard, too. The rest grabbed their wounded and just ran back off,” said Hoffman.
One insurgent was confirmed killed in the fighting and the other two were in bad shape, he said.
Afterward, the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Thomas Fisher, 42, praised his soldiers’ actions.
“The initiative demonstrated at the platoon level is exactly how you win this fight,” said Fisher, of Sioux Falls, S.D.