Article ran : 03/31/2003
Lejeune troops seize arms, chemical war defense gear
By ERIC STEINKOPFF
DAILY NEWS STAFF

Camp Lejeune Marines and sailors with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade captured more Iraqi weapons and chemical warfare defense equipment over the weekend. On Saturday, elements of 2nd MEB, also known as Task Force Tarawa, seized buildings previously occupied from the Iraqi 11th Division, according to a press release Sunday from U.S. Central Command.



Marines of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment took control of the buildings during a raid and found weapons, ammunition, and chemical decontamination equipment.



Marines of 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment found a second cache of weapons in a building on the south side of the city, the release said.



Central Command said Lejeune troops confiscated more than 300 chemical suits, more than 300 gas masks, atropine injectors used to fight the effects of exposure to deadly nerve agents, two “Sammarra” decontamination vehicles, and other chemical decontamination devices.



“We will bring in subject matter experts to positively identify all the equipment we found,” said Task Force Tarawa operations officer Col. Ron Johnson.



Central Command said Marines seized mines, hundred of rocket-propelled grenades, hundreds of mortars and artillery shells, and thousands of rounds of small-arms ammunition.



“We found so much ammunition that it would be too dangerous to the city to blow it in place,” Johnson said. “We are going to have to transport it somewhere safe.”



Television reports Sunday showed Marine AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter gunships using 20-mm cannons and air-to-ground Hellfire missiles against enemy Iraqi positions during streetfighting in and around Nasiriyah in support of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Hellfire missiles are designed to take out enemy armored vehicles and reinforced bunkered positions.



Asked about the situation in Nasiriyah, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Rich Natonski told a British reporter that he did not believe troops were bogged down and pointed to Marines continuing to move north toward Baghdad.



If or when U.S. forces enter Baghdad, they would shape conditions in their favor, Natonski said.



“There will be enough shaping of the battlefield to mitigate the danger to our forces before going in,” he said.



Sempers,

Roger