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Iraqi Civilian Uses Business Skills to Take Down Missiles

By Spc. Joshua M. Risner, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

DOHUK, Iraq, Oct. 15, 2003 – Thanks to an Iraqi civilian's actions, a load of 188 SA-7 surface-to-air missiles are headed to Mosul for disposal.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Pfc. Scott Cothren, of Battery B, 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, takes an SA-7 surface-to-air missile to load onto the truck for Mosul. An Iraqi civilian has turned in almost 200 missiles to date. Photo by Spc. Joshua M. Risner, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The missiles are shoulder-fired weapons, similar to a rocket-propelled grenade in operation, according to Sgt. 1st Gilbert Ortiz, G-3, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). "Just one of these things is capable of taking down an aircraft," he said. "They could also be used as improvised explosive devices."

A civilian, according to 2nd Lt. Steven Whitmore, of Battery B, 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, turned in the weapons. The civilian had come to the coalition forces and discussed his plan to buy the missiles and turn them in, explaining he could garner the trust of the people in the area and could buy weapons from them. "He turned them in and received about $250 for each missile," Whitmore said.

"He claimed to be able to get his hands on anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000 rockets," Ortiz said. "Everybody thought he was joking until the missiles started coming in."

Moving the missiles was a tedious process. The serial number of each had to be recorded and accounted for before it could be loaded onto the trucks. Having these weapons taken off the streets is a relief to Ortiz. "This will help to reduce the threat to our troops on the ground and in the air," he said. "We are making things safer."

(Spc. Joshua M. Risner is assigned to the 40th Public Affairs Detachment.)


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