1st Battalion 22nd Infantry


Operation Ivy Serpent

July 16-21, 2003

Story and photos by SSG Craig Pickett


Specialists Nathan Herbert and AJ Hayden, both with C Co., 1-22 Infantry, 4th Infantry Division,
secure a road during a raid on the town of Mosem, Iraq.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Craig Pickett)



TIKRIT, Iraq—A sword-toting, horseback riding statue of Saddam Hussein came tumbling down in a ball of fire in final testament to the success of Operation Ivy Serpent. Engineers from the 555th Combat Engineer Group, from Fort Lewis, Wash., brought down the effigy of the former dictator on the final day of the week-long operation conducted by 4th Infantry Division and Task Force Ironhorse.

Ivy Serpent was a combined effort meant to strike out against regime loyalists and other subversive groups bent on disrupting efforts aimed at stabilizing and reconstructing Iraq.   The operation specifically focused on locating weapons caches and yanking them out of the hands of hostile forces who have been using them in recent attacks against coalition forces.

Numerous amounts of both were collected during the course of 86 raids. The late night and early morning outings netted an impressive number of weapons that included: 394 AK-47s, 57 rocket propelled grenades, 507 standard grenades, 1,736 mortar rounds, 54 50-pound crates of C4 plastic explosive, and a variety of other illegal weapons and contraband, plus a host of Iraqi aggressors brought in for questioning.

One of the more successful raids was led by Capt. Jon Cecalupo, commander of C Company, 3-66 Armor Battalion. His mission the morning of the 16th was to conduct an area reconnaissance of the northern sector of Mosem village, just a few miles northeast of Tikrit.

While his M1A1 Abrams tanks secured the area, members of 1st Platoon, C Company, 1-22 Infantry, from Fort Hood, Texas, searched houses, yards and vacant lots for signs of weapons.

Cecalupo said his soldiers had been finding a few AK-47s and other weapons in the houses, but “that is standard issue in every house in Iraq,” he said.

That was until they entered a large home where they stumbled upon a surprisingly large amount of weapons. At first, they pulled the standard three rifles from the home, but the soldiers kept searching and found ammunition, pistols and photos of Saddam posing with the occupant.

With their energy levels fueled by the find, they began a search of the outlying buildings and yard. Soon, soldiers found a cache of AK-47s that was buried under miscellaneous rubble in an unassuming block building.

As sweat-drenched soldiers pulled rifles from the building you could hear them yelling out about the immensity of their find. At first, shouts of 50 or more rifles echoed through the doorway then 100, and finally the admission that the stack was 4-feet deep and surrounded by bags and bags of ammunition.

In all, 225 rifles were pulled from the building along with 25,000 detonator caps, flare guns, and tens of thousands of rounds of 7.62 millimeter ammunition.


Members of 1-22 Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, load over 200 AK-47s and other munitions that were found during Operation Ivy Serpent.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Craig Pickett)


However, the plethora of weapons did not end in the building. A search of the yard found 42 crates of Composition 4 plastic explosives buried beneath the lime trees that engulfed the yard.

Though the soldiers had been up since 1 a.m. and were literally soaked with perspiration, their faces could not hide the excitement they felt.

“I’m really glad we found something,” said Pfc. Jacob Lynn, C Company, 1-22 Infantry. “It’s definitely a morale booster. We go on a lot of raids and go into a lot of houses with sad looking people. It’s nice to finally find something.”

Finding large caches of weapons is not only an emotional boost for war-weary soldiers and their leaders; it is also a means to an end.

“I’m just glad we took it (weapons) off the hands of the guy who could have used it against us,” said Staff Sgt. Peter Venardos, C Company 3-66 Armor. “I’m glad we are potentially saving U.S. lives. That’s what it is all about – everyone getting home.”

The bite of Operation Ivy Serpent succeeded in accomplishing its mission of making the area safer for coalition troops and putting a handicap on subversive elements out to do harm.


            (Staff Sgt. Craig Pickett is a member of the 350 th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, a reserve unit from Indianapolis, Ind. He is currently deployed to South West Asia with the 4th Infantry Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.)





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