Army Major Gregory Stopyra deployed twice to the Iraq war: first, as an assistant fire support officer in Ninewah during 2008-09 in the northern part of the country, and as a planner in southern Iraq in 2010-11.
He spoke of his tours with the Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in this interview last May, including a nifty shell game he witnesses during his first deployment. Excerpts:
Our unit to the south of Mosul really started digging in and getting into that black marketing of the oil and how that was funding a lot of the insurgency.
That was really interesting what they were able to do. That was what we like to say as being the perfect storm of having the right people and the right time in the right place. I think there was a battalion commander down there [who was] a chemistry major. The battalion XO was a physicist…
They had their own personal knowledge and what they did was utilize Explosive Ordnance Disposal equipment like a spectrometer or something and they actually determined if they – - they knew what was happening.
Somehow along the way fuel trucks were coming up from down south in Baiji. It was pure diesel fuel or whatever it was when it left but when it arrived up to Mosul it would be of a lesser quality but it would still be the same quantity.
At some point it was being off-loaded and being diluted. Right around where they were, I forget the name of the town just south of Mosul, but there was an asphalt factory.
What they found was they would track these trucks and they would watch where they would stop on the roadside and some of these trucks would get diverted into this asphalt factory.
They would take off some of the good fuel and put in what was called naphtha and that had the same weight but the density was different…