OPELIKA, AL (WTVM) - For the past three days, Fort Benning soldiers have been digging for thousands of dollars of missing equipment at an Opelika landfill.
It all started on Monday when leaders on Sand Hill realized expensive items that were being cleaned during routine maintenance were thrown into a dumpster with other bags of trash by mistake.
It just so happened that was also trash day and the gear made it's way with the rest of the trash to the Waste Management facility off Highway 280 in Opelika.
Landfill officials roped off the area were the items were believed to have been dumped and close to 90 Fort Benning trainees were brought out to sift through trash, wearing gloves and masks and carrying rakes and shovels.
While they're not classified or sensitive training devices, commanding officers say they initiated the search because the equipment is worth an estimated $35,000.
Officials won't say exactly what they were searching for but tell a News Leader 9 crew on the scene the items are not weapons, ammunitions or explosives.
After days of rotating shifts in and out of the landfill, commanding officers ended the search Wednesday afternoon, telling WTVM they had an obligation to taxpayers to do everything they could to find the gear and made every effort they could.
In the end, they did not think it was worth putting soldiers at further risk around heavy machinery and thousands of pounds of trash.
Fort Benning officials say several soldiers were poked in the hand with something sharp during the search. We're told the trainees received medical attention and have each been given a clean bill of health.
Here is the statement Fort Benning Public Affairs representative Monica Manganero:
"On Nov. 22, 2010 Fort Benning leaders determined that equipment being cleaned during routine maintenance operations was mistakenly thrown into a dumpster with bags of trash and taken by garbage truck to the Opelika landfill. After interviewing Soldiers, it was discovered that the equipment was placed into a trash bag and mistakenly thrown into the unit's waste container which had been taken to the Opelika landfill that morning. The chain of command notified the Land Fill and immediately implemented a plan to recover the lost items. These items are not sensitive in nature but collectively have a value in excess of $1000. The Opelika Land Fill cordoned the area where the items were believed to have been dumped and the unit began searching for the equipment.
The plan to recover the items included measures to mitigate risk or potential harm to the Soldiers searching for the equipment. All Soldiers were outfitted with gloves, breathing protection, boots, and instructed only to move debris with rakes and shovels. The Soldiers were supervised by their non-commissioned officers and chain of command. We will continue the search until we've exhausted all resources to recover the missing items."