Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 10 Jun 2008

From MNF-I, Route Clearance Team Makes Iraq Safer.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER — It’s 4 a.m., and Soldiers of the 40th Engineers Battalion are just getting to bed after a route clearance mission in the Mada’in Qada.

“Wow, only a 12-hour day,” said Pfc. Richard Goodman, a Company B, 40th Eng. Bn. combat engineer. “An early day and one more mission accomplished. We’ll be back at it again tomorrow.”

However, time is no issue for these members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division route clearance team. Since April, they have gone out on missions daily, clearing improvised explosives devices and unexploded ordnance from streets.

“The earliest we got back from a mission was after nine hours and the longest was after 21 hours,” said Goodman, a native of Rochester, N.Y. “It all comes with the job and we do what we can. Time is not an issue when you are dealing with IEDs.”

Since 2003, IEDs have been the biggest killer of coalition forces in Iraq. This makes the team’s job very important, knowing the safety of others depends on the job they perform every day without fanfare.

Second Lieutenant Michael Hall, 40th Eng. Bn. platoon leader, said this job does more than clear roads of IEDs, it provides a safe and peaceful environment for Iraqi families. It also plays a large part in making the 2nd BCT’s day-to-day operations possible.

“Our job is a very important piece to the puzzle here in Iraq,” said Hall, from Akron, Colo. “It’s our job to keep the roads safe. By doing that, we are keeping the lines of communication open for the 2nd BCT.”

To accomplish their mission, the route clearance team uses a variety of vehicles and tools. A typical roll-out for a mission includes the Husky, a detector vehicle; the RG31 Mine Protected Armored Personnel Carrier; and the Buffalo, a mine clearance vehicle.

The Buffalo is equipped with a mechanical arm that is tipped with a claw called a “spork.” The arm and spork are remotely-controlled from the cab of the Buffalo, which is equipped with a camera and light to allow the operator a close-up view of any suspected IEDs.

Also available for the Soldiers’ use is the Talon, a small robot equipped with a camera that provides a close-up view of suspicious items and can assist in destroying IEDs.

Goodman believes the robot arm, spork and Talon all play an important role in completing their mission.

“These tools make our jobs much easier,” Goodman said. “Without them, we would have to dismount more, which puts us in harm’s way. They make things safer and get the job done.”

The route clearance team roams the streets of the Mada’in Qada at slow speeds, enabling them to search the roads precisely. They search holes, objects and trash - anything that seems suspicious.

In their time here, they have found several IEDs and UXOs. Many missions will go without finding anything; Goodman believes they are successful either way.

“Sometimes you just don’t find anything,” Goodman said. “No matter what we come back with, the streets of Iraq are still safer. We are accomplishing our mission one day at a time.”

The 40th Eng. Bn. falls under the command of the 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., from Baumholder, Germany, and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since April in Mada’in Qada, in southeastern Baghdad province.