• Second Lt. Douglass Waggomon, a Marysville, Calif., native and engineer officer with 22nd Engineer Clearance Company, 555th Engineer Brigade, prepares an explosive charge during demolition and route clearance training March 13. During the training, engineers practiced using various demolition techniques. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James Bunn)

    Engineers train to clear routes, save lives

    Second Lt. Douglass Waggomon, a Marysville, Calif., native and engineer officer with 22nd Engineer Clearance Company, 555th Engineer Brigade, prepares an explosive charge during demolition and route clearance training March 13. During the training...

  • U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Che Pickens, right, tests Spc. Rashad Walford for explosive residue as part of a route clearance and demolitions training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 13, 2013. Testing for explosive residue helps combat engineers identify roadside bomb makers. Pickens and Walford are both combat engineers assigned to the 22nd Engineer Company, 555th Engineer Brigade. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James Bunn/Released)

    Engineers train to clear routes, save lives

    U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Che Pickens, right, tests Spc. Rashad Walford for explosive residue as part of a route clearance and demolitions training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 13, 2013. Testing for explosive residue helps combat engineers...

  • U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Che Pickens, center, a combat engineer with the 22nd Engineer Company, 555th Engineer Brigade, uses a series of chemical sprays and drops to test for explosive residue, after swabbing a Soldier's hand as part of route clearance and demolitions training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., March 13, 2013. With the prevalence of roadside bomb makers, knowing how to test for explosive residue is a valuable skill for Soldiers. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James Bunn/Released)

    Engineers train to clear routes, save lives

    U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Che Pickens, center, a combat engineer with the 22nd Engineer Company, 555th Engineer Brigade, uses a series of chemical sprays and drops to test for explosive residue, after swabbing a Soldier's hand as part of route clearance...

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - During their most recent deployment to Afghanistan, the soldiers of 22nd Engineer Clearance Company, 555th Engineer Brigade, spent a year risking their lives to keep others safe as they patrolled countless routes searching for roadside bombs.

The unit continued to practice these lifesaving skills during route clearance and demolition training March 13.

Typically, combat engineers deploy as route clearance companies, especially with current capabilities and route clearance needs, said Capt. Evan Wolf, a Gothenburg, Neb., native and commander of 22nd Engineer Company, who led the unit during their 2011-2012 deployment.

"If you trace back the history of engineers, we are always doing route clearance," said Wolf. "It's just a different version of mine clearance. It's more advanced, based on threat and technology."

"When we're in Afghanistan, what we do is look for IEDs (improvised explosive devices), said Spc. Rashad Walford, a Chicago native with 22nd Engineer Company. "We clear the way for everyone else. We make sure the routes are safe so other patrols can go down the route."

During their training, the soldiers practiced various demolition techniques used in route clearance, including how to use C-4, a type of plastic explosive.

Spc. Colin Flaharty, a Bath, Maine, native and horizontal construction engineer with 22nd Engineer Company, said understanding how explosives work is important, especially while deployed since soldiers on route clearance duties have regular contact with them.

The soldiers also have to know how to use demolitions to clear out enemy roadside bombs.

During the training, the soldiers also learned how to test for explosives, which helps them identify someone who has handled explosive material.

Sgt. 1st Class Che Pickens, a Houston native and combat engineer with 22nd Engineer Company, said soldiers could use these techniques to find potential bomb makers or someone who has emplaced roadside bombs.

Wolf said this training helps his soldiers develop confidence in their skills and equipment, so they can accomplish dangerous route clearance mission and protect the lives of the soldiers and civilians that follow them.

Ensuring the safe passage of others is a mission that 22nd Engineer Company takes seriously.

"Our job is pretty important," said Sgt. Charles Serini, a Steedman, Mo., native and combat engineer with 22nd Engineer Company. "Our job allows for freedom of maneuver and movement ... during deployment."

Page last updated Tue April 2nd, 2013 at 11:45