Engineers train to clear routes, save lives
April 2, 2013
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."