Mission ends for mobile engineers
June 30, 2009
BAGHDAD - Clearing roads of dangerous IEDs is a difficult job for engineer units.
Any route clearance Soldier will tell you that after travelling the same routes day in and day out, they know exactly what looks out of place; it's this knowledge that helps keep these guys safe.
For the Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Soldiers from the 515th Engineer Company (Sapper), attached to the 225th Engineer Brigade, learning the routes changed a remarkable four times during the course of their 15 month deployment.
From northern to southern Iraq, the engineers cleared 84,854 kilometers of road on more than 688 missions. As the "Outlaws" moved from one base to another as their mission changed to help their fellow Soldiers, they ended up clearing roads in nine out of the 18 provinces in Iraq.
"We just went where route clearance was needed the most," said Capt. Andrew Hutchinson, executive officer for the 515th Eng. Co., from Kate, Texas. "We have got to see pretty much everything, from Basra to Balad."
Being in constant shuffle does come with its share of disadvantages for a route clearance team, explained Sgt Evan Hutson.
"The difficulty of moving around, especially for a leader, is when you are not able to travel down the same roads day after day and study them," Hutson said. "You are not able to become familiar with what should be there and what may be a possible IED."
Although as Hutson also explained, it does help fight one of Soldiers worst enemies--complacency.
"Every day when you are traveling down a road going 10Km an hour, especially if you are going down a route that you have been on before and nothing really is happening, you get complacent," said Hutson, from Indianapolis, Ind. "But when you are constantly moved around all over this theater in Iraq, like we were, it makes it really hard to become complacent."
It is hard to become complacent, but even harder to become comfortable.
At one point during the Outlaw's tour, the Soldiers had to sleep in their trucks and eat MREs for a week straight. By the end, the same Soldiers were moved to "Shangri-La," also known as Victory Base Complex in Baghdad, where they stayed in air-conditioned trailers, enjoyed prepared food at the dining facility and complained that their internet connection was too slow.
But whether they were sleeping in their trucks, surfing the internet, or moving to yet another base camp, Hutchinson said one thing remained the same.
"As a unit, we have grown close, we are pretty tight knit; we all support each other."
Summing up their mission Hutchinson said, "This deployment has been interesting."