Clearing a Path
Ben, a mine dog with the 49th Mine Dog Detachment and his handler, Army Pfc. Thomas Martin, also of the 49th, clear a path to a "wounded" soldier during a training exercise at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 14.

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Sept. 24, 2007 - For most people, running over a land mine equates to a bad day. For contractors working with the Mine Action Center, it is just a routine part of the job in Afghanistan, one of the most heavily mined countries in the world according to the United Nations' E-MINE Electronic Mine Information Network (www.mineaction.org).

The MAC team is tasked by CJTF-82 to clear contaminated areas in order to establish landing zones and drop zones, as well as, conduct site reconnaissance missions to clear areas for forward operating bases.

On any given day, MAC employees drive Casspir vehicles through mine fields as a part of the de-mining process here. The South African-designed vehicle, with a V-shaped hull and steel wheels that can withstand repeated mine strikes is one of many tools MAC workers are using to make Bagram Airfield and Afghanistan a safer place by clearing land mines, unexploded ordnance and scrap metal.

"The MAC removed more than 25,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance to include small-arm munitions, hand grenades, cluster munitions, rockets, and 250-kilogram (550-pound) bombs within BAF during 2007, said Australian Army Maj. Michael James Wilson, MAC officer in charge. "We also removed hundreds of anti-personnel mines and in particular seven anti-tanks mines."

Removing the mines costs about $50 million over a five-year contract period, Wilson said, noting his executive officer periodically reminds him that "De-mining costs an arm and a leg, but at the end of the day it will save people's arms and legs."

One of the predominant anti-personnel mines found on and around BAF is the Soviet-era PMN-2.

"The PMN-2 is intended to maim and wound soldiers," said Army Pvt. Kenneth L. Skenette, a combat engineer working on BAF. He and other members of the 70th Engineering Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, 1st Armored Division work together to conduct manual mine clearance here.

Dogs also are put to work clearing mines because their sharp noses can smell .025 grams of explosives, said Army Sgt. Martin McNally, a dog handler with the 49th Mine Dog Detachment.

Under the proper conditions, a dog can clear about the same amount of land in one day as a person can in a month, McNally said.

Dogs can be exceptionally useful in extracting wounded from a mine field, said Sgt. 1st Class Stephen White, the 49th MDD noncommissioned-officer-in-charge, because a dog can quickly clear a path for rescue personnel.

The effort to de-mine other parts of Afghanistan is a group effort by a number of other organizations working in conjunction with the MAC, including an Afghan De-mining organization called Afghan Technical Consultants.

In Operation Good Neighbor, an ATC project, about 7,000 anti-personnel mines were cleared out just north of BAF's perimeter. The MAC, in conjunction with Operation Good Neighbor, works with tribal elders to educate Afghans, Wilson said. The elders are made aware of de-mining sites and the locations of minefields.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16