By Spc. Joshua EdwardsAugust 10, 2013
Transportation is a key element in the support of any military operation. Route clearance teams throughout the U.S. Army have worked countless hours to ensure the safety and functionality of various transport routes in many countries so that safe transportation is possible.
The Soldiers of Route Clearance Platoon 31, Engineer Troop, Regimental Support Squadron, Combined Task Force Dragoon, provide route clearance in support of the task force's mission during Operation Enduring Freedom.
"We provide freedom of movement and maneuverability for Combined Task Force Dragoon," said 2nd Lt. Doug Palmer, platoon leader for RCP 31, and native of Hebron, Conn. "Specific to the route clearance mission, we have a couple of vehicles. We have the buffalo, which is our main interrogation asset and the husky, which is our main detection asset."
Teamwork is an integral part of the platoon's attributes that contributes to mission success. The team looks to protect assets within the task force, as well as civilians in the local community.
"Part of our daily brief is how to prevent civilian casualties," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Morin, also with the platoon and native of Nicholasville, Ky. "We have really started coming together as a platoon and we are starting to get it together to where we know each other and how we're going to operate. Things are running a lot smoother and I believe we are very effective as a team."
In Southern Afghanistan, the enemy has become particular towards placing explosives inside culverts. The areas provide the enemy with a way to hide them underneath the road, where they cannot be seen by U.S. Forces or civilians.
"We know especially on the (paved road), because they can't really dig through the asphalt, they use culverts for hasty emplacements of IEDs on routes," said Palmer. "Its kind of the perfect scenario for them: they can put it underneath the road and they don't have to dig."
There are various things the team looks for when inspecting culverts. Everything from explosives to the culverts just being tampered with in any way are dealt with and documented to prevent repetitions of the danger.
"When we go out we will clear what we consider to be 10 percent of culverts on the route," said Palmer. "We checked the culverts for a few different things: the presence of an IED, the presence of a culvert denial system and whether or not its been tampered with or its missing, and we go ahead and take pictures and send it up."
The soldiers in the platoon have trained on numerous occasions for the type of missions they are performing on an almost daily basis and the noncommissioned officers contribute to the background of success within the team.
"We have had about six months training up together, been through a variant of field exercises and, overall, we have a great team," said Palmer. "The back bone of it is definitely going to be my NCOs [noncommissioned officers]. I've got great squad leaders and a great platoon sergeant."
Even though the job may be slow and tedious, the troops stay aware of the area around them and what they are looking for. Patience may be the key to success during route clearance.
"Our job is really difficult and it wears on you driving so slow," said Morin. "They are always expecting something to happen and always ready. It requires quite a bit of patience and we are remaining focused on what's out there. Every person knows their job. They're paying attention to what they are doing and they keep situational awareness around the entire convoy."
The platoon is ever motivated to do their job. The priority lies with ensuring the routes are safe so that troops who are traveling on them are doing so knowing they are safe.
"They are extremely motivated," said Palmer. "It definitely takes some drive and stamina and these guys show it all. The biggest thing for us is keeping the routes clear so the rest of the task force can complete their mission without having to worry about the routes they are traveling on."