By 2nd Lt. Juan Torres Jr.August 17, 2009
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HUNTER, Iraq (Army News Service, Aug. 17, 2009) -- Combat engineers assigned to Task Force Saber performed their final route clearance mission in southern Maysan province before packing up and heading to the unfamiliar territory of Basra Province, July 20.
"It is our job to focus on the road and make sure it's safe for travel," said Pfc. Jeffrey Bernier, a combat engineer from Lebanon, Maine, assigned to the route clearance team. "We've really gotten to know the area, but it's time to let the new team take charge."
Soldiers memorized every detail of local roads to the point where even a rock shifted from its position would gain their attention. Indicators like a new pile of debris or a change in a person's body language can lead to finding improvised explosive devices and explosively formed projectiles.
The route clearance team from 2nd Platoon, Company E, 1st Battalion, 77th Armored Regiment, spent June and July assigned to 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment. The safety and security of coalition forces and local citizens traveling along roads and highways were their main responsibility.
The team is equipped with specialized vehicles engineered to provide operators the best opportunity for safely identifying threats.
The team takes time before missions to ensure Soldiers are kept safe.
"When it comes to safety, there is no shame in asking a question in front of the platoon. That's just how we are," said Pfc. Bonifacio Luna, a combat engineer from Harlingen, Texas. "Everything from rollover drills and medical evacuation requests, to finding new ways to keep Soldiers awake - we cover it all before missions."
The Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, used day and night, is a vital asset to operations.
"Having (the CROWS) has made our job of finding IEDs and EFPs ten times easier," said 1st Lt. Brian Alexander, a platoon leader from Reno, Nev.
The CROWS provides the capability to remotely operate crew served weapons.
The weapons system isn't the only deterrent, said Alexander.
"Our presence on the road is enough to deter anyone from placing an IED," said Alexander. "Even if we suspect an IED, we'll interrogate the site just to show our thoroughness in keeping the roads clear."
(2nd Lt. Juan Torres Jr. writes for the 4th BCT, 1st Armored Division)