By 1st Lt. Brendon HischarNovember 5, 2009
JOINT SECURITY STATION CONDOR, Iraq (Nov. 4, 2009) - For most Soldiers assigned to the 4th Brigade "Highlanders," 1st Armored Division, the unit's advise and assist mission requires a rethinking of traditional roles in a stability operations environment.
The engineers of 2nd Platoon, Company E, 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment are no different.
When some people hear the word "engineer," they think route clearance, but that's only a small portion of the much larger combat engineer skill set, which these Soldiers are learning to apply in new ways to support the mission.
Based at Contingency Operating Site Hunter in southern Maysan province and attached to 2nd Sqdn., 13th Cav. Regt., "Task Force Saber," the engineers act as the Route Clearance Team for the squadron, clearing about 400 miles of rural highway each week to allow free and safe movement of U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians. Recently, the engineers began training jundees of 3rd Battalion, 41st Iraqi Army Brigade in the use of mine detectors.
One of the new applications of mine detectors is not finding mines or live munitions, but to discover hidden caches of weapons and components in the marshy surroundings of Maysan province.
"Finding (caches) is a priority not only for us, but also for our Iraqi Army partners," said Maj. Evan Wollen, Task Force Saber operations officer from northern New Jersey. "Every successful interdiction means less lethal aid ending up in the hands of Anti-Iraq forces."
The training conducted at JSS Condor, a U.S. installation co-located with the 3rd Bn., 41st IA Bde., was divided into two distinct sections.
The first session was classroom instruction focusing on mine-detector familiarization and applications. Soldiers gained insight on sweeping techniques for maximum effectiveness.
The jundees asked numerous questions of the two primary instructors, combat engineers Spc. Carlos Heres from Miami, Fla., and Pfc. Ivan Ortega-Rojas from Phoenix, Ariz., who have extensive mine detector training.
The training motivated the Iraqis said Ortega-Rojas, "and we are eager to teach them because they are ready to handle their own security."
Sgt. Jacob Irish, a combat engineer from Long Beach, Calif. who supervised the training, agreed with that assessment.
"(The jundees) seemed eager to learn," he said, "They seemed to know exactly what they were going to do with (the mine detector) and how they wanted to use it."
The IA Soldiers moved to lanes training on post to familiarize them with how various objects sound when detected by the mine detector.
The first lanes featured shallowly-buried metal objects, such as inert ordnance and metal ammunition links, which keep students engaged and focused on minute changes in the soil. Other lanes simulated deeply-buried caches, featuring metal ammo cans and cardboard boxes filled with inert munitions to illustrate the sensitivity of the equipment.
All students had an opportunity to operate the mine detector, probe findings, and recover buried objects until the Soldiers felt proficient in all tasks assigned.
The training provided the IA Soldiers another tool to use in the fight against the smuggling of lethal aid in southern Maysan province.
(1st Lt. Brendon Hischar, 4th Bn., 6th Inf. Regt.)