By Sharon L. StricklandJanuary 3, 2011
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Searching out Improvised Explosive Devices is the daily mission for members of the 264th Route Clearance Company, Battalion Route Clearance Package 38, based at Forward Operating Base Shank in eastern Afghanistan. Their mission puts them in frequent danger, but their services are essential for the movement of vehicles and supplies.
"Our job is very dangerous," said Sgt. Bradley Price, dismount team leader for the 264th RCC/RCP 38. "We go down routes where we know we are going to find IEDs. We go on routes that we know we are going to get blown up. We go down routes that we know we are going to get into firefights."
Keeping Price and his team on the road is one the missions supported by the 3rd Battalion, 401st Army Field Support Brigade. Direct maintenance and repair of route clearing equipment is provided by Product Manager-Assured Mobility Systems and its ManTech contract service-providers at Bagram airfield, enabling the 264th to meet its mission of making roads safer for movement by U.S. and coalition forces.
Price knows how much his unit's services are valued.
"Everybody in the AO [area of operations] depends on us," said Price. "They can't move unless we move. They can't go out unless we go out. If they have an operation, we spearhead it. If we don't go down and clear the routes, they will get blown up, which they have found out several times."
Price often leads teams looking for IEDs.
"We have two teams on the ground with several metal detectors looking for pressure plate IEDs," he said.
Another method of hunting for IEDs employs the A-2 Buffalo - an enormous, heavily armored vehicle with six tires, an armor cage, and a 30-foot-long arm used for locating explosive devices. It provides much-needed route clearance capabilities and is designed to withstand direct hits.
Spc. Jose Zamora, who has been in the unit, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C., for nearly a year, is a Buffalo driver and can maneuver through narrow roads with no more than two inches of clearance on each side.
"My son thinks the Buffalo I drive is from the Transformers," said Zamora.
Proving how tough the Buffalo is, Zamora was driving one in February when it struck an IED.
"The blast was pretty bad," said Zamora. "The only thing it did to the truck was a big dent. We were still able to roll back to our forward operating base."
Because of their important work, the 264th RCC/RCP 38 was recently recognized for their service by Gen. Ann Dunwoody, commander of Army Materiel Command, and Malcolm O'Neill, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, when both leaders visited the 401st Army Field Support Brigade.
As a part of the visit, O'Neill was shown Zamora's damaged Buffalo vehicle. After the general's visit, Zamora drove it into the shop to be repaired.