Route clearance is one of several tasks engineers with 2nd platoon, Company C, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Armored Division, are expected to perform while operating at Contingency Operating Site Marez.
"The objective is to maintain freedom of movement on routes, by searching for … possible IEDs," said 2nd Lt. Matthew Floyd, platoon leader with 2nd Platoon.
For Floyd and his Soldiers, route clearance is a staple of their mission outside the gates of COS Marez.
"We make sure that everyone else can move freely without the threat of an explosive," he said.
On mission nights, up-armored vehicles illuminate the motor pool with their lighting systems. Soldiers in the platoon load mission-essential equipment, including ice-filled coolers with drinks, and conduct preventative maintenance checks, and services.
Prior to movement, Floyd and the platoon sergeant conduct mission briefs so Soldiers are aware of recent enemy activity and are focused on the upcoming objective. Before the Soldiers venture on their mission, a nightly prayer is said in unison as Soldiers bow their heads.
The engineers spend hours traveling up and down routes with careful attention, cautiously monitoring suspicious vehicles and activity. External cameras mounted on vehicles assist in determining whether an object lying on the roadside is a potential threat.
Regardless of rank or experience, each Soldier on the road has a responsibility and expectation to halt the patrol if witnessing something out of the ordinary.
"No one job or person is any more important than another," Floyd said. "It doesn't matter if it's a (private first class) on his third patrol or if it's me -- everyone has the control to make that decision."
Frequent radio chatter keeps patrol vehicles focused and in constant contact with one another. Occasionally, a joke can be heard on the headsets, revealing the level of unity that flows within the platoon.
"We are actually a really tight-knit platoon," explained Floyd, adding that the Soldiers are motivated, focused, respectful and work very well with each other.
In order to keep Soldiers safe on missions, preparation and training are essential cornerstones for leadership, said Floyd. Repeating rehearsals and scenarios are a common practice that keeps the platoon knowledgeable and calculated. It's also crucial to teach Soldiers not to react to IEDs the same way twice, he said.
"Everyone gets the job done, especially our leadership," said Spc. Chad Daniel, an engineer with 2nd platoon on his first deployment. "They make sure the lower enlisted is trained well."
Daniel, who mans a Common Remotely Operated Weapon while riding in a Buffalo Mine-Resistant Vehicle, found that the training he received has suited him for a life of uncertainty outside the wire.
"Everything I was expected to do, everything that I was trained to do, is exactly what I expected it to be," he said.
The adaptability of the Army and advancements in military technology have greatly improved since the first units arrived in Iraq almost eight years ago, including the methods and equipment used for route clearance, which have significantly decreased the amount of time that Soldiers need to be on the roads, said Floyd.
After a long night work, the platoon returns to COS Marez with their mission accomplished. Soldiers park and refuel vehicles, take time to recover, and perform maintenance and rehearsals until their next mission.