Thursday, September 06, 2007

Route Clearance

Our Battalion is headquartered out of Camp Blue Diamond, just north of the city Ramadi and the Euphrates River. The approximate 400 Soldiers in our line companies man nine different Combat Out Posts (COPs) and Joint Security Sites (JSSs); the difference is JSSs have Iraqi Security Forces living there too. Our area of operations is roughly rectangular about 20 kilometers in width and 60 in length. The many roads in our area of operations are ideal locations for the enemy to place IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devises). A Reserve engineer battalion out of Utah and based at Camp Ramadi has as part of its mission to use the military's new route clearing vehicles to identify and remove the IDEs from these roads. You only have to think about this for a moment to realize it can be an unusually dangerous job. They conduct their missions with expected care and caution, which means progress is quite literally "at a snail's pace". When the routes are cleared, Iraqi Security and Coalition Forces can move freely on the roads. Soon after, the local population begins doing the same, which facilitates commerce and consequent stabilization.

Several months ago, when the heat wasn't yet oppressive, SGT Tremain and I were sleeping on the roof at JSS Pathfinder as a Pathfinder mission proceeded along the road adjacent to us. It seemed Pathfinder was detonating identified IEDs every hour or so. From our vantage point on the roof, I caught a picture of their late night clearing mission. Fortunately, the specially designed clearance vehicles deflect most blasts of IEDs that escape detection. Unfortunately, during our time here, there have been Pathfinder EOD folks killed in action. With their help, most of the roads in our area of operations have been cleared and remain clear. This is a critical aspect of the mission.

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