50 graduate Fatima Girls High School

Tabasum Sharqi (left) opens a book she received for graduating at the top of her Fatima Girls High School class at a ceremony held at the Kunar Department of Women’s (click for more)

Polish and US Forces bond through weapons

Soldiers from the Polish Army and the Texas National Guard Agribusiness Development Team-IV check their shot grouping during qualification on the Polish AK-74 5.56 mm Mini-Beryl short assault rifle Feb. (click for more)

TF Duke Soldiers volley for peace

U.S. Army Soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, play an impromptu game of volleyball against a team (click for more)

Nurgaram District leaders electrify Nangaresh schools

Dr. Mehirulla Muslim, the Nurgaram District subgovernor, addresses an audience of teachers, government officials and citizens during a ceremony to celebrate a completed solar panel electricity project Feb. 21 in (click for more)

10th CAB Soldiers bring communications to Bagram’s east side

U.S. Army Spc. Raheem Stewart, an automations specialist with TF Phoenix, steps along the rafters of the building his team helped wire for communications. Stewart, from Dallas, was one of (click for more)

ANA, Red Bulls search Parwai during Operation Brass Monkey

An Afghan National Army soldier from Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 201st Infantry Regiment, searches a pile of rocks in the courtyard of a high-value target home outside the village of (click for more)

Female engagement teams trained to aid communication with Afghan women

U.S. Army Capt. Nicole Zupka of Fair Lawn, N.J., a battlewatch captain with Combined Joint Task Force-Paladin, helps an Afghan child with her writing skills during female engagement team training (click for more)

ANA, TF Storm break trail, make difference in Kharwar

LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers move through Kharwar District to prevent the Taliban’s freedom of movement Feb. 12. U.S. and Afghan soldiers braved more than 3 feet (click for more)

Ky. ADT II begins Panjshir sheep parasite project

Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team II members, U.S. Army Spc. Justin Allen (left), a London, Ky., native, and U.S. Army Sgt. Nicholas Combs, a Corbin, Ky., native, get to know a (click for more)

Engineer Soldiers deliver aid to Afghans

An Afghan carrying a child approaches U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Peter Moeller of Atkins, Iowa, a medic with Task Force Red Bulls, for humanitarian aid at Qale-Mussa Pain Middle School (click for more)

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LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ryan Lett, right, platoon leader of 3rd Platoon, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with the 832nd Engineer Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls, addresses his troops before a potentially dangerous route clearing mission of the Sanghar Valley on Route Philadelphia March 17 on Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan. The company had been hit by an improvised explosive device their last two times through the valley, and the area remains a hotbed of enemy activity. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs Office)NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Soldiers from the 832nd Engineer Company are providing Sanghar Valley, Afghanistan, by clearing routes of improvised explosive devices.  While patrolling, the Soldiers pay meticulous attention to their environment to discover any threats that may harm coalition forces or Afghans.

“One of three things is probably going to happen,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Donni Rooks, a platoon sergeant from Mount Pleasant, Iowa, with the 832nd Engineer Co., 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, March 17 before his company embarked on a route-clearing mission in the Sanghar Valley. “Based on what’s been going on in that valley lately, we’re either going to come into contact, get blown up, or find something.”

Fortunately for the platoon, neither of the first two scenarios occurred. Unfortunately, though, it was not the third either. But this is the painstaking and patience-wearing game that is the life of a combat engineer on a route-clearing mission.

The company was clearing part of the Sanghar Valley, an area where they suffered two improvised explosive device strikes in the past month, the last two times the platoon was in the area. No Americans were injured in the attacks.

Despite being hit their last two times on the route, U.S. Army Spc. Jonathan Meyer, a combat engineer with the 832nd Engineer Co., from Des Moines, Iowa, said he was not nervous during the mission.

“Personally, the first time we got hit, the IED was on my vehicle and after going through that, I wouldn’t say I feel safer, but the vehicles that we’re in have proven that they can withstand an attack and keep the passengers relatively unscathed,” Meyer said. “I’m confident in our equipment.”

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ryan Lett, a platoon leader with the 832nd Engineer Co., from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was outside the vehicle with three of his Soldiers when the IED detonated. He, also, can have faith in the equipment.

“I think where we happened to be standing at the front of the vehicle, the truck itself deflected most of the blast – I didn’t feel a concussion wave or really even feel the ground rumble,” he said. “It was one of those weird physics things, I guess.”

The route-clearance process is slow and demands the Soldiers maintain strict attention to detail. On this mission, the engineers cleared about a 40-mile stretch of unpaved terrain along Route Philadelphia, which runs parallel in the valley to a paved route.  The Soldiers used a variety of mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles to provide security, detect mines and clear them if necessary. 

During their time doing route clearance this deployment, the engineers, who are trained in setting explosives, have retrieved and detonated one IED, in January, and been hit by two.

One would think that this would frustrate the Soldiers, or sitting in a truck moving so slowly for so long would cause them to lose focus and vigilance. But the importance of what they’re doing makes it easy for the 832nd’s troops to stay on their toes, Meyer said.

“It’s pretty easy to keep your focus when you’re trying to avoid getting blown up, or trying to avoid letting your friends get blown up,” Meyer said.

Lett agreed.

“I think Staff Sgt. Rooks summed it up when he said, ‘Sir, this is a 99 out of 100 business we’re in’, meaning 99 times when you check something, (there will) be nothing there, but there’s always that one time,” Lett said. “That’s what we’re looking for, that one percent.”

And that one time, the engineers know, the IED they find could save the lives of the Soldiers and Afghans who travel the routes.LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Spc. Cody Pinkerman, front, a demolition team member of third platoon, 832nd Engineer Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls, from Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and U.S. Army Sgt. Mitchell Songer, back, demolition team leader, from Ottumwa, Iowa, trod through some heavy winter wheat searching for improvised explosive device command wires March 17 near the town of Sheykhan, Afghanistan. The company had been hit by an improvised explosive device their last two times through the town, which lies in the Sanghar Valley, and the area remains a hotbed of enemy activity. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs Office)


LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - A patrol of mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles as well as Soldiers with the 832nd Engineer Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls, conduct a route clearance mission through the Sanghar Valley near the village of Sheykan, Afghanistan, March 17. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs Office)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 March 2011 03:57


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Coalition forces engage insurgents in Kapisa

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed seven insurgents in defensive operations in the Alah Say District, Kapisa Province, eastern Afghanistan, March 29.

Coalition forces and aircraft responded to an insurgent attack. Four insurgents were killed by air strike and three were killed by direct fire from coalition forces.

All rounds were reported safe and on target. There were no reports of injuries or damages to civilians in the area.

ANSF, ISAF begin major operation in Laghman valley

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Afghan National Security Forces, partnered with U.S. Task Forces Red Bulls and Phoenix and French Task Force La Fayette, began operations in Galuch Valley, Laghman Province, March 25.

Soldiers of the Afghan National Army’s 201st Corps, Afghan National Police’s 202nd Shamshod and the U.S. Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, TF Red Bulls, supported by the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Phoenix, conducted an air assault into the valley to remove enemy forces. Battle Group Richelieu, TF La Fayette, provided artillery support from Kapisa Province.

While conducting operations, the forces found multiple weapons caches including assorted rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, Russian rockets, materials to make homemade explosives, various other ordnances and communication equipment.  

While moving through the valley, unit leadership met with village elders to discuss the security situation and to allow them to give up insurgents still in the area.

The operation will assist the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in establishing the valley as a new district giving the Afghan people in the area freedom from the insurgency.   

President Hamid Karzai approved the creation of the additional district and hopes the new district will help improve the security of the area and support the reconstruction effort.

Mohammad Iqbal Azizi, Laghman Province governor, held a press conference March 7 announcing the establishment of a new district located in the valley.

ANSF, TF Bastogne continue operations in Kunar


KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and coalition troops from Task Force Bastogne continued operations in the Shigal District March 18 after clearing the village of Lawsin and the surrounding area.

Afghan leaders, coalition forces look forward

PAKTYA, Afghanistan – Leaders from across eastern Afghanistan attended a security conference March 9 at Forward Operating Base Thunder, the home of the Afghan Army’s 203rd Thunder Corps.