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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
“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.
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