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Operation Tundra Wolf II
DONNELLY TRAINING AREA, Alaska -- Specialist James Clark removes a chain after a vehicle recovery during a movement for a simulated route-clearance mission May 10. The 84th Engineer Support Company, 6th Engineer Battalion, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, whose specialty was not clearing roadways for convoys, has been tasked to reshape their forces for a route-clearing mission. Their new job is to now go out searching for and investigating any roadside bombs or mines so that others may pass through quickly and safely. Clark is a maintainer with the 84th ESC (ABN). (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cynthia Spalding)
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Engineers tasked with clearing perilous Afghan roads

Posted 5/21/2012   Updated 5/21/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Air Force Staff Sgt. Cynthia Spalding
JBER Public Affairs


5/21/2012 - DONNELLY TRAINING AREA -- Some Soldiers on JBER transitioned from building roads and bridges to clearing roadways of bombs and explosives during training May 10.

Soldiers of the 84th Engineer Support Company, 6th Engineer Battalion have been tasked with a non-standard mission.

The 84th ESC's specialty is in horizontal construction.

This includes anything from making roads to building bridges; however, their next deployment is setting them up for a change in gear - finding and neutralizing improvised explosive devices and other devices that hinder travel through Afghanistan.

They will be the Soldiers who go out searching for and investigating any roadside bombs or mines so that others may pass through quickly and safely.

"The Soldiers are coming along very well with their training," said Army 2nd
Lt. Evan Nelson, platoon leader of 3rd Platoon, 84th ESC. "We conducted a company-level field training exercise back in April and that was our crawl phase.

"We hadn't really done a whole lot of route clearance training, so it was a lot of figuring out as we went and when we came out here for Operation Tundra Wolf II, we're definitely where we should be in terms of our training," Nelson said.

"The guys are really starting to pick it up and embrace the challenge ahead of them."
Route clearing is more than just going out and blowing up bombs.

The bombs are not always sitting in wide-open, clearly seen spots; they have to be located, detected and then assessed.

Without training to spot possible explosives or danger zones, the road might be cleared, but the team left in rubble.

"When we deploy we will be conducting route clearance at a very high operations tempo," said Nelson. "That's what we are trying to simulate here; every day we're going out and conducting missions. Yesterday we went on an eight-hour mission, and today we were out again by noon doing another mission.

"This is all just to get us trained up on not only how to conduct a clearance but also get us used to the demanding work schedule we're going to be on when we get deployed," he said.

This is the first time the 84th has had to switch gears.

The Army, in need of more route-clearing teams, has called on Soldiers in other engineer battalions to do the same thing.

While they are training for their upcoming deployment, their original job, horizontal construction, will still be their mission once they return home from Afghanistan.

Until then, their primary focus in training will only be route clearance.

"As soon as we return home its back to doing construction until we're tasked again with something new," said Army Capt. David MacPhail, 84th ESC commander. "We're engineers first, but being combat engineers is our mission."



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