Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — American Graffiti. Easy Rider. Grease.
Since the dawn of the automobile age, American teenagers have “cruised” up and down the streets and roads, talking with friends, and sometimes stopping to fight. It’s no different in Iraq, really.
Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) regularly “cruise” the roads and byways south of Baghdad, on watch for terrorist acts and improvised explosive devices.
The main highway through Iraq, known to coalition forces as Route Tampa, is a prime target for IEDs and other acts of terror because it is so heavily traveled by military and civilian convoys as well as local civilian traffic.
It is therefore patrolled almost constantly, day and night, to deny terrorists the ability to harm the thousands of vehicles that travel it.
“We’re allowing freedom of movement,” said Sgt. Gilbert Sanchez, a dismount with Troop C, 1-89, and a native of Bakersfield, Calif., during a patrol Feb. 16. “We’re allowing people to travel with more confidence, both civilians and military. And it makes me feel good knowing we’re helping the Iraqis.”
On a nighttime mission Feb. 14, Spc. Andrew Snyder of Temple, Penn., who serves as a driver in Co. A, admitted that the job is often dull, but it’s critical.
“It allows the units in the brigade to do their missions,” he said. “We’re doing this, so they can do that. And the fact that we do it allows everyone else – other units, or contractor convoys – to go back and forth. By keeping the routes safe, we’re helping everything else go smoother.”
The Solders patrol in eight-hour shifts, traveling up and down Tampa, sometimes stopping to watch the traffic from an observation point. Occasionally they will break it up into two four-hour shifts.
“It’s hard to stay alert for eight hours,” said Sanchez. “Breaking it up prevents complacency.”
Their vigilance pays off in IEDs found and defused before they have a chance to explode and terrorists found before they can execute their missions.
A patrol from the squadron found a man near Tampa Feb. 14 with a 50-pound sack of ammonium nitrate – a common ingredient in the homemade explosive mixtures that pack many of Iraq’s IEDs.
The unit also patrols through the village of Mustafar, just off Route Tampa, where they are known by name, especially to the children. The Soldiers check the village routinely, providing a sense of security not only on the road but to the villagers at home.
“Everything we do is for the kids,” said Sanchez. “They’re the future of Iraq.”