Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Police Call on a Grander Scale

By 2nd Lt. Liz Lopez

Soldiers drive along the roads of Iraq everyday. As they go, their eyes search the roadsides for signs of anything out of the ordinary. And, with trash and vegetation littering the sides of the road, such indications can be almost impossible to spot.
It is for this reason that Army engineers embark on route sanitation missions. In these operations, the Soldiers participate in something akin to a police call, but on a much larger scale.
The two principle tools for this task are a bucket loader and a grader. These two vehicles clear the debris and cut out the vegetation along with the top layer of soil eliminating potential hiding spaces for roadside bombs.
On September 12, the Personal Security Detachment, or PSD, from the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), was tasked with providing security for the 875th Engineer Battalion during this routine mission.
The day began without incident. Upon arriving at the site, the PSD set up an outer security cordon around the engineer assets blocking off all commercial traffic in the northbound lane of Route Tampa.
As the security team settled down to watch the roads, the engineers set to work advancing slowly north clearing the median as they went.
Barely a half hour into their mission, the grader began experiencing hydraulic problems and would not move. There was a sinking feeling as radio traffic confirmed that the vehicle would need to be recovered. Without an operational grader, the mission would not be able to continue.
Unfortunately, the site the engineers were clearing was approximately an hour’s drive from Camp Striker and its recovery assets. And, although they began spinning up as soon as the Soldiers put in the call, it would still take approximately two hours for the help to arrive.
Unable to move and unable to continue their mission, the Soldiers had no choice but to settle down and wait for the recovery team.
But, sitting motionless on a heavily trafficked road for hours is not anyone’s idea of a comfortable morning. Without hesitation, the security team executed one of the many tactics, techniques, and procedures they practice and review prior to every mission: setting up a tactical control point.
In minutes, the PSD Soldiers were done and set up again in their trucks to survey the roads for anything suspicious.
Almost exactly two hours later, the recovery team arrived from Striker and made quick work of loading the grader onto a Heavy Equipment Transporter for movement back to the camp.
Regrettably, the broken grader called a halt to the entire day’s mission. But, when situations arise against a mission, Soldiers never quit. They will repair their equipment and return to finish the job in a couple days.

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