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Soldiers keep Iraq’s highways, byways safe

July 13, 2011

By 1st Lt. Peter Thompson

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq (Army News Service, July 13, 2011) -- As the sun sets on the desert horizon, the highways of southern Iraq empty of civilian traffic. Although the local population begins to go home for the night, a new type of traffic emerges on Iraq’s highways. Long rows of headlights are exiting forward operating bases all across Iraq. Trucks full of goods going to the Soldiers further north, or loaded with equipment heading for Kuwait, take over the roads.

As combat logistic patrols begin their hauls into the dark of night, a small group of vehicles separates from them; vehicles brightly lit but moving slowly and deliberately. These are the improvised explosive device, or IED, hunters of the United States Forces-Iraq looking for their next find. The combat engineers of Company C, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, are out in full force to provide critical assured mobility across the GREYWOLF operational environment.

As the only organic combat engineer company in the brigade, the “Ghostriders” as they are called, have conducted over 1,000 route clearance missions to date. They have covered more than 50,000 kilometers of highways and secondary roads in southern Iraq, searching for IEDs and explosively formed penetrators. As IED hunters, their task is to put their safety in jeopardy to protect others.

Their missions are anything but short.

They are sometimes on the road for 10 continuous hours, scanning every inch of road for deadly IEDs, enduring 120 degree heat -- while remaining vigilant but being courteous to Iraqi civilian drivers. Because of their work, they have enabled the brigade to safely conduct hundreds of combat sustainment and resupply missions, which have supported more than 15,000 Soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians in southern Iraq.

“Our company conducts 24-hour operations, seven days a week, so we are constantly gathering intelligence from the battlefield to provide our platoons with the best operating picture for their missions,” said Spc. Christopher Fuentes.

As one of Charlie Company’s Intelligence Support Team lead analysts, Fuentes is responsible for battle tracking and coordinating assets for seven route clearance teams across 150,000 square kilometers.

Company C recently finished its fifth month of a 12-month deployment to Iraq. As units and equipment begin to move south to Kuwait, the combat engineers of Company C will spearhead their movement.

“It’s a large responsibility to undertake, to actively search for IEDs and clear the roads for the Soldiers behind us, but it’s one that I’m proud to fulfill,” said Pvt. Sean Lee. “I want to be here with my unit, making a difference in the lives of others. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

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