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Sappers Become Improvised Explosive Device Hunters in Iraq

By Sgt. Sean Kimmons, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MCHENRY, Iraq, Dec. 1, 2004 – When soldiers conduct convoys in Iraq, they try to watch out for and stay far away from improvised explosive devices.

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A Sapper from Company B, 65th Engineer Battalion, attached to Task Force 1-27 Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, checks out an old improvised explosive device hole while another provides security along a main supply route Nov. 16. Photo by Sgt. Sean Kimmons, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

For the Sappers of Company B, 65th Engineer Battalion attached to Task Force 1- 27 Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, it's a little different. When the Sappers perform route clearances, their intent is to hunt down these IEDs and make sure they get destroyed.

Route-clearance missions are carried daily inside Task Force 1-27's area of operations. The Sappers have been executing these missions three to four times a week in this area.

"The main thing about the route clearances is ensuring that the (multinational forces) can use the main supply routes safely and also to help out the civilians. We make sure no one gets hurt or hit by an IED," said Army Staff Sgt. Earl Mendoza, a squad leader with the unit.

Since February, the Sappers have cleared more than 50 IEDs as part of their route-clearance missions. The busiest month was July, when they found 13 IEDs in just seven days.

To find IEDs, the Sappers drive in the middle of the roadway at about 10 to 15 miles per hour. If something looks suspicious along the roadway, they stop and investigate. "We look into common spots where (insurgents) would place IEDs, like an old IED hole or underneath culverts," said Army Sgt. Joseph Gumbakis, a team leader.

Disturbed dirt and trash with wires or antennas protruding from it are other things they look out for along the roadside, Gumbakis said. When the Sappers do find an IED, they secure the area, look for secondary explosive devices, find the triggerman and call the explosive-ordnance- detachment guys, who either disarm the IED or destroy it on site, Mendoza said.

While performing route clearance on Nov. 12, the Sappers found a 500-pound bomb rigged up as an IED hidden inside an old IED hole. "That bomb, hooked up as an IED, could have done some major damage," Mendoza said.

Stories like the 500-pound bomb discovery and many more help build the confidence of soldiers who travel along these main supply routes, Mendoza said.

Unfortunately, being in harm's way has taken a toll on the Sappers. "There have been times where we've found IEDs the hard way," Mendoza said. "We've been lucky only to have very minor injuries."

(Army Sgt. Sean Kimmons is assigned to the Public Affairs Office of the 25th Infantry Division.)

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Related Sites:
Multinational Force Iraq

Click photo for screen-resolution imageThis 500-pound bomb, rigged up as an improvised explosive device, was found in an old IED hole by Sappers from Company B, 65th Engineer Battalion, attached to Task Force 1-27 Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, performing route clearance Nov. 12. Photo courtesy of 65th Engineer Battalion  
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