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Face of Defense: IED Fails to Deter Chief Warrant Officer

By Sgt. 1st Class Eric Hendrix, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 28, 2008 – Army Chief Warrant Officer Sammy Rodriguez has a job that isn’t exciting until things go wrong.

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Army Chief Warrant Officer Sammy Rodriguez, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, makes quick work Jan. 23, 2008, of preparing a damaged vehicle for recovery to a forward operating base in the Korengal Valley, Kunar province, Afghanistan. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Hendrix, USA
  

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

Rodriguez, a native of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, is the battalion maintenance technician for 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment. On a routine mission Jan. 23 to deliver supplies to the Korengal Outpost here, one of the vehicles in the convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device.

Luckily, no one was injured. The vehicle wasn’t so fortunate. The explosion ripped through the engine compartment, bent the chassis frame and blew out a tire. Rodriguez knew immediately what he had to do to recover the vehicle and get the convoy moving again.

“I took a look at it, and it took about a minute,” he said. “I told the commander, ‘We can do this.’”

One of the first things he thought when he saw the vehicle was that it had to be retrieved, Rodriguez recalled. “I remembered the commander telling me about a time he saw local villagers dancing on a burned-out chassis and how angry it made him,” he said.

Damaged vehicles left behind can be used in enemy propaganda to proclaim a victory over U.S. forces. Every effort is made to make sure the enemy does not have this opportunity. “A standard wrecker can’t make it up the road, so I usually send a mechanic on the patrol,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez had to work as quickly as possible while the rest of the convoy’s soldiers secured the site.

“I had to cut off the remainder of the blown-out tire with my knife to free up some room,” Rodriguez said. “We had to pry the chassis outward from the cab because it was bent up, but it was enough to fit a tire on it.”

Rodriguez didn’t have to work alone. Three of the Afghan drivers who regularly run these patrols with the company immediately offered their assistance. They came running up with hydraulic jacks and pry bars and set to work. “We did greatly appreciate what they did; it was amazing,” Rodriguez said.

Once the crew had the spare tire on the vehicle, they could tow it the remaining short distance up the road to the base, where Rodriguez talked about the Humvee. “I didn’t think the tires were going to hold out, but it’s an amazing piece of machinery,” he said. “The armor definitely saved the lives of the occupants.”

“Chief Rodriguez knows his stuff,” said Army Capt. John Thyng, Company F commander for the 2-503rd. “When I talked before about the need to make sure we recover absolutely everything to prevent the bad guys from getting hold of it, he really took that to heart.”

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Hendrix serves with 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Related Sites:
Combined Joint Task Force 82
NATO International Security Assistance Force

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Chief Warrant Officer Sammy Rodriguez, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, assesses a damaged vehicle Jan. 23, 2008, to determine how to best recover it to a forward operating base in Kunar province, Afghanistan. None of the vehicle's occupants were injured in the incident. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Hendrix, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Chief Warrant Officer Sammy Rodriguez, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, and Afghan truck drivers work together to prepare a damaged vehicle for recovery in Kunar province, Afghanistan, Jan. 23, 2008. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Hendrix, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Capt. John Thyng discusses a vehicle recovery operation Jan. 23, 2008, with Army 1st Lt. Adam Van Lear on a road in the Korengal Valley, Kunar province, Afghanistan. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Eric Hendrix, USA  
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