News: Police call in the desert?: It’s an Army cleanup not a crime scene
Story by Sgt. Francis O'Brien
ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The U.S. Army, like the Boy Scouts and many camping enthusiasts, practices the motto, “Leave an area better than you found it.” Soldiers from the Fort Wainwright-based 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, even in the midst of the five day, anti-Taliban route clearing Operation Fairbanks, still found time to “police call” the Afghanistan desert Sept. 14.
Police call is military slang for an organized trash search and removal detail. As part of Operation Fairbanks, soldiers cleared local roads of improvised explosive devices, destroyed weapons caches, constructed four checkpoints in partnership with Afghan National Army soldiers as well as picked up, burned or hauled away stray trash.
“We always take away our own trash,” said Spc. Nicholas Hinnenkamp, a 68W Army health care specialist from New Richland, Minn., a soldier assigned to pick up empty water bottles. “It’s our policy. The ANA burns theirs.”
“With the route open, we’ll be able to do convoy resupply to our soldiers in Mizan, which is more environmentally sound than air drops,” said executive officer of Charlie Company, 1-24th, Capt. Joseph M. Lapointe, a Jericho, Vt. native.
“Also, our environmental impact with this mission is small.” added Lapointe. “For the construction of the first two checkpoints, we used existing structures. We’re not tearing up the countryside. We’re using existing materials such as sand in the construction, and employing local workers and contractors,” he said.
“We’re not taking anything away from the local populace. The only thing we’re putting in the ground is some wire,” Lapointe said.
The checkpoints, built in partnership by U.S. and Afghan troops, are made of HESCO barriers, wire mesh baskets lined with heavy fabric and filled with sand and dirt scooped from the desert floor. HESCO barriers are a common blast protection feature used on bases in Iraq and Afghanistan and are also deployed in the U.S. to fight floods.
It could be said that the Army policy of leaving an area better than you found it can be applied to Operation Fairbanks itself, which aims to clear Route Chicken of IED’s between Qalat, the provincial capital, and Mizan, the district seat, denying the Taliban bribe revenue and freedom of movement, and allowing the civilian populace to enjoy the ability to move goods freely throughout the district.
“Our goal is not only to show the Afghan police and army that the route is open, but also to show the populace and the insurgents that the route is open to daily traffic,” said Capt. Jeremy S. Medaris, 1-24th Charlie Company commander.
Whether it be by removing IED’s or empty water bottles, U.S. Soldiers are cleaning up Afghanistan.