News: Arkansas Guard engineers finish 1st month in Afghanistan
Story by Spc. Nevada Jack Smith
TARIN KOT, Afghanistan – The Arkansas Army National Guard’s 1039th Route Clearance Company is finishing its first month of a nine-month deployment to Multi-National Base Tarin Kot, Afghanistan.
Since arriving, the “Razorback” company has played an integral role to the safety of the Uruzgan province and mission effectiveness of the International Security Assistance Force operating there by clearing 757 Kilometers of road during the course of 20 missions.
More than 167 man-hours have gone into route clearance operations and the RCC has already had two improvised explosive device finds.
“Here in Uruzgan we support the mobility of the offensive elements,” said 1st Lt. Lucas Jennings, platoon leader, 2nd platoon, 1039th RCC. “We make sure the coalition forces can get to where they are going without incident. We do that by going out before them and looking for any ambushes or IEDs.”
Improvised explosive devices continue to be the most common method of attack used by insurgents in Afghanistan and are triggered in a variety of ways, one of which is through the use of a pressure switch.
A weapon that can kill with a single misstep is not one that discriminates between civilian and military targets. This makes the 1039th’s role in the battle space doubly important.
“We don’t just provide clear routes for ISAF, we are also here to help the locals,” said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Myer, the squad leader for second squad. “Freedom of movement is the most important thing to safety in Afghanistan.”
The Arkansas unit has maintained that freedom of movement for more than a month now.
“With clear roads we can make sure that assets like clothing, weapons, food and water can be supplied to different areas,” said Myer. “We are going ahead of the operating units and making sure that the way they go is a safe one.”
The Razorback soldiers recognize the inherent danger in their job and embrace the opportunity to help others.
“I like that nobody else does this kind of work. I’ve got a lot of pride because of that,” said Spc. Steven Tyler Redman, from Piggott, Ark. Redman was recently involved in an IED explosion that damaged his vehicle on Aug. 23, 2012. Less than a week after the incident, Redman was back out on missions.
“Its just part of being a soldier,” Redman said. ”You still have to get out there and do your job.”
The route clearance soldiers arrived in theater with motivation to spare in late August after their pre-mobilization at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“When we got here the guys were ready to step up to the challenge,” Jennings said.
The bond between the Arkansas soldiers plays a big part in their motivation.
“Most of us have been together for a couple years now so we are pretty close,” said Jennings. “There is quite a bit of camaraderie between everyone.”
The 1039th RCC still has a way to go before their nine-month tour is over and they are on the road home. But between now and then, they will make sure that every road in between is a safe one.
Jennings said, “I am confident that these guys can do whatever is asked of them.”