By U.S. Army Capt. Sayward Hall IV<br /> 819th Engineer Company Executive Officer<br /> <br /> KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan— The 819th Engineer Company (Sapper), “Firestarters,” has been diligently working with their partnered Afghan National Army Route Clearance Company (COY) to sharpen route clearance skills, clear roads, and conduct key leader engagements. <br /> <br /> The Firestarters, commanded by Capt. Jared Waggoner, have an Embedded Training Team (ETT) which works closely with the ANA COY, 2nd Battalion, 205th Corps Engineer Kandak (CEK). The COY has been vigorously training with the ETT for the past few months, familiarizing themselves with equipment, developing and refining their tactics, techniques and procedures, and validating their operations. <br /> <br /> The 819th Engineer Company ETT utilized different training lanes to validate the COY’s route clearance capabilities. This validation has led to advanced partnered training and route clearance operations between the COY and the Firestarters. <br /> <br /> Throughout September and October, the COY and elements from the 819th Eng. Co. have gone on numerous missions throughout the region ensuring freedom of movement and maneuver by clearing IEDs and all obstacles along their routes. On one such mission, the combined elements cleared from Qalat to Nawbahar, Afghanistan, to facilitate the fidelity of the upcoming national elections, permitting Afghan officials to travel to areas which have previously been controlled by the Taliban and along routes that were in the past extremely hazardous.<br /> <br /> The COY has encountered both small arms and indirect fire, in addition to finding over 30 IEDs. <br /> <br /> "The ANA proved that they can handle what the enemy puts in front of them. They handled themselves very well out there,” said 1st Lt. Steven Tuy, platoon leader with the 819th Eng. Co. “I was very pleased with the ANA and my soldier's actions and performance during the mission."