Posted By Blackfive • [October 25, 2012]
Members of 1st Platoon, 102nd Sapper Company, 307th Engineer Battalion
(Combat Airborne), 20th Engineer Brigade, evacuate one of their soldiers
to a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter after he was injured by an improvised
explosive device on the way to Combat Outpost Baraki Barak, Oct. 10,
2012. First Platoon cleared a route in the Baraki Barak district to
facilitate the movement of supplies to COP Baraki Barak. Photo by Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake, 115th MPAD.
Full story by SGT Bonebrake after the jump...
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The sounds of chatter over the radio were
suddenly cut short by an explosion. A truck had been hit by an
improvised explosive device and one of the soldiers had been injured in
At that moment, members of 1st Platoon, 102nd Sapper Company, 307th
Engineer Battalion (Combat Airborne), 20th Engineer Brigade, without
hesitation, set up security and pulled out the injured soldier to assess
It was immediately apparent that the rehearsals the platoon conducted for this mission were time well spent.
First Platoon was tasked to conduct a route clearance patrol in the
Baraki Barak district. The 102nd SC is responsible for providing route
clearance support in the Logar province.
“We clear this route on a regular basis to allow freedom of manuever for
coalition forces and supplies to and from COP Baraki Barak,” said U.S.
Army 1st Lt. Jesse Carter, the platoon leader for 1st Platoon.
For this particular mission, 1st Platoon started preparing days in
advance. They conducted rehearsals, intelligence briefs on the routes
were analyzed and the command ensured all soldiers knew their assigned
roles for the mission.
“You have to look at where the enemy is setting the attacks,” Carter
said. “We don’t play checkers in this company, we’re taught to play
This constant analysis of enemy trends and our focus on solid
fundamentals is what makes this company so successful, said U.S. Army
Maj. Kenneth Cook, company commander of the 102nd SC.
“When I send my platoons out, I give them a clear and concise task and
purpose to ensure that they understand what I expect from any combat
operation,” Cook added. “When they get back, they debrief me about what
they encountered and their counter-actions so that we have the most
up-to-date information for our next mission.”
The 102nd SC not only conducts route clearance but is also an extension of diplomacy and a strong-willed investigative tool.
“We pride ourselves in the technical and tactical aspects of our job
here. My soldiers have trained to fight tactically and think
strategically,” said Cook. “When we do route clearance we don’t just
seek the threat. We actually want to get on the ground to put the puzzle
together and defeat the network.”
Cook sends his teams out with pre-prepared questions for the locals that
cover everything from what unfamiliar groups are operating in the area
to how their crops and farms are doing.
“These questions are important to us because I just don’t want to find
the IEDs, I want to break and eliminate the underlying enablers that
feed the cycle,” Cook added.
On the morning of the mission, Carter conducted a thorough briefing that
covered every element of the mission to ensure his platoon had the
information they needed in case something went wrong.
“I back brief constantly to make sure that my guys are retaining the
information I’m giving them,” he said. “l throw them into hypothetical
high-stress situations and ask them ‘what if I went down, what are you
going to do now?’”
“My soldier’s safety is my number one priority,” Carter said. “I
wouldn’t send them anywhere I wouldn’t go myself. If I see a soldier
getting complacent on the ground, I’ll pull him back into the truck.
They take that seriously and it’s a reality check.”
As the Sappers loaded trucks with ammunition and supplies, there was a
camaraderie that was hard to miss. They bantered and threw jokes back
“It’s a tight family,” Carter added. “Getting out of your comfort zone, you learn to get really close to your unit.”
A couple hours into the mission, the convoy was hit with an IED. One
soldier was injured in the blast and a mine resistant ambush protected
vehicle was wrecked. The security team put up a perimeter and remaining
dismounts worked quickly to secure the equipment in the disabled truck
and call in a medevac.
As the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter roared into land, spraying the
platoon with grass and dust, the litter team loaded up the casualty as
AH-64 Apache helicopters kept a watchful eye overhead. The mechanics
loaded the truck onto a flatbed and the rest of 1st Platoon continued
dismounted into a village, scanning the ground for command wires and
“That’s the name of this business out here,” Carter said. “If something
goes wrong, we can’t call it quits. You have to lower your shoulder and
drive through it.”
U.S. Army Sgt. Jeremiah Durstine, a dismount team leader, has the utmost
confidence in his team and is proud of their accomplishments.
“My team is spot-on,” Durstine said. “We’ve found a significant amount
of IEDs, unexploded ordinance and command wires. I think a lot of our
success comes from our commanders laser sharp focus with training and a
sixth sense of where to look.”
Farther down the road, teams moved dismounted through another village to
check a drainage ditch, but thankfully they find nothing and the convoy
moves on. 1st Plt. finally reaches Combat Outpost Baraki Barak and
turns the convoy around.
After a total of almost 14 hours outside the wire, the platoon returns
to FOB Shank and begins to unload their weapons and gear. Exhausted and
dirty, some stumble to bed, while others hang out and smoke, recounting
the day’s events.
“I wouldn’t want to be over here with any other group,” Carter said. “I
am confident that even without me they would still be 100 percent