HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
Marines with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, began to clear the surrounding areas of their new patrol base in Laki, Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, of improvised explosive devices March 31.
Marines recently removed IEDs, to the north, on Route Giants while moving to a new patrol base in the southern portion of their area of operations. They now needed to clear approximately 100 meters to the south to cover a bridge and nearby tree lines.
With Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians in support, the Marines used mine detectors to check a bridge and tree lines that sat no more than 50 meters away from the patrol base.
The Marines swept carefully as they stepped from the safety of the patrol base. Within minutes they had already discovered their first IED which EOD quickly disposed of.
"EOD has helped us a lot,” said Lance Cpl. Stephen M. Earwood, a squad leader with Weapons Co., 2/2. “They have taught us a lot on how to sweep, how to dig for them, how to find them, and how to look for the battery source.”
According to Earwood, he put his most experienced sweeper up front, Lance Cpl. K. Schwartz a Marine with Weapons Co., 2/2, who, combined with Earwood, have found the most IEDs.
“I’ve swept on a couple of clears that we’ve had and I just picked up the experience,” said Schwartz. “Sweeping is all about gained experience, there is not much to it but there’s kind of a technique. Everyone kind of develops their own technique for it.”
Over the next few hours the Marines found a total of three IEDs around the bridge. All of them were approximately the same size and type, and two of them only sat a few meters apart.
“We knew there would be a lot,” said Earwood. “They know it’s a key terrain feature for us with our trucks. Any bridge we’ve found down here in the AO there has been at least three at every single one.”
The Marines moved on to clearing the tree line located near the bridge. There were no IEDs found.
The Marines will continue to monitor the areas around their patrol base and have even struck a deal with a nearby farmer, who, under the incentive of better security, will cut down the tops of some of his trees so that the Marines can provide better over watch.
“Keeping your word to the locals is very key,” said Earwood. “Just winning hearts and minds and they’ll help you out finding other IEDs; they’ll point them out.”