HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- The Marines of 4th platoon, Mobility Assault Company, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, conducted a route clearance operation in Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 24.
Route clearance missions are conducted in frequently traveled areas around Camp Leatherneck, ridding it of any explosive hazards along the way and allowing for better freedom of movement for coalition forces and the civilian population along the route.
“We pushed out to Route Red by Patrol Base Boldak,” said Cpl. Cameron Brown, a combat engineer with 4th plt., MA Co., 1st CEB, and a Colorado Springs, Colo., native. “The infantry units have taken quite a few casualties over there due to vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and complex ambushes, so they’ll request engineer support over there to clear the routes they take before they actually take them.”
Fortunately, the Marines did not come across any IEDs, but they came across other obstacles along the route.
“A lot of the challenges we face are the people we come into contact with,” said 1st Lt. Joshua Betz, 4th platoon commander, MA Co., 1st CEB, and an Eaton, Colo., native. “A lot of the local kids throw rocks and stuff at the convoy, and that definitely hinders our ability to maneuver safely around the civilians.”
Brown explained the complications they encountered during their mission, but still had a positive outlook on overcoming the challenges.
“I think we did fantastic,” said Brown. “This was the first time taking this route; we had to deal with close quarters and there not really being actual roads and trying to mind everyone else’s property and the crops. I mean, trying to hit the check points we needed to on the fly and mitigating our footprint in the village, I think it was actually really good.”
Though the platoon came across a few hurdles along the way, they performed well and all came back safely to Camp Leatherneck, with only rock damage to a few of the vehicles’ windows.
“They blow me away every time we go outside the wire,” said Betz of his Marines. “Especially in a very rural area like that, the terrain is very constricting. The route we had originally planned was actually nothing like the route that was actually taken today, and that’s just because some of the roads our imagery shows as existing have been grown over with some of the poppy fields or have been destroyed for whatever reason. It just blows me away having to deal with so many variables, and I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to get us through this mission today.”