Soldiers Interrogate Streets of Baghdad
Soldiers interrogate streets of Baghdad Route clearance team motivated by dangerous job Staff Sgt. Brock Jones MND-B PAO
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - Every job that Soldiers do in Iraq is essentially one gear in the mammoth machine that is the U.S. Army. Those jobs, often unheralded, sometimes strenuous and possibly perilous, work in unison toward reaching the common goal of establishing and maintaining peace and security across Iraq.
One of those many "gears," a job that literally keeps the Army rolling safely in the streets, is keeping travel routes and avenues of movement free of improvised explosive devices and explosively-formed projectiles. Engineers from 1st Platoon "Mudcats," Company A, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Multi-National Division - Baghdad, make-up one of the units assigned to that very duty, the dangerous but rewarding job of route clearance.
"There's nothing more rewarding than going out and finding the deadliest weapon that the terrorists are trying to use and saving Soldier's lives within our brigade and within our company and our AO (area of operation)," said Staff Sgt. Erik Hoyle, vehicle commander serving with 1st Platoon, reflecting the attitude of his entire unit about the job they have been given to do. Both the leaders and Soldiers of 1st Platoon maintain no doubts about the importance of their job. "One less bomb out there is one less Soldier or local national who's not going to get hurt," said 2nd Lt. Ben Galemo, a native of Hamilton, Ill., who serves as the platoon leader for 1st Platoon. "That's always important." While operating in their area of responsibility, attempting to rid the streets of deadly explosive devices, route clearance teams travel much slower than normal convoys, stopping often to conduct what they call "interrogations," closer looks at anything suspicious.
With every pair of eyes looking through the thick glass of heavily armored vehicles, they search for anything that might tip them off as to the whereabouts of potential dangers. "You're looking for anything from just a wire, just one wire, to a block or anything that looks out of place," said Staff Sgt. Jared Gay, a native of Sacramento, Calif., who serves as a squad leader with 1st Platoon. "Once you've been on the routes long enough, you can see what's been there, what hasn't been there. You're just kind of looking for things that are out of place." Looking for something "out of place" in areas where trash and rubble and broken vehicles are often the norm essentially amounts to a never-ending search for explosive "needles" in the "haystack" of Baghdad. In such a dangerously monotonous job, one would expect a lack of motivation and low morale to be a constant problem. But not so with the "Mudcat" Soldiers of 1st Platoon, where motivation and positive attitude seem to be the rule, not the exception. "As always, 'A' game outside the wire; there is no 'B' game.
Nobody's handing out towels," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Foreman, a native of Allegany, N.Y., who serves as the platoon sergeant for 1st platoon, while briefing his Soldiers before their most recent mission, his first since returning from Environmental Morale Leave. "I am thoroughly stoked to be back and going on mission. I could not sleep this morning. It's kind of like when you're a kid waiting for Christmas morning," he said, smiling. True motivation in any job seems to begin with the feeling that one is doing something worthwhile, with knowing that one performs a potentially life-saving service. This type of motivation comes easily to a platoon that understands the life-and-death ramifications of what they do.
"What keeps me motivated doing my job is my infantry buddies out there," said Spc. Adam Curtis, a native of Los Angeles, who serves as driver and gunner with 1st Platoon. "I would rather get hit in one of these vehicles than they get hit in an M1114 (up-armored Humvee). I'd rather go out there and clear the route so they won't have to worry about getting hit."
The members of 1st Platoon are all motivated by the other Soldiers around them, feeding off each other's energy and fighting as individual warriors for the collective safety of the whole platoon and ultimately 2nd Brigade.
"You're only as good as the people you serve beside," said Spc. Travis Wilds, who, like all 1st Platoon Soldiers, serves in various capacities on route clearance missions. "The people here, when I found out all the stuff they did last deployment and this deployment, I realized I was serving with a company of heroes and I find myself very lucky to have served with people such as these."
For 10 months, the tight-knit Sappers of 1st Platoon have been traveling the streets of Baghdad at crawl speed, day and night, searching for the indiscriminate explosives that kill and maim both Soldiers and civilians. Despite the many factors to the contrary, they continue their dangerous missions as highly motivated Air Assault Soldiers, inspired by each other to give their all in the hopes of saving lives one convoy, one mission, one "interrogation" at a time.
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