CAMP SHORABAK, Afghanistan –
The importance of the ability to travel from one area to another in combat cannot be overlooked. Strategy, supplies and well-trained warfighters are priorities, but without designated paths to get to the front lines, these assets prove ineffective.
Approximately 70 soldiers with various units from 215th Corps began a route clearance course at Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan, July 8, 2017. Several U.S. Marine advisors from Task Force Southwest, who have extensive counter improvised explosive device training and experience, are assisting their Afghan counterparts throughout the eight-week training cycle.
“The route clearance course implements a crawl, walk, run method. Right now they are refreshing on basic skills before moving into training lanes and [simulated] missions,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ronnie Mills, a counter IED advisor with Task Force Southwest.
The soldiers are all engineers whose units are stationed throughout Helmand Province. Successes in recent operations, such as Maiwand Three, showcased the Corps’ ability to move from one area to another, but the enemy has used and will continue to implement IEDs as a means of impeding the movement of forces. The tactics and procedures taught during the course are designed to mitigate this threat.
“Route clearance is a huge addition to the fighting force because it allows freedom of movement on the battlefield, which means they can take ground back,” said Mills.
Some of the students have counter IED training and experience, and are helping to teach their fellow soldiers what they have learned from previous real-world patrols.
“Whenever we go somewhere on a mission… we clear the route for the rest of the convoy,” said 2nd Lt. Hamidullah, a platoon commander with 4th Brigade. “If I see anything suspicious or any disturbed land, we stop the convoy, and our unit goes to clear the area.”
Following graduation, most of the students will report back to their respective units to begin applying their new-found knowledge, while some will have the opportunity to attend the explosive hazard reduction course, which teaches advanced counter IED skills and in-place detonation of IEDs.
“Every time they take [an IED] out, it means someone won’t get injured or killed, whether it’s civilians or coalition forces,” said Mills. “Once the soldiers leave here, they should have a full understanding of what they need to do to successfully complete their mission as route clearance.”