Route Clearance Platoon sweeps up weapons caches

AL-ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq —Many countermeasures are adopted to avoid improvised…

AL-ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq —Many countermeasures are adopted to avoid improvised explosive devices, which are a significant threat to deployed Coalition forces in Iraq.  However, the best way to avoid IEDs is to destroy them at the source.

A large number of potential threats against Coalition forces were found and destroyed during a cache sweep in western al-Anbar province, Iraq, Aug. 26-30.

Service members with Route Clearance Platoon, Company A, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5, do not normally search for caches.

“Ultimately, our mission is to do route clearance, which is clearing routes for convoys on roads frequently traveled by Coalition forces,” said Cpl. Eric M. Gonzalez, 21, a combat engineer with Route Clearance Platoon, from Bakersfield, Calif.  “We’re still engineers and we have the assets and skills to do cache sweeps, so we still can do it.”

During the mission, the service members with Route Clearance Platoon worked around the clock to find and locate all the possible future threats they could.

“We were looking for munitions that could be used against Coalition forces now and in the future,” said Gonzalez. “Cache sweeps are usually done by engineers who are attached to infantry battalions.  We worked the long hours so we can get back to our route clearance missions, which are our priority.”

This is the first cache that Route Clearance Platoon has found during their deployment, and while the platoon continued searching for more cache sites, Marines with Support Platoon, Company A, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5 provided assistance by digging up the caches.  Support Platoon uncovered more than 530 pieces of ordnance and more than 5,000 anti-aircraft and .50 cal rounds.

“We provided assistance to the engineers by bringing heavy-equipment machines to the sites to make their job easier by digging up the ordnance,” said Cpl. Jordan R. Borer, 22, motor transportation operator with Support Platoon, from Parma, Ohio.

Although a large number of ordnance was found, keeping Coalition force members and Iraqis safe is a never ending job undertaken every day.

“It always feels good accomplishing the missions and taking munitions out of enemies’ hands,” said Borer.

“This is my first deployment, and it felt really good helping the combat engineers with route clearance dig-up ordnance, taking possible threats out of the enemies’ hands and making the area safer for Coalition forces and Iraqi civilians,” said Pvt. Daniel J. Steneken, 21,  heavy-equipment operator with Support Platoon, from Wayland, N.Y.

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