By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq, June 19, 2006 – Getting really close to an area you suspect may contain an improvised explosive device may seem counterintuitive, but that is exactly what engineers assigned here do each night. IEDs - homemade bombs often planted along roads - are the leading killer of Americans in Iraq. They are the terrorists' weapon of choice. The American military is combating the threat on many fronts, and one of those fronts means soldiers go out on Iraqi roads and actively search for the roadside bombs. The engineers platoon is part of A Company, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 506th Regimental Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. The brigade, though, reports to 4th Infantry Division.
To check out potential bombs, engineers use a vehicle called the Buffalo. "Don't worry," said platoon leader Army 1st Lt. Richard Peacock. "This is the safest vehicle in Iraq." The South African-designed behemoth is heavily armored and has an arm that an operator inside can maneuver to check out suspicious areas. The Buffalo also is loaded with cameras and electronic gizmos. With the arm extended, the vehicle looks like a metallic dinosaur feeding on the side of the road.
The Buffalo doesn't work alone. Another South African vehicle - the RG-31 - drives ahead and spots suspect areas or objects. Both vehicles were designed to find mines and render them harmless. They have been admirably adapted to their new duty, the engineers say. Night after night, the engineers take to the roads in and around East Baghdad, Sadr City, Rusafa and Salman Pak to search for IEDs. "This platoon has found 14," said noncommissioned officer in charge Staff Sgt. Jeremy Wagner.
"These engineers seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to finding IEDs," Capt. Jim Krueger, the company commander, said. "People all over request them." Peacock said the engineers have technical means at their disposal, "but the best thing is the soldiers' minds and powers of observation." The soldiers spot things that are out of place or objects that have been disturbed.
That, and they have Chaplain (Capt.) Mike Griffith. "The one time the chaplain wasn't here to pray with us, we got hit," Krueger said. "We didn't lose anybody, but we appreciate the chaplain's words even more now."