By Army Sgt. Carmen Guerrero
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 2, 2008 - If Army Cpl. Edward Helzer has a feeling of déjà-vu, it's probably because he's been to Iraq more than once. Now on his second deployment, he's running the exact same routes he did before, still in his vehicle of choice: the towing and mine-detection vehicle known as the Husky.
Helzer hails from Laredo, Texas, and, as the saying goes, this isn't his first rodeo. His first deployment to Iraq was in 2006 and 2007 with the 130th Engineer Battalion out of Puerto Rico. He now serves with 836th Sapper Company from Kingsville, Texas. The 836th is attached to the 890th Engineer Battalion out of Gulfport, Miss. The battalion is here for route clearance support, and support is what Helzer can offer, because he has been down these roads before.
He has been deployed continuously since 2006. He went home from his first deployment on Oct. 26, 2007, and he mobilized with the 836th Sapper Company four days later. He volunteered for both deployments. A general construction equipment operator by training, Helzer is serving as a combat engineer on this tour, learning on the job. He has also been afforded the opportunity to serve as truck commander, driver and rear observer, and he's even sat up in the gunner's turret twice.
The Husky has been described as a sled dog with no sled. Commonly called the "one- man buffalo," this mine detector vehicle with landmine overpass capability is used primarily as the forward scout vehicle for observation and detection of roadside bombs. The mechanical ferret arm, located on the front of the vehicle, can move items around and remove them if necessary. The Husky also has a blower that can clear an area with blasts of air that can reach 150 mph.
"In your mind, you're alone; it can be mentally draining," Helzer said about life as a Husky driver. "Without situational awareness, you can run into wire, holes, etc. You're very mentally drained when coming off of mission."
Still, Helzer said, he feels safe with his fellow soldiers. His gunners watch his back. Communication is tight.
"On mission, we're one," he said. "My guys keep me going."
Army Cpl. Patrick Moore, also of the 836th Sapper Company, said Helzer is a team player. "Corporal Helzer is always concerned for the welfare of his fellow soldiers and wants the company, as a whole, to be successful," he said.
Differences between his last deployment and this one aren't too big, Helzer said, though the overall environment is cleaner and quieter now. Helzer also encountered many strikes and IED finds the last time he was in Baghdad.
In three years of marriage, Helzer has been gone for two and a half years. He said his wife and two children are OK with his decision to deploy because of the continuous support they receive at home. His wife's father is a pastor, he explained, so between family and church, support is never-ending.
Meanwhile, he finds satisfaction in his wartime role. "It's nice at the end of the day," he said. "There is a satisfaction in knowing you've done well for yourself and others. It's rewarding."
(Army Sgt. Carmen Guerrero serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 890th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade.)