War on Terrorism

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Guardsmen Hunt Roadside Bombs in Afghanistan

By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2010 - Joined by fellow National Guardsmen from Georgia, Kansas, South Dakota and Washington, Missouri's "Houn' Dawgs" are sniffing out improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and rendering them harmless. Sustained by support from back home, members of the Missouri National Guard's 203rd Engineer Battalion are prevailing in this dangerous mission.

"We're all very proud to be here representing our state and our nation," Army Lt. Col. Tony Adrian, the battalion commander, said yesterday during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.

Considered one of the most dangerous and important missions assigned to the U.S. military, route clearance ensures safety for those traveling Afghanistan's roads – a mission felt across the region.

The 203rd's area of responsibility is about the size of West Virginia, Adrian said.

"It's a constant cat-and-mouse game with the enemy," he said. "They change their tactics. We change ours. And the cycle goes on."

In addition to the route-clearance mission, Adrian said, troops are preparing for a surge of more American and NATO forces and are training Afghan forces to take over when coalition forces leave.

The Houn' Dawgs deployed last fall and expect to leave Afghanistan later this year. The deployment is the battalion's second in five years. The 203rd served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

The 203rd's lineage dates back to 1876. In 1916, the unit became known as the "Houn' Dawg Outfit" after it was associated with a song titled "You Gotta Quick Kickin' My Dog Around."

"One of our biggest [strengths] is the soldiers themselves," said the unit's top enlisted soldier, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Stuenkel, also by phone from Afghanistan. Soldiers scan for signs of IEDs and monitor the demeanor of the local populace, often a clue to trouble ahead, he explained.

"It does boil down to instinct and the quality of leaders that we have over here," Adrian said, noting the caliber of the young lieutenants who serve as platoon leaders for the Houn' Dawgs. "They're able to think on their feet," he said. "They're very ingenious. They've got very good instincts."

The 203rd is equipped with mine-resistant, ambush-protected military vehicles, rocket-propelled grenade cages and detection devices that include ground-penetrating radar, infrared and thermal optics and electrical jamming devices, Stuenkel said.

"Technology is one of our strengths here in this fight," Adrian said. "The technology we have ... is shared with our coalition partners."

And the 203rd's citizen-soldiers are well-trained, he said, noting that more people volunteered for the mission than the Houn' Dawgs could use. "We didn't have any trouble filling the ranks and getting our forces up to strength," he said.

Adrian said the ratio of IEDs found and cleared is one measure of effectiveness – a figure that currently stands at about 75 percent.

"We do very well on that," he said. "Right now, during the winter, it is a slow season for IEDs in most areas. That is all going to change come the warmer weather."

The 203rd commands, controls and supports three Guard sapper companies in Afghanistan: its own 1141st Engineer Company out of Kansas City, Mo., the 211st Engineer Company out of South Dakota and the 810th Engineer Company out of Georgia.

(Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

1 comment:

Ray Barquero said...

The horrific effects of world terrorism have had an enormous impact on United States security. History has proven that the tactics and strategic means by which terrorist attacks are carried out have left nobody safe from the realities of their atrocities. Throughout the course of its history, but particularly within the past thirty years, the effects of terrorism have played an essential role in shaping the security measures taken by United States government.
It is extremely important to take into consideration the manner in which terrorist attacks are implemented in order to prevent further attacks from happening. The only way that effective security measures can be implemented is through clear assessment of all the possible alternatives that a terrorist has. For example, if it is known that a certain building here in the United States is a potential target for a terrorist attack and studies of past attacks on similar buildings show that a car bombing is the most effective way to pursue an attack, then specific security measures proportionate with the car bombing must be implemented. This may include steel re-enforced barriers around that building, concrete blocks, or even the closing of streets around the target to restrain cars from reaching the building. After September 11, 2001, when it became clear that terrorist attacks were being advanced into the utilization of airlines as sky rockets to fly into monumental national icons, consequently more severe security measures were taken into effect.
The way that terrorists plot out their plans is thus critical in assessing the measures that are to be taken in avoiding future incidents, and the only manner that effective measures can be taken is through examining how past events occurred and learning from mistakes that were made. The kinds of errors that occur are as distinct as the kind of attacks in themselves. These may include intelligence flaws, lack of diplomatic efforts or even, most obviously, a deficiency in effective security measures. As unfortunate as it is, when it comes to terrorism, lessons can only be learned after experiencing the horrifying reality of their outcomes. Likewise, any legitimate examination of the measures that the U.S. government is taking to protect its citizens against the threat of terrorism deserves a clear analysis of past terrorist attacks against the U.S. and on other targets.
One thing that is worth pointing out, as elementary as it sounds, is that the implementation of a terrorist attack requires some sort of skill. That skill is mostly acquired through heavy training, and there are hundreds of “terrorist training camps” that are dedicated specifically to teaching men and women how to go about in carrying out an attack. It is often claimed that much focus should be drawn to this facet of the problem, specifically because this is seen as the “root” of the problem, and an effective disruption of the core issue will ultimately deter the problem from getting any more out of hand.