Marine minesweepers face 'constant threat'
ASADABAD, Afghanistan — Imagine leading a patrol into enemy territory, unarmed, exposed, with the chance you could trigger an explosion with every footstep.
Welcome to the daily world of U.S. Marine Corps minesweepers in Afghanistan.
“You keep your eyes peeled and hope you see them before they do something to you,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Noll. “It’s crazy, but it’s a fun job.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Marines with an engineer platoon attached to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division out of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, swept a stretch of Afghan road near Forward Operating Base Asadabad.
On Thursday, the Marines were back at it again, sweeping a stretch of road near Watapoor in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
The Marines, out of Okinawa, Japan, were searching for buried explosives that could be used in roadside bomb attacks against U.S. forces conducting Operation Pil. The goal was to clear roads that could be used by convoys during the operation.
Using metal detectors, a pair of Marines did not encounter any explosives during their searches. Marines acting as probers were on hand with rods and shovels to further investigate any areas that the metal detectors alerted on.
The task of inching down a road under the hot sun while swinging a metal detector appears mind- numbingly tedious. But the Marines kept security high during the mission. Out of necessity.
“You’re walking point with no weapon,” said Lance Cpl. Kenneth Carbaugh.
Several roadside bomb attacks have occurred in recent weeks in Kunar province, where the troops were operating.
“You never know what to expect,” Noll said. “You could roll up on a road and there’s nothing, or you could roll up on a road and there’s three [bombs]. We treat every mission the same — like we have IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in the road.”
U.S. soldiers out of Germany provided security while the Marines swept the road.
“We’re the only Army and Marine units operating together for the operation,” said Army 1st Lt. Jesse Chapin, 3rd Platoon leader with the 212th Military Police Company out of Schweinfurt, Germany.
Wednesday’s and Thursday’s missions concluded with the sections of road cleared and no explosives uncovered.
“There’s always a constant threat,” said Army Staff Sgt. Gerald Stitzer, 39, of Fort Mitchell, Ala. “Our gunners have to be alert and aware of the surroundings in addition to vehicles passing.”