Photos and Story By Spc. Eric A. Rutherford
115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
MOSUL, Iraq – As the sun rose over an area where Soldiers were expecting gunfire and bombs, they were met by locals, who curiously watched as armored earthmovers shoved garbage and barriers off the road to make civilian travel easier. Soldiers of the 43rd Combat Engineer Company, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, worked to clear one of the many impassible roads in Mosul as part of Operation Thunder Reaper IV.
The 17-hour mission incorporated construction assets from the 43rd CEC, as well as several other elements from 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment’s Thunder Squadron.
Soldiers set out to open a section of Route Tampa, one of the city’s main roads that has been closed to traffic.
“When we got here, a lot of these routes were blocked,” said Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Larue, the Assault and Obstacle platoon sergeant with the 43rd. “Now our mission is to go in and make a lot of them open again for regular traffic.”
Larue of Coppers Cove, Texas, said route clearance will be a major role for the 43rd, which recently arrived in the battle space. The mission, which started at sunrise and ran well into the night, opened more of the route than was expected, said Larue.
The operation consisted of several phases. The first was route reconnaissance searching for roadside bombs and other hazards. After the route clearance phase, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and M1A2 Abrams tanks provided overwatch and security in the area so the engineers could work with relative safety to clear the roads. During the operation, there were no casualties, and no notable enemy contact.
“We expected it to be quiet because there were so many moving pieces,” said Larue. “We had units to the north, south, west and east. We had units patrolling and we knew it was going to be quiet today. It is normally a really busy area.”
The next phase of the operation was to use Armored Combat Excavators to clear trash and other debris and obstacles from the road. The engineers then placed concrete barriers to better control traffic on the four-lane highway.
“Today we set out to do a large scale route improvement in our sector,” said Sgt. Daniel Preston, a gun system operator with the A&O platoon, 43rd CEC. “We used our dig assets to improve what was a trash filled, dirt filled, improvised explosive device magnet into a four-lane highway with serpentines.”
Larue and Preston provided command and control of the operation from their Buffalo mine resistant ambush protected vehicle (MRAP), using video cameras and a hydraulic arm to search areas for potential explosive threats to. The buffalo crew exposed an IED in a crowded intersection, which an explosive ordnance disposal team destroyed.
After the road was cleared of obstacles, the ACE vehicles moved into the route sanitation phase. This was accomplished by using the ACE vehicles to clear rubble from buildings and large piles of dirt on the roadsides that were used to hide bombs. They also cleared large areas of trash to be burned later to improve sanitation issues.
At the end of the mission, the Thunder Squadron Soldiers returned to base down more than a kilometer of the newly cleaned stretch of four-lane highway.
'My guys did a kick-butt job today,” said Larue. “Morale was good and high. Even though we are putting in these 18-hour plus days, I just can’t ask any more of my guys.”
Thank you, Eric, for another wonderful story!