Nothing "Easy" about it

MCpl Aesop Zourdoumis, 2IC “Easy” Section, Western Sentinel, Thursday, 30 October 2008

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan

-The Combat Engineers of 24 Field Squadron, from 2 Combat Engineer Regiment (CER) have been in Afghanistan since the beginning of September.

 The unit is based out of CFB Petawawa, and is part of 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group (3 RCR BG).

The Engineers provide support in a variety of ways including mobility, entry into inaccessible structures and combat munitions disposal. They also form a vital part of the quick reaction force that responds to emergency situations. Within their respective camps, they provide infrastructure repair and survivability construction including bunkers and fortifications.

At any given time, the Sappers also find themselves patrolling in close support to their Infantry brothers.

After arriving at their designated patrol base, “Easy” section, E44D, was given only a short period of time to settle in and prepare for operations to be conducted within the next 24 hours. Patrol orders were issued and battle preparations began.

Later that night, observation indicated that insurgents had buried a large suspicious object into the main route leading into and out of the patrol base, effectively cutting off a vital access route. The Section Commander was briefed and developed his plan to neutralize the threat.

“It took three of them to lift it into place,” Sgt. Francois Bernier told his troops.

Early the next morning the section was deployed with a security element from Mike Company, 3 RCR BG, and a contingent of soldiers from the Afghan National Army. Once the Afghan soldiers achieved

area security, the Sappers began their task of confirming whether or not an IED had actually been emplaced into the road the night before.

Sapper Jean Phillipe Couture, on his first deployment to Afghanistan, found himself first man in the breach. He faced a threat which he’d been training for the last twelve months. Despite the intense heat, the threat of small arms fire and the very real possibility of discovering a secondary device, the intense situation had little effect on his demeanour.

After a significant period of time, his Section Commander sent him back to the vehicle to rehydrate and rest in order that he remains alert for later tasks.

Despite his objections, he did as he was ordered.

Sapper Corey McCue was sent in to continue the job after being thoroughly briefed by his section mate. As the hours continued to tick by, Sapper McCue worked his equipment, investigating every area that could possible contain an explosive threat. He finally came to within two meters of the suspected device.

He reported his findings to his Section Commander and returned to the vehicle. When asked later about how he felt being within six feet of the most effective weapon in the enemy’s arsenal he simply replied, “It was hot as hell and I could use a smoke. I just wanted to find the thing. Hey what’d you do with the Doritos?”

Sgt Francois Bernier placed his section within the cover of their armoured vehicle to conduct his approach manually under observation from the vehicle’s remote weapon system. Using his bayonet and later his hands to explore the last bit of uncleared ground between him and the target, he continued the slow process started by his junior members. Once he came close enough to make a solid visual assessment, the scene was handed over to the Counter IED Team, the true experts in this field.

Once the operation was complete and the section returned to camp, they did the same thing they find themselves doing every time they return from patrol: they rechecked their equipment and cleaned weapons; they drank bottles of water and smoked cigarettes; they good naturedly insulted each other and, most telling of all, they spoke of plans for vacation.

There’s plenty of time for clowning around and talking about home, but, like the truly consummate professionals they are, when it’s time to do the job, the job is all they do.

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