Sunday, December 2, 2007

Obstacle clearing teams keep Anbar roadways safe

30 November 2007
By Cpl. Thomas J. Griffith
2nd Marine Logistics Group.

AL ASAD, Iraq -- Lance Cpl. Allen R. Rossi said the closer service members get to a possible land mine or improvised explosive device, the less worried they become. “You won’t feel a thing if it goes off that close,” explained the Camden, Ohio, native.

That’s why the members of the Obstacle Clearing Detachment walk a few meters ahead of everyone else. ‘Never step where we haven’t swept’ is their motto and they live by it, sweeping the dusty, trash-laden roads to ensure quick and safe passage for the convoys behind them.

The Marines of OCD, Engineer Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) embed with convoys to clear the roadways of debris, minefields or anything else that could impede the movement of vehicles and troops. “They’re basically putting themselves in harm’s way so that the convoy can move safely and isn’t slowed,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael A. Leisure, the chief of Combat Engineer Platoon and a Parkersburg, W. Va., native.

The team also searches for improvised explosive devices and weapons caches, and when it finds them, calls in an explosive ordnance disposal team for disposal. “The main goal is to find anything before it goes off,” said Sgt. Levi A. Gundy, a detachment team leader and Keokuk, Iowa, native. “It’s hard to explain how to get comfortable with it.”

By trade, these Marines are combat engineers, a job that normally entails building structures, breaching entryways and providing security. Assignment to the clearing detachment is an additional duty that poses its own potential dangers, but Marines like Cpl. Jamison A. Elsmore, a detachment team member, said they prefer the unique challenge the OCD missions provide. “It’s one of the most important jobs out here,” explained the Plymouth, Minn., native. “Wherever anyone’s going, they’re going to need to arrive safely. We’re one of the few guys who can offer that to them.”

The hardest part of the job, according to Elsmore, is the difficulty of spotting many of the dangers they are looking for. Often times, trash lines the streets and the roads are covered with a fine sand the Marines refer to as moon dust. The small size of many of the objects they’re searching for also causes a problem. Improvised explosive devices vary in size and shape and littered roadways are ideal for concealment.

Leisure said the OCD Marines are “true professionals” and although many of the Marines are on their first deployment, they handle the tasks assigned to them without hesitation. “They’re very efficient and by the time they come (back to Iraq), they’ll be maturing corporals teaching their Marines the same things,” he said. “We like to have fun, but as soon as we cross that (entry control point), it’s game on.”

Photo - AL ASAD, Iraq – Lance Cpl. Allen R. Rossi sweeps a metal detector in search of wires, improvised explosive devices, ordnance or anything that would impede the movement of the Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 15. Rossi and the other members of the Obstacle Clearing Detachment are responsible for clearing anything that would slow down a convoy. Rossi is a combat engineer and OCD team member with Combat Engineer Platoon, Engineer Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward). Rossi is a Camden, Ohio, native. Photo by Cpl. Thomas J. Griffith. Digg! Digg!

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