VFW Magazine March 2011 : Page 24

Missouri’s battalion was not new to overseas deployments. In 1997, it did a stint in the Balkans (Macedonia) and served on a construction mission in Iraq from 2003-04. Each Sapper company is made up of three platoons or route clearance pack-ages. A typical convoy consists of five gun trucks, one Buffalo, two Huskies and a wrecker/maintenance vehicle for recovering damaged vehicles. Personnel include drivers, truck commanders, gunners, dismounts and/or camera operators. Medics, explosive ordnance disposal techs, Afghan interpreters (“Terps”) and dog handlers are com-monly part of the package. Bomb-sniffing canines accompanied by their MP handlers can be valuable assets. The best breeds for detection work are German shepherds, Labradors and Belgian Malinois, with the latter rated highest.But they pay a price, too— 10 dogs reportedly have been killed in action overall in Afghanistan and Iraq. Outside the Wire Combat engineers take pride in the fact that they regularly venture beyond the safe confines of FOBs.Those who do not are derisively dismissed as “FOBits.” Taking such risks contributes greatly to in the Thick of Things Ever since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Army National Guard (ANG) has been used increasingly overseas. Iraq especially saw an unprecedented deploy-ment of Guard units in combat. Their casualties attest to this use. In Iraq, ANG hostile deaths numbered 365, or 18% of the Army total. Some 25% of the wound-ed hailed from Guard out-fits equaling 4,119. In a single IED attack in Baghdad on Jan. 6, 2005, six Louisiana guardsmen of C Co., 2nd Bn., 156th Inf. Regt., perished. Proportionately, Afghanistan has not seen quite as high a tally. The 106 hostile Guard deaths there equate to 16.5% of esprit de corps, as it always has. Kansas City’s “Bloodhounds” of the 1141st Sapper Company lived up to their motto of “This Dog Hunts.” They conducted 360 clearance patrols cover-ing 11,406 miles and found 178 IEDs. Helping make this all happen were the six men manning the Tactical Operations Center. Sgt. Don Ferguson, National Guard the Army total. Whereas their 957 WIA represent 18% of all U.S. wounded. Guard courage is evi-dent in other ways, too. Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein of the Kentucky National Guard’s 617th MP Company was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism on March 20, 2005, at Salman Pak, Iraq. National Guardsmen have served in virtually every capacity in both war zones, including all the combat arms. They con-tinue to play a vital battle-field role in Afghanistan. a Marine vet who later joined the Guard, says proudly, “We made one heck of a team.” The company’s CO,Capt.Brian Sayer, is highly experienced at IED warfare.He survived 25 blasts and endured 10 con-cussions during two tours in Iraq, earn-ing him four Purple Hearts. “Route clearance as we know it today is unique to these wars,” he says. “The equipment is totally different from previous con-flicts. Clearance was in its infancy in Iraq in 2003-04.But the vehicles we are using in Afghanistan are incredible.” Nonetheless, the dangers are all too 211th Sapper Company (South Dakota National Guard) 1st Sgt. Wade Hofer and 203rd Battalion Public Affairs NCO Sgt. Jon Dougherty (who often doubled as a dismount) check an Afghan village in May 2010. Curious children commonly approached GIs. 24 • VFW • March 2011 real.“Our company has the highest IED find rate in the battalion,” he said. “Using innovative detection methods paid off. Generally, the IEDs were planted by individuals or pairs of Afghans. A lot of the motivation for the attacks was just plain financial—they were paid to do it by the Taliban.” Staff Sgt. Sean Parker, a truck com-mander in the 1141st and two-tour Iraq vet, knows the perils of clearing Afghanistan’s roads firsthand. He was in a vehicle that was taken out by a sui-cide car bomber and spent two weeks in the hospital. “We got hit by a 250-pound car bomb that blew the Buffalo 30 feet and turned it 180 degrees,” he vividly recalls. “The hatches blew wide open. Fire engulfed the whole vehicle, it Continued on page 26 

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