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50th patrol marks halfway for route-clearance company

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A team of specially trained soldiers who risk their lives on a daily basis to clear improvised explosive devices along routes in Uruzgan province to ensure troops and civilians can travel safely completed their 50th mission on Dec. 19, 2012.

Just had they had done 49 prior times, the soldiers of 1st Platoon, Route Clearance Patrol 41, 1039th Route Clearance Company out of Arkansas gathered and said a prayer before their mission. The 50th patrol marked their deployment’s halfway point. Since August, they’ve cleared 3,000 kilometers on 18 different routes, found five IEDs and monitored one controlled detonation.

“We have a job to do and we do it successfully,” said Spc. Aaron McMillian Jr., combat engineer and team leader.

Everyone in the platoon is versatile.

“Within the platoon, everyone is mulch-dimensional and can do almost any job during patrol,” said 1st. Lt. Wesley Gautreaux, the first platoon leader and convoy commander.

The combat engineers’ top priority is to find IEDs and collect evidence prior to disposal.

According to combat engineer Sgt. Hank Sprouse, the evidence gathered helps Afghan authorities prosecute individuals who pose a threat to public safety.

Clearing the roads for coalition forces is vital for safety and logistics. Clear transportation routes ensure essential supplies and equipment are transported to outlying forward operating bases to sustain operations.

“Route clearance is important. We ensure convoys are able to transport goods to other locations. Without it, I don’t think there is much that can be done,” said Nick Johnston, a combat engineer.

Despite some obstacles that included self-recovery of one of their own vehicles, the platoon cleared the essential route on its 50th mission without incident or injury.

“It was a long road to success, but we managed to overcome all mechanical issues and complete the mission,” Sprouse said.

The platoon maintains a positive attitude and outlook during the toughest of situations.

“Our morale stays high, regardless of what happens,” said Spc. Lance Baker, a combat engineer and team leader.

Article by Sgt. 1st Class Theresa Gualdarama, 117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment