According to the United Nations’ Mine Clearance Program, Afghanistan is the most heavily mined country in the world. There are nearly 10 million landmines littering 530 kilometers of Afghan soil.
Some of these mines emplaced by insurgents, but most are left over from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
Cpl. Brock E. Callaway, from Bridgeville, Del., a combat engineer with Combat Logistics Battalion 8, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), was clearing a path with a mine detector when he stepped on a defective anti-personnel mine June 26, near Patrol Base Shark Tooth, Sangin District, Afghanistan.
“Our team was cutting down some trees to establish a new post for Marines in the area,” Callaway explained. “We were told the area we were going to work on wasn’t clear.”
Before the Marines started working, Callaway swept the area around the first two trees thoroughly.
“When I finished, I started clearing the next two trees and that’s when I stepped on the mine,” he said.
The mine was buried along the trees near a canal. Water exposure caused the explosive material to fail, reducing its effectiveness.
“At first I thought I lost my legs,” he explained. “The blast pushed me back a couple of feet away… As soon as I landed I got up and ran back toward the Marines. All I could think about was running as far as I could from that place.”
The explosion wasn’t strong enough to injure Callaway. Cpl. David P. Veneziani, from Cataula, Ga., a combat engineer with 2nd MLG (Fwd.), was standing nearby.
"I was approximately 10 or 15 meters away cutting some trees, when everything happened,” Veneziani said. “We heard a small explosion… so I looked over and saw [Callaway] running toward us."
“The first thing I noticed was that he had all his extremities, which of course, was my first concern,” he added. “So I grabbed him, I threw him up on my shoulders in a fireman’s carry and got him away from that area.”
Once the Marines reached a different and more secured position, Veneziani along with Cpl. Howard W. Laur, a combat engineer from Pittsburg, Pa., proceeded to check Callaway for injuries.
“I was mainly providing security, looking around as we took him up on the hill,” Laur explained. “Once we stopped we started treating him, we removed his shoes to make sure nothing was broken, we also took his pants off to see if he had any real serious injuries on his legs.”
Once Veneziani and Laur finished examining Callaway, they took him back to the base to be transported to the medical facility aboard Camp Bastion to receive further assistance.
“This was definitely a wakeup call,” Callaway said. “I consider myself very fortunate to be able to walk.
“I am not going to deny that I am a little nervous to go back outside the wire again, but I knew the risks when I joined the Marine Corps,” Callaway concluded. “This is my job and will continue doing it regardless of the circumstances.”
Callaway wants to stay in the Marine Corps to become an instructor at his military occupational school. He intends to use his experience to teach entry level Marines going through engineer school about how to mitigate the dangers they may face when they deploy.
Article by Lance Cpl. Bruno J. Bego, 2nd Marine Logistics Group