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An Afghan National Army soldier with Route Clearance Company, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps, scours an improvised explosive device course at Camp Dwyer, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 23.

Photo by Sgt. Jesse Stence

Afghan Army poised to fight roadside bombs

23 Feb 2011 | Sgt. Jesse Stence

The soldiers inched forward in carefully spaced columns, tracing crescents over the harrowed terrain with combat metal detectors.

From one hundred yards, the detectors crudely resemble the upturned foot of a prosthetic leg. The Afghan National Army soldiers of Route Clearance Company, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps crept along Camp Dwyer’s improvised explosive device course, knowing the training scenario will soon be their reality.

After two months of instruction from Regimental Combat Team 1’s Embedded Training Team here, Route Clearance Company put their training to the test, Feb. 23. The company cleared a 32,500 square-meter field filled with simulated IEDs that pack a small but sobering punch.

The jarring percussion of one-twelfth a pound of C-4 startled a few of the soldiers after an instructor set one off. The explosives were a safe distance from the soldiers and a fraction of the standard IED size, but they did the trick.

“The first one really gets their attention,” said Staff Sgt. Ladonna Prosser, the explosive ordnance disposal team leader at Camp Dwyer.

The soldiers cautiously resumed the patrol. They moved across the tilled field, training their eyes on clumps of loose dirt. One soldier started across a dirt bridge of a fake canal but stopped abruptly less than a step away. He slid a few feet down the sandy bank and carefully waved his detector over the bridge. The sensor began chirping like an AM radio searching the North Dakota plains for a signal.

The company avoided 15 of 17 devices scattered throughout the course. Among the array of simulated IEDs were pressure plates, remotely controlled explosives and trip wires. Some lay in the open field; the instructors planted others in three small compounds the company cleared.

Prosser, from Amarillo, Texas, said the ANA soldiers seemed confident and fairly proficient at the task.

She added, “Just being trained, you expect them to be skittish.”

According to Sgt. Michael Mondt, the lead instructor with the RCT-1 ETT, the company’s next stop is Camp Leatherneck, home of 1st Marine Division (Forward), RCT-1’s parent command. There, they will continue training at Camp Shorbak, the ANA compound inside Camp Leatherneck.

As for the IED training, Mondt, from Winnemucca, Nev., seemed fairly satisfied with the company’s performance.

“They are the most trained they are going to get,” Mondt said. “They will learn more by experience.”