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Two of the six fragmentation mines that were discovered by Route Clearance Platoon, Company A, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5, are detonated Aug. 20 on the Iraq and Syrian border. Route Clearance Platoonâ??s responsibilities normally include patrolling the streets of Iraq ensuring the streets are safe for Coalition forces. Though trained in dismantling explosives, this is the first time this deployment that the platoon has detonated any explosives they have found.

Photo by Cpl. Coolman

Route clearance: back to the basics

22 Aug 2008 | Cpl. Shawn Coolman 1st Marine Division

Treading lightly with eyes wide open is an essential ability to have while marking and detonating minefield locations in Iraq.  

Service members with Route Clearance Platoon, Company A, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5 marked two known minefields and detonated six mines on the Iraq and Syrian Border Aug. 10-22.

“(Coalition forces) located mines along the Iraq/Syrian border and it was our mission to confirm or deny the actual presence of a minefield,” said Sgt. Cody R. Bolton, 23, platoon sergeant, Route Clearance Platoon, from Harrison, Mich. “After confirming the first minefield and marking it, we received tips from supporting units about a possible secondary minefield to the north.”

This Route Clearance Platoon’s responsibilities usually include patrolling the roadways to ensure safe travel for Coalition forces, but not the demolition of minefields.

“Locating, marking and breaching enemy minefields are a staple of the combat engineer field, albeit one that we rarely are called upon for,” said Bolton, who is on his third combat tour to Iraq. “(This is) unlike a route clearance mission, where we use visual and mechanical detection methods to locate improvised explosive devises along a route to ensure safer passage by (Coalition forces).

“For this last mission, we marked the friendly side of two different minefields and neutralized six mines located in Iraq,” said Bolton.

The combat engineers, who are also trained in explosives, set explosive charges on six fragmentation mines which were found at the first minefield. This was done once the mine field was properly marked to NATO’s safety standards.  

Once the detonation was complete and the mines were successfully destroyed, the engineers were pleased that the threat was removed.

“All we’re trying to do is keep our people safe,” added Kliethermes.

After successfully completing the mission, words of praise were given to the service members of the Route Clearance Platoon by the platoon sergeant.

“When any mission comes down, be it marking minefields, constructing wood-framed buildings or regular post-mission maintenance on our vehicles, this platoon knocks it out of the park,” said Bolton. “These Marines bring a lot of knowledge to the table. No matter what questions – combat or engineering – come up, there is someone in the platoon with the know how.”

1st Marine Division