AL ASAD, Iraq -- In the air Wing, combat engineers don’t normally work a great deal with explosives. But, in Marine Wing Support Squadron 272, a detachment of combat engineers is working with the Untouchables’ explosive ordnance disposal Marines to change that.
“Basically what we do is search for mines with a two-man sweep team (using metal detectors),” said Staff Sgt. Desmond E. Washington, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the mine clearing detachment. If they find one, they destroy it in a safe way that eliminates the possibility of civilian casualties. If they encounter an IED, the team will call for support from EOD.
“(EOD and combat engineers) have a complimentary skill set,” said Master Sgt. Tony Aldredge, the EOD SNCOIC, and Peachtree City, Ga., native. “Typically, we don’t search for IEDs or unexploded ordnance, the engineers do. When they find it, we neutralize it.”
While rare, instances where the Untouchables of MWSS-272 are called upon for ordnance disposal can happen. In a recent mission to repair infrastructure in a local Iraqi town, the mine clearing detachment was leading the way, ensuring the road was clear of explosives so the Marines and Soldiers could accomplish the mission.
Because Wing combat engineers rarely deal with explosives, 1st Lt. Robert H. Jenkins, the combat engineer officer-in-charge, said his Marines rarely get an opportunity to train and work with explosives. The Untouchables’ EOD team has changed that, offering valuable familiarization training to their fellow Marines.
“Typically, we don’t get a lot of hands on work with explosives,” said the Limestone, Tenn., native. “But familiarization training is a valuable experience. When you’re dealing with blasting caps, you don’t want to be wrong.”
“Our approach to operations is going in the right direction,” said Aldredge. “Because we have firsthand experience with IEDs, any knowledge we can pass on can help them.”
For the Marines involved with the training, it provides an opportunity to deal with a side of their job they seldom deal with, and it lifts not only their knowledge base, but their spirits.
“It helps us out a lot,” said Washington, a native of Gary, Ind. “They get so motivated about the knowledge. We’ve got a good group of Marines and most of them haven’t seen demolition since (military occupational specialty) school.”
The cooperation between EOD and the combat engineers has raised eyebrows among some who expect a degree of competitiveness between the two.
Jenkins shrugs off that notion.
“If the relationship is not good, it’s because sometimes people (from different fields) try to assume responsibilities they shouldn’t,” he said.
Aldredge has spent a lot of time in his field, and knows the cooperation level in MWSS-272 is excellent.
“I think we respect each other’s skills and experience,” he said. “We don’t have (the animosity) because we work well together. We want to be well prepared to accomplish the mission and get the job done.”