The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


December 11, 2006

Name: Teflon Don
Posting date: 12/11/06
Stationed in: Ramadi, Iraq
Milblog url:

I am a Combat Engineer, one of a few thousand American soldiers lucky enough to be tasked with making a new mission work for the Army. That mission is route clearance. Remember those roadside bombs you hear about? Our job is to go looking for them, and destroy or neutralize them before they can hurt other troops or innocent Iraqis. It's a brand new role for the engineer corps, and one that can easily be likened to searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack. Given the odds we face, it's amazing how often we find the needle. I won't go into specifics here, but I will say if this were baseball, we'd have a damn good batting average.Framed_teflon_don Even better, we have the best equipment in the world for our job. Tanks have more armor and better protection against direct fire, but we can take a bomb blast in a way that no other US or foreign vehicle could ever hope to.

Whenever I'm talking to someone outside of my unit, the conversation always follows roughly the same pattern: They ask what I do, I tell them route clearance, they give me a quick glance to see if I seem okay in the head (like I asked for this job!), and then they tell me what a great job we're doing and how much they appreciate our efforts. Translation: "I'm sure glad it's you and not me, bro." It's one thing to go outside the wire hoping you won't be blown up. It's a completely different matter when you leave expecting to be blown up.

This mission is a good one for the engineers. It falls under the traditional engineer duty: clear the way for others to follow. We've always moved in front of the maneuver force, clearing wire, obstacles, mines, and now, IEDs. Route clearance is the job that no sane person really wants to do. I can see why; it's reportably the second most dangerous job in Iraq right now (after Special Operations), and yet remains one of the most important roles to fill. No matter. Engineers are right at home in the thick of the fight, far from home, doing the necessary but unwanted jobs. It's not fun, it's not glamorous, and it's nothing to write home about, but we can see the difference we make.



> Essayons!

Et bon chance a vous et votre!

Sure glad it's you and not me, bro! Good luck!

My heartfelt thanks to all of you... (did you ever in your wildest dreams think you would be doing this 10 years ago?)...

Teflon Don, is that you in the picture? They better give you the best armor we have when you go out the gate. Take care while you're out there making that difference.

I am sure you have heard it before but please be careful out there, and Thank You

Our youngest kid's in an engineering group but he's working a COP outside Ramadi with the 1st Armored, right now.

We saw some pics of route-clearing in Tal Afar earlier this year. Clearing dead livestock's by buffalo remote's gotta be pretty damn disgusting!

Dangerous work, but you probably save more lives than all that "battle rattle" combined.

Keep your head down...and the routes clear. I hope there's a clear road home for all you, soon!

-Pickens, SC

for the wives of the guys riding convoy, for the moms who can't tell you themselves, thank you. I'm an Army Wife whose husband is in the Sand right now, and my son and daughter in law were both in the Sand in 03-04. For them, for me, and for all of us, the biggest thank you I can give. (ps. if you like chocolate snickerdoodles, go to my blog and let me know, send an address...)


Thanks for the insite.My son is in the 321,his second tour.He is pretty closed mouth about his job but I know he takes great pride it.

Ah, the Engineers, and like my father during the WWII days a real Combat Engineer. Have you read John Ringo and his series about Alien Invasion (Gust Front)and what happens when the aliens keep running into the Engineers? Lovely stuff, take care out there, you can build things later keep the lanes clear.

My Grandfather was an Engineer in WWI, somehow made it back with a Silver Star but minus a few friends. Saved quite a few necks though. Later served under Patton & retired as a BGen. One of my few heroes. He was quite a guy.

That's pretty much how I think of you Engineers.

Spirits up, head down, good luck & come home.

It was "the damned engineers", in the words of Panzer leader Joachim Peiper, who blew the bridges at Trois Ponts, Belgium in the Ardennes bottling up the most dangerous elements of the German thrust (including the dreaded King Tigers) from breaking free onto the open plains and into the rear of the American army at the Bulge in 44. It was the engineers that kept the Henderson field lifeline open on Guadalcanal. It was the engineers that bridged Fuchilin Pass in Korea allowing the 1st Marine division to escape encirlement. In the Iron Triangle in Vietnam "dozer-infantry-teams" saw action in assault and clearing operations. You continue in the tradition of a long line of great Americans serving their country. Many Thanks from back home.

You do the Corps of Engineers proud! May God be with you.

USACE - New England

You do the Corps of Engineers proud! May God be with you.

USACE - New England

My grandfather was in the Corps of Engineers during WWII and he helped save more than a few lives with his own hands on D-Day.

You're doing the same thing and I thank you for it. Please stay as safe as you can and come back soon.

Much gratitiude and appreciation go to you and the rest who do this job. It is because of you my man doing convoys will make it home. Thank God for the engineers!

btw, you're hottt! ha ha, take care.

are in the 321st. Combat Engineer Battallion , stationed in Ramadi?...

My brother is stationed there..

Great job you guys are doing over in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I recently watched the film Hurt Locker. Great film but I suppose it pails in comparison to the actual job you guys are doing out there.

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