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Southeast Missouri engineers prepare for deployment with training at Camp Clark
NEVADA, Mo. -- Two squads of the second platoon of the Missouri National Guard's 1138th Engineer Sapper Company from Southeast Missouri are among the nearly 100 citizen soldiers from Missouri who have been training at Camp Clark in Nevada for several days, honing their route-clearing skills.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the most dangerous jobs out there," said Spc. Timothy Reed of Fredericktown, Mo., about his squad's upcoming primary mission: making sure there are no explosives or other hazards in the way on the Afghan roads they'll be patrolling later this year. The unit includes soldiers from Cape Girardeau and Jackson.
After a briefing from platoon leader 1st Lt. Joe Estes, the soldiers loaded their gear into Humvees and began patrolling the roads of Camp Clark to practice scouting for mines, improvised explosive devices, suspicious people and vehicles and anything out of place.
The enemy is constantly changing tactics, so updated training and information is essential for troops to be their most effective and keep travel corridors safe. Even though some of the removal is done by machines and robots, much of the dangerous work has to be done by men.
Reed knows of the danger firsthand. He has four years in the U.S. Marine Corps and 10 years of National Guard service under his belt. He has already left behind his wife and four children twice while serving two tours in Iraq; and during those two deployments to the Middle East.
"I was in quite a few explosions," and that last one "gave me a traumatic brain injury, but I've been cleared of all that," Reed said.
As dangerous as it is, Reed said he likes doing it and it's rewarding. "Every bomb we remove means somebody else gets to go home," he said.
Reed said he was glad to get the additional training and that the facility and instructors at Camp Clark are exceptional. "The training's been really good," he said, "probably the best I've had in my 10 years in the guard."
His sentiments were echoed by Spc. John Gilman, 27, of Jackson. Gilman was at Camp Clark for training in 2010 and said the quality of the training was high then but even higher now.
"These instructors, they know their stuff so well," he said.
The training, Gilman said, gives him the confidence he will rely on when in that dangerous part of the world.
Camp Clark training came in handy for another group of citizen soldiers earlier this year. In an unsuccessful April 15 Taliban attack on Missouri National Guardsmen at a forward operating base in Afghanistan, insurgents used an IED in a vehicle to breach a wall of the compound, according to a Missouri National Guard news release. Guardsmen from Missouri Agribusiness Development Team VI, which arrived in Afghanistan in March, repelled the attack. One Afghan soldier was killed and several guardsmen were wounded. One Jackson guard solder, Sgt. 1st Class Dennis C. Allred, was awarded the Combat Action Badge for his part in the battle.
In the aftermath, Lt. Col. Andre L. Edison, of Florissant, commander of the task force police advisory team, said valuable pre-mobilization training at Camp Clark in Nevada paid off during the battle.
"We trained for months for this mission not only to be proficient, but if necessary, to protect ourselves," Edison said. "As Missouri guardsmen we were tested, but tremendous training prepared us and I could be no prouder of the team."
In February, Lt. Derek Forst, base operations supervisor at Camp Clark, told visitors the real measure of Camp Clark's success isn't in the dollars and cents that flow through the facility, but in "how many come home safely" from the destinations to which they're sent.
Gilman has already done so once -- he went to Afghanistan the first time as part of a military police unit that was embedded with the Afghan border police.
He helped train the police there and lived with them for the whole year. Gilman said he is excited to go back even though he is going to serve in a different capacity. He said, "it doesn't feel like I've been gone." Gilman said he is anticipating going back and that he thinks "drawing close to the nationals and winning their hearts and minds is just as important as combat."
After their briefing, the convoy moved outside and Spc. Trey Maevers took the wheel of his Humvee and fell into line. Maevers' job is to drive the platoon leader and help with the logistics of the mission. Maevers, 24, is from Cape Girardeau and has been in the guard for one year. He graduated from college with a degree in finance and banking, but joined the guard because of a sense of duty.
He wanted to "be of service to my country," he said. And there is a long history of military service in his family.
Maevers said he plans to use his college degree to get training to be an officer, but he was ready to be deployed. He thought Camp Clark was "fantastic for a National Guard predeployment training site." And he was glad to get the training because his unit is going overseas. Maevers said he was confident that the training he has received will help his unit complete their mission.
The 1138th Engineer Company started their training at Fort Leonard Wood, will finish up training at Camp Clark and move on to Fort Bliss. Texas for more intense training before being deployed to Afghanistan.
There will be a deployment ceremony at 11 a.m. July 7 at the Mineral Area College Field House in Park Hills before the unit heads to Fort Bliss.
5270 Flat River Road, Park Hills, MO