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An Afghan National Army soldier displays his certificate of completion during a graduation ceremony at Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan, Aug. 30, 2017. Approximately 70 engineer soldiers with various units from 215th Corps graduated from a route clearance course, which was led by U.S. advisors. The curriculum focused on developing the Afghan’s tactics and procedures when locating and clearing improvised explosive devices and mines, helping to improve mobility of troops and supplies on the battlefield. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins)

Photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

215th Corps soldiers complete route clearance course

31 Aug 2017 | Sgt. Lucas Hopkins II Marine Expeditionary Force

Approximately 70 Afghan National Army soldiers with 215th Corps graduated from a route clearance course at the Helmand Regional Military Training Center aboard Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan, Aug. 30, 2017.

U.S. advisors, including several Marines with Task Force Southwest, led the eight-week training program, which focused on teaching the soldiers the basics of improvised explosive devices, ground sign awareness, proper minesweeping procedures, and conducting mounted clearance using Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

“This is an important course for us, because we need to be able to clear routes on the battlefield. We've gotten better day by day, and are ready for real missions,” said ANA Sgt. Mohammed Ashim, a participant in the course.

Insurgents in Afghanistan, particularly in Helmand province, are known to use IEDs to block access to certain areas and harm coalition and Afghan forces, making the training paramount for future real-world operations and providing security to the local populace.

“The enemy’s number one weapon is the IED. Not only is it the [most] used weapon against ANDSF, it’s also the number one weapon that causes casualties amongst civilians,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Colton Ducken, an advisor with Task Force Southwest and the officer-in-charge of the course. “What these guys do is important in saving the lives of their fellow soldiers and winning the mission at hand [and] it’s important at reducing civilian casualties as well.”

Route clearance has played a pivotal role in recent missions focusing on deterring and destroying insurgency, and the advisors are confident in the soldiers’ abilities to enhance this asset with their newfound skills.

“By the time they’re done [with the course], they’re very proficient at the IED basics as well as how to spot IEDs… whether that be for logistical purpose or for getting out in front of the infantry and clearing the routes,” said Ducken.

Several graduates will receive follow on training at the Explosive Hazard Reduction Course, a three-week cycle teaching more advanced aspects of IEDs and demolitions, while the other soldiers are ready to support operations across Helmand province.

“This is the third class I’ve done, and we’ve seen graduates from the other classes go out… and make strategic affects in this area of operations,” Ducken said. “The amount of IEDs and mines is impressive, and it starts with solid training.”

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