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HQ, 115th Engineers Returns from Iraq

 

Written by Shad West

 

Published January 9, 2007

 

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 Proud and excited family members applaud Soldiers of the 115th Engineers as they enter the building at the Salt Lake Air Base Dec. 2.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

 Proud and excited family members applaud Soldiers of the 115th Engineers as they enter the building at the Salt Lake Air Base Dec. 2.

SALT LAKE CITY — After a 14-month deployment, the Draper-based Headquarters, 115th Engineer Battalion, returned to Utah Dec. 2. All 40 Soldiers returned without serious injury, much to the relief of waiting family and friends at the Salt Lake Air Base.

The unit deployed in October 2005 with the latest training techniques and equipment to battle the number-one killer of Coalition, U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians.  Personnel of the 115th Engineers are experts in improvised explosive device (IED) awareness and avoidance and in the use of mine-detection equipment.

An IED is characterized as a low-technology exploding mine, “home-made” from explosives designed for other purposes. In Iraq, IEDs have been hidden in or beside roadways and set off using a variety of trigger mechanisms.

The unit's main mission was to train Coalition personnel and provide equipment for improvised explosive device (IED) detection and response.

Sgt. Brett Harrison gets a big welcome from his family Dec. 2 as he returns home from Iraq.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Sgt. Brett Harrison gets a big welcome from his

family Dec. 2 as he returns to Utah from Iraq.

“This unit helped allied forces to track ordnance and deploy the latest tactics in finding roadside bombs,” 115th Engineer Group commander Col. Don Summit said. “They were responsible for training people on how to find IEDs using Buffalos and Huskies. These tools are used to find and defeat IEDs.”

The most common IED is an artillery shell which has been wired with a remote triggering device, such as a cell phone or garage-door opener. When a Coalition vehicle nears it, a spotter, working from a distance, detonates it. Though considered low-technology, these devices can be very high-powered.

Members of the 115th deployed in satellite teams to every region of Iraq to ensure Soldiers and Marines already deployed in the war-torn country had the latest in detection techniques.

A 115th Soldier is greeted by happy family members afer his return from Iraq.

Photo by Master Sgt. Burke Baker

A 115th Soldier is greeted by happy family

members  after his return form Iraq.

“Our mission was important,” 1st Lt. Lyle Black said. “It was to help the other forces better counteract the IED threat in theater. We had satellite teams stationed in the three regions of the country. Our job was to help fight the IED threat.”

Black stressed that nobody in Iraq is safe from the insurgents’ primary weapon of choice.

“It’s important to realize that this threat isn’t just targeting military,” Black said. “They are also being used to kill Iraqi civilians.”

The struggle in Iraq is closely associated with IEDs. These devices come in all shapes and sizes which range from soda bottles to vehicles laden with explosives driven by insurgents determined to kill themselves and take Coalition troops, Iraqi Security Forces or innocent civilians with them.

Sgt. Melissa Rogers is welcomed home by two family members Dec. 2 after her 14-month deployment to Iraq.

Photo by Master Sgt. Burke Baker

Sgt. Melissa Rogers is welcomed home by two family

members Dec. 2 after her 14-month deployment to Iraq.

Coalition efforts to decrease the threat of IEDs devices are monumental. Special equipment and techniques have been developed and employed to locate and defuse them before they can harm intended targets.

The 115th also trained Coalition forces coming into the country to detect and properly react to IEDs. This training was conducted for troops entering the theater through Kuwait.  Officials say the training is saving Soldiers’ lives. Each time an IED is detected prior to detonation and Soldiers react properly to clear and secure the area around the device, they are keeping themselves and civilians safe.

The training teaches Soldiers about the dangers of the different types of IEDs, how they are hidden, how to detect them and how to adjust their own actions to be less vulnerable to IED attacks.

Coalition forces recognized the efforts of the 115th and appreciated the units efforts while in Kuwait and Iraq.

“It was neat to have others who received training come and give their thanks,” Said Col. John Moore, commander of HQ, 115th.  “They were impressed by the dedication and professionalism of our Soldiers. I’m convinced that our guys have done an outstanding job and added to the reputation of Utah Guardsmen.

Moore said the importance of their mission wasn’t lost on the Utah Guardsmen.

Sgt. 1st Class Gordon Ewell, left, and his wife Terra reunite after his 14-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Sgt. 1st Class Gordon Ewell, left, and his wife Terra reunite after

his 14-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“IEDs are the number-one [threat to] our Soldiers,” Moore said. “Training Soldiers on the detection techniques and equipment is hugely rewarding for our Soldiers. It has a direct impact on their safety.”

Family members were proud of their Soldiers’ accomplishments in Iraq but were relieved to have their loved ones home after more than a year.

For Terra Ewell, having her husband Sgt. 1st Class Gordon Ewell return wrapped up a 14-month emotional rollercoaster ride.

“I think the day he left was surreal,” Ewell said. “It was almost like he was leaving for work.  The deployment didn’t hit and sink in right way. We have been looking forward to today for a long time. There was a lot of anticipation leading up to today.”

Terra said she was proud of her husband’s service but isn’t looking forward to another deployment anytime soon.

Capt. Phillip Smith, 115th Engineers, speaks to a television reporter after his return home Dec. 2 at Salt Lake Air Base.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Capt. Phillip Smith, 115th Engineers, speaks to a television

reporter after his return home Dec. 2 at Salt Lake Air Base.

“I would miss him and wouldn’t want him to go,” she said. “But I’m very proud of his service and would support him.”

Eva Black said sending her husband back to Iraq after a two-week furlough in July was easier than when he initially left.

“At first there was a very emotional feeling of the unknown and fear,” Black said. “It was hard to send him back after the two-week visit, but what made it a little easier was knowing where he was going. There wasn’t that fear of the unknown.”

For Lyle Black, coming home to family and friends at the air base sets a tone for what the future holds.

“I’ve heard a couple people describe coming home as surreal,” he said. “It is a little surreal. There is a little trepidation as to how long it will take to put the past in the past. It was a good way to put a period at the end of sentence.  Having this experience helps kind of kick off the future on the right note.”

In a time where many units don’t have the luxury of having all their Soldiers return from Iraq, Summit said the Engineers were very fortunate.

“I’m just very proud of them,” Summit said. “Having them all come home to their families is a wonderful thing.”    

Trina Moore, right, and her daughter await the arrival of their husband and father, Col. John Moore at Salt Lake Air Base Dec. 2.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Trina Moore, right, and her daughter await the arrival of their

husband and father, Col. John Moore at Salt Lake Air Base Dec. 2.

Staff Sgt. Melissa Binns get s a hug from a young supporter at the Salt Lake Air Base Dec. 2.

Photo by Master Sgt. Burke Baker

Staff Sgt. Melissa Binns get s a hug from a young

supporter at the Salt Lake Air Base Dec. 2.