Assignment Afghanistan: Landmine Clearing Just Beyond American Base

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BAGRAM, AFGHANISTAN News 3's Steve Fullhart and Rachel Cox from KWTX News 10 in Waco are on assignment covering Texans serving in Afghanistan.

For Fort Hood soldiers who have been serving in Afghanistan, there a wide variety of duties, some lonelier than others.

But a few stories above the war-torn ground here in watch towers, American soldiers on 12-hour shifts are joined by other security, including some from Nepal, their eyes trained on the grounds around Bagram Air Field, or BAF for short.

Local residents, some of them children, will wander up to the wall covered at the top by barbed wire asking for water or candy. But their walk could be a treacherous one.

It's war-torn ground not just because of the conflict with the US, but also an earlier one with the Russians. Just beyond the walls and barbed wire are local Afghans who work throughout the day sweeping the ground for landmines, hopefully finding any before they're set off, then calling for help to clear them. It's obviously a dangerous task needed after an old war.

"Before, BAF used to be a Russian base, and once the Russians moved out of the Bagram area, it became coalition forces' base," explained SFC Jose Rodriguez, a soldier based out of Fort Hood. "The way the Russians protected their encampment was laying mines around the camp."

The danger has long been evident to American forces, so the work the Afghans in the fields are doing aren't just for themselves. It will benefit any forces that are in the area.

"When some of our troops go outside the wire on patrol, they've also got to be aware that there are fields of landmines all the way around Bagram, not only around the camps, but there are other areas where there are minefields, also," SFC Rodriguez said.

Those same small children who come to the wire asking for something from the soldiers could also be seen wandering around the same fields the landmine teams were working to clear.