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Sergeant works to keep troops safe
SFC Harold Hensel - photo by Photo provided.
Helping to keep soldiers safe as they travel on Iraq’s roads is Sgt. 1st Class Harold Hensel’s primary responsibility. Although more than 2,000 3rd Infantry Division soldiers have recently redeployed, a significant number of troops — such as the 3rd ID’s 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team and the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team — are still serving in Iraq. The 1st Brigade should begin to redeploy at the end of the year and the 4th Brigade is due home next July.
A platoon leader for an engineering platoon, Hensel, 34, and his soldiers must ensure all routes are clear of roadside bombs.
“This mainly requires his men to drive down main avenues to find hidden IEDs,” said Capt. Curt Schultheis, with the 1st brigade public affairs office. “They have been very successful during this deployment and have done a great job. This mission is part of our enduring capabilities that the U.S. Forces will continue to provide as we move into Operation New Dawn.”
“We work with EOD,” Hensel said. “We go out as engineers and look for the bombs and IEDS. We’re trained on what to look for, the characteristics. Once we do find something, we will call EOD. Their expertise is to come out and take care of it.”
Hensel puts safety first and makes sure his crew is well prepared each night before they go out on patrol.
“First and foremost, we make sure they have their body armor, their personal safety equipment,” he said. “Then we focus on their vehicles.”
Army vehicles must meet safety requirements, the sergeant said. Wheels must have proper air pressure and lights must work and so on, the platoon leader explained. His soldiers also check to ensure the EOD robots are in working order.
“There’s a two-page checklist I go off,” Hensel said. “It takes two hours each night before they go out.”
The sergeant said his platoon’s shifts vary from five to eight hours a night, depending on the routes they traverse.
“We start prepping after dinner,” he said. Hensel’s soldiers examine the roads at night.
“It’s easier (to work) when there’s less traffic and fewer civilians out,” he said. “We can focus on finding the IEDs. When everyone goes to bed is when we are heading out. Most times we can get back before breakfast.”
Hensel said it took a few months to acclimate to night work. Early in the deployment his platoon went out during the day as well as at night. The sergeant said there are fewer IEDs found now, as compared to earlier last year.
This is the platoon leader’s third deployment. Hensel, a native of Little Valley, N.Y., enlisted in 1996.
He was deployed in 2004, when Iraq saw heavy insurgent action, and in 2007 as part of the surge. Hensel said he is proud of what the American military has accomplished in Iraq.
“We actually trained Iraqi security forces during my first deployment,” he said.” It was horrible how untrained they were, how unwilling to work. Now they have such a good attitude and they’re proud of what they’re doing. I’m proud to leave (Iraq’s security) with them.”
Hensel’s wife, Jennifer, and their four children, ages 3, 5, 9 and 11, keep up a brave front while he is deployed.
“I let her know I’m OK without getting too specific,” he said.
When he returns in December, Hensel said he just wants “to spend some time with my wife and the kids. That’s what I plan to do as long as I’m not working. No vacations are planned right now.”

Editor’s note: This is the eighth installment in a series profiling the men and women of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division now deployed to Iraq.
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