It’s spring and the IEDs are blooming in Panjawa’i.

The soldiers speak of the “season” starting. After the winter rains, the IEDs begin reappearing in earnest.

The soldiers of Charger Co. 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment go through a series of drills before each mission to check their gear and keep their skills fresh. One drill includes walking an IED lane.

A soldier in the lead–on point–walks with a Vallon, a metal detector. He sweeps the Vallon back and forth listening for a beep, anything that might indicate metal. It could be a discarded battery; it could be an IED.

“It’s all part of our pre-combat check,” said Sgt. Jeremy Gray, 26, of Anchorage, Ak., of the IED drill they conduct before each patrol.

After his Vallon detects metal, Sgt. Jeremy Gray, 26, from Anchorage, Ak., "interrogates" the ground around the area to probe for a possible IED. Another Charlie Co. soldier posts security. Copyright 2012 Cheryl Hatch

Sgt. Jeremy Gray, 26, of Anchorage, Ak., probes the ground around a possible IED during a drill with Charger Co. soldiers before a patrol near Khenjakak. Pfc. Nick Replogle posts security. Copyright 2012 Cheryl Hatch

During a drill before a patrol, Sgt. Jeremy Gray, 26, from Anchorage, Ak., "interrogates" the ground where his Vallon metal detector got a hit. He's probing for a possible IED. In the background, Sgt. Brody Staman goes prone after discovering an IED while walking the lane. Copyright 2012 Cheryl Hatch

“It looks like a pressure plate,” said Sgt. Brody Staman, after probing the ground.

Sgt. Brody Staman, 24, from Scotts Bluff, Neb., clears the dirt around a pressure-plate IED during a drill at Khenjakak on Feb. 11, 2012. Copyright 2012 Cheryl Hatch

Upon discovering an IED, Staman goes prone and begins to clear the dirt from around the device.

“I don’t mean to be rude. To put it blunt, ma’am, it will make your butt hole pucker,” Staman said, of the feeling he experiences in the field as he clears the earth around an IED.

Sgt. Brody Staman, 24, from Scotts Bluff, Neb., clears the dirt around a pressure-plate IED during a drill at Khenjakak on Feb. 11, 2012. Copyright 2012 Cheryl Hatch

Sgt. Brody Staman, 24, from Scotts Bluff, Neb., finishes clearing the dirt around a pressure-plate IED during a drill on Feb. 11, 2012. The Vallon metal detector he uses to search for IEDs is behind him. Copyright 2012 Cheryl Hatch

The men who carry the Vallons and clear the path for those who follow do it to spare their fellow soldiers the risk.

“Somebody’s got to do it. And I don’t want my guys to do it,” Staman said. “So as a leader, that’s a responsibility we take. “

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