Dakota Digest on Specialist Bruce Jones

Active Duty - 11/12/2009

By Jackelyn Severin

At the age of 42 Bruce Jones joined the South Dakota National Guard 211th Engineer Company. His unit was deployed to Afghanistan this fall for a year long stay. Jones wants to tell his story and that of his fellow combat engineers. He is currently posting video online and sharing his experiences with South Dakota Public Broadcasting. 

The Madison National Guard Armory was packed on the day of the 211th Engineer Company’s Activation Ceremony. Governor Mike Rounds and U.S. Senator John Thune were there along with family and friends.

As their names were called out guardsmen from the 211th rose from their chairs and stood side by side for one final goodbye.

Their mission is route clearance, meaning they will clear the roads between Afghanistan and Pakistan of IED’s, bombs and any other obstructions so the Afghani people and other U.S. Forces can pass through safely. For Specialist Bruce Jones this is one of the most important missions.

“Part of the problem is the Afghani people don’t believe us. They can either believe us or they can succumb to the Taliban threat. So our job is to go there and prove to them that we’re going to be here for the long haul and we're going to keep this road clear and you're going to be able to use this road and we'll be able to use this road,” says Jones.

Jones and the 211th are in one of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan doing one of the most dangerous jobs. He has left behind his wife Jenneifer and his little girl, Kate, who turns five in December but he has no hesitation about going over.

Jones says, “You get tired of hearing how bad things are there and things need to change. That the Afghani people, you know they deserve to have a country like we have and when you see it and hear everyday, and everyday, and everyday, uh, eventually it just clicked, I guess, in my head that maybe I should do something about it.”

This is not Jones’ first experience with the Military. He was in the Navy from 1989 to 93 and was sent to the Persian Gulf and to Panama. 

Jones says being in the guard is much different from his other Military service.

“Having people from South Dakota there who grew up the same way you did and having the same values you have. You feel like you’re at home,” says Jones.

For his regular job Jones is a staffer for U.S. Senator John Thune. Jones says Thune fully supported his decision to join the National Guard. He says some of his family, on the other hand, thought he was a little crazy. Jones says he did get support from his wife. 

“I think my wife realizes that it’s just something, if you don’t do it then you spend the rest of your life thinking, gah, why didn’t I do that. Why didn’t I just go do that when I had the chance,” says Jones. 

In Afghanistan one of Jones’s jobs is operating a mine detection vehicle called a Husky. The Husky has a small cab for only one person. It has ground penetrating radar on the front but it does not have any external weapons.

Jones says, “It’s kind of like a road grater and the wheels are intentionally a long ways a way from the cab so if you do actually run over something it blows up out there at the front wheel instead of you know underneath. And it is m-wrapped, m-wrapped is mine resistant armor plated vehicle so the hulls of all these new vehicles are v-shaped so if you happen to be right over an IED when it blows up the blast will deflect. And I think there’s only been one person lost in a husky since they’ve had them.”

The Husky has special equipment to help identify explosives but Jones says a lot of bomb detection is done with the eyes because IED’s can virtually be anything.

“They can be command wire detonated they can be detonated via a cell phone, uh, remotely, uh, a v-bit is another one, vehicle born IED; suicide bomber. They’ll put them in the road; they’ll put them beside the road. We’ll be in some mountain passes where they’ll put them on the side of the road with intention of blowing the vehicle off the road down into the valley below, umm, many different things you have to be on the look out for constantly when you are doing route clearance”

Jones says he is not scared about going over.

“I think uh I’m fully aware of what’s going on and uh I don’t think, I think everyone in the company feels the same way that there isn’t anything to be scared of. We’re there to do a mission and we’re there to help those people and our training will get us through for sure.”

For the past several weeks Bruce Jones has been traveling to his post in Afghanistan.  He says he has been trained and is ready to do what has to be done so he can come home.  Jones says joining the guard is his true calling. He says it is important for the people of South Dakota to hear the story of the guard and its mission. 


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