A Soldier’s Letter: Sgt. Nicholas Crum

By Sgt. Nicholas Crum, Combat Engineer United States Army

Editors note: Sgt. Nicholas Crum is a Combat Engineer United States Army. The following is a personal letter that Sgt. Crum wrote to an AYWW staffer which he agreed to let us post to provide an insight into the life of a soldier in the US Army.

Well let me start by saying I'm doing great. I am currently deployed in Afghanistan for the second time and am a combat engineer. The first response I always get from that is… ” Oh smart guy”… HAHA, not the case. During WWII the Life expectancy of a combat engineer was 32 seconds in a combat environment. During Vietnam it was around ten seconds. Today, with all the advances in technology and the body armor we wear, it is somewhere around 6 months, but I've passed that twice over now. I'm somewhat of a jack of all trades and a master of none. 

We do a lot of construction work, however, lately the Army has transitioned and put a lot of emphasis on counter I.E.D ( Improvised Explosive Device) operations. The combat engineers have been tasked with the responsibility of searching for I.E.D’s. It's known throughout the army as the most dangerous job, next to E.O.D ( Explosive Ordinance Disposal). We conduct route clearance patrols going out before everybody including the infantry to look for bombs in the road and make sure the route is safe to travel. During my first deployment my Unit found 193 I.E.D's and we had 5 strike our vehicles. 53 of those I.E.D's were found solely by me in a vehicle called a Husky.  While conducting route clearance operations in Wardak province last deployment we came under attackk 57 times from RPG's ( Rocket Propelled Grenades ) and Small arms fire such as: AK-47, PKM, and other machine guns. Thankfully, all of us made it home safely.

I'm now 3 months into my second deployment and my unit has found 37 I.E.D's, 4 of them I have found. One detonated on my truck blowing the front end off, but I was able to exit the vehicle with a metal detector and check for secondaries before continuingthe mission. There were 3 other trucks struck by 4 I.E.D’s and we medevaced 4 personnel.  One personnel was able to go back to duty. The second is back safe in Germany healing. The third is still recovering from reconstructive facial surgery. And the fourth is in San Antonio, Texas, he just had his right foot amputated on the anniversary of September 11th. We also had one of our Infantry brothers that rolled on mission with us pay the ultimate sacrifice when we were ambushed during a dismounted patrol. He left behind a wife and kids. R.I.P Specialist James Justice. 

So far we have been in 17 fire fights, and we have had 23 ENEMY K.I.A. We do a job thats saves lives, unfortunately we have to risk ours to do that. “I've been blown up, shot at, and I've put a lot of lead downrange. Would I do it again? In a heart beat. There's no better feeling than when you find an I.E.D and you know that’s one less wounded warrior.” You have to be a special breed to be a combat engineer. I figured that out when a Special Forces Sargent First Class told me ” your a crazy son of bitch, most people stay away from bombs, you go looking for them.” I signed up to do a job and yes that job is dangerous, but with great consequence comes great reward.

Take care Kate,