News: Soldiers gain comradeship through demolitions
BAMBERG, Germany – Explosions echoed throughout the Grafenwoehr Training Area as the 54th Engineer Battalion and their partners from Germany, Poland and Austria detonated more than 2,000 pounds of explosives during a training mission conducted in September.
Thirty soldiers representing the three countries traveled to Grafenwoehr where they joined more than 100 soldiers from the 54th Engineer Battalion for the demolitions training. Despite challenging weather conditions, including three straight days of constant rain, the exercise concluded with the soldiers trained on explosives preparation, initiating systems, cratering charges, steel cutting, timber cutting, improvised breaching charges and bivouac operations.
"In international operations, it's very important for soldiers of each nation to know the other nations and how they work and what they do; so it's a better understanding for the others," said Maj. Michael Glanzer of the Austrian Bundesheer's honor guard.
"I feel that, being allies, we have an obligation to build that relationship in peacetime," said 2nd Lt. Tyler Sapp, a platoon leader from the 54th Engineer Battalion's Forward Support Company and a native of Tuscola, Ill.
Among the many different types of explosives detonated, the most surprising find was several 40- and 15-pound shape charges bearing manufacturing years of 1944 and 1945.
"It is important to remember our history and the conditions under which those charges were created and how far that history has evolved,” said Lt. Col. Thomas E. Austin, commander of the 54th Engineer Battalion and a Muskegon, Mich., native. "It was a very different world.”
Given the circumstances of its manufacture, no one would have imagined the explosives would be detonated by Americans and Germans conducting combined training, said Austin.
“It is a reminder for everyone that the world can change for the better and former enemies can become committed friends,” said Austin.
The demolitions training was not only important from a tactical and technical perspective, but also to provide an opportunity for all those participating to learn from each other and experience a different military, said Lt. Col. Phillip Mohr, commander of the German Reservisten-Kameradschaft Trunstadt, a Bundeswehr Reserve unit.
But it wasn't just about nostalgic recollections; the soldiers simply loved being out in the field and training with explosives.
"This is so much better than just sitting at my desk and reading e-mails," said Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Traud of Westland, Mich., the range’s safety officer. "This is why I joined the Army."
Glanzer said he enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to “blow stuff up."
"Especially this amount of demolitions we used here - it really is amazing," he said.
Glanzer said the team-building aspect of the event was even more important than the opportunity to detonate explosives.
“It’s a real good exchange, I think, for both units because the 54th came to train with us in Austria in the Austrian mountains and we are able now to train here with the 54th. So it's a win-win situation for both of us," said Glanzer.