News: Combat engineers prove resilient during minefield clearing operations
Story by Staff Sgt. Brent Powell
FORT MCCOY, Wis. – A Soldier faces many threats on the battlefield: enemy combatants, machine-gun fire, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and even hand-to-hand combat, but one threat lies hidden and waits patiently for its unsuspecting victims, often killing or maiming them with no warning. The enemy is landmines.
Ever since their introduction to the battlefield they have been a constant deadly threat facing U.S. forces, but despite their presence, Soldiers today have a wide-variety of anti-mine technology at their disposal to help them minimize their risk and defeat them safely.
The Soldiers of 464th Engineer Area Clearance Platoon, 926th Engineer Brigade, received first-hand training on minefield operations here April 1, during Warrior Exercise 86-14-02 (WAREX). The event is a large scale multi-component collective training exercise designed to prepare Reserve and National Guard units for deployment. It includes nearly 5,000 Soldiers and more than 60 units from across 30 states and Puerto Rico.
“We received intelligence of a possible minefield in the area,” said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Trammell, platoon sergeant for 464th Eng. Plt., and native of Cincinnati, Ohio. “It’s our responsibility in a situation like the one we were given today, to secure the area, provide over watch and then clear the suspected minefield.”
The scenario began when the Soldiers rolled up to a small village and quickly dismounted to make contact with the local national villagers (role players). With the assistance of the village elder, they made their way through the village searching for any enemy combatants or unexpected dangers. Within minutes they located a possible improvised explosive device (IED), and secured the area around it using
While continuing to clear the village, the Soldiers encountered two hostile enemy forces and quickly engaged them with precise small arms fire. “Two of my Soldiers and I were able to engage and kill both enemy combatants before they were able to get the advantage on us,” said Trammell.
With the enemy threat eliminated, the Soldiers set in to clear a minefield near the village. They first conducted a reconnaissance on the suspected site using binoculars. Then two engineers armed with a metal detector and a landmine marking kit began the dangerous task of trying to clear the suspected mines.
As they got into position, a ground-shaking, thunderous boom rang out. An enemy artillery shell had impacted the area and severely injured several of the Soldiers. Like a well-oiled machine, the engineers sprung into action treating the wounded and calling for a medevac.
After the wounded were cared for, the resilient Soldiers went back to the minefield to attempt to clear it again. Minutes into the clearing operation, a cloud of white smoke billowed into the air, and shouts of “Gas!” rang out through the village. Instinctively, the warriors quickly donned chemical protective masks and took cover. Unfortunately, some of the team sustained injuries in the attack, and another medevac had to be called to get the injured to a medical care facility.
The constant enemy battering could not deter the engineers’ steadfast determination to complete their mission. The minefield was eventually cleared and the mission was a success.
“This was excellent training,” said Trammell. “It provides my Soldiers with situational awareness on the battlefield, and this is absolutely something we would be doing in a deployed environment. I believe as a platoon, we have made great strides in our readiness.”
The platoon commander was also pleased with his Soldiers performance during the training event. “This training is our bread and butter,” said 2nd Lt. Bennett Kelley Bell, platoon commander, 464th Eng. Plt. “This is what we do. We have been working really hard refining our tactical SOPs (standard operating procedures), as well as our battle drills and it showed during this exercise today.”