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    We Clear the Way

    We clear the way

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class James Downen | Engineer Soldiers of the Calumet, Mich., based Army National Guard 1431st Engineer...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Michigan National Guard

    CALUMET, Mich. - “We Clear The Way!” is the caption from a 1943 U.S. Army Combat Engineer recruiting poster. This saying rings true today, and the Calumet, Michigan, based Army National Guard 1431st Engineer Company (Sapper) lived up to it by sharpening their route clearance skills during lanes training at their armory on Sept. 26-28, 2014.

    The engineer Soldiers began their training with classes on Friday with route-clearance tasks from unit non-commissioned officers and were supervised by officers in an observer-controller role. After being taught at each station, the Soldiers put on their equipment and walked through the performance measures in every task, ensuring that each Soldier understood their individual role and place in route clearance formations.

    Sgt. Kent Hay, an Afghanistan combat veteran, who gave classes on IED detection said, “One of the things they love in Afghanistan starts with a "c" and that word is culverts. Afghans love to pack them full of homemade explosives. The best way to detect them is to be on the lookout for tamped culverts, ones packed with earth to enhance the blast of the device contained in the culvert.”

    Pvt. Jake Bianga, a new Soldier to the 1437th Engineer Company, said, “All of the IED training was a good refresher. I learned more about specific IEDs than what was taught at my advanced individual training.”

    The last class of the day consisted of employing an AN/PSS 14 mine detector and conducting dismounted route clearance using an inverted "V" formation. The inverted ‘V’ enhances an engineer platoon’s ability to find command wires near or on routes and uses flank security to deal with possible enemy ambushes or snipers.
    Spc. Alan Rajacic instructed on the AN/PSS 14 mine detector and reminded the Soldiers, “Don’t get complacent because you are dealing with an enemy who spends the better part of his day trying to blow you up!”

    Observer-controller 1st Lt. Jason Wallner discussed the importance of the inverted "V" formation and dismounted patrolling with the engineer Soldiers. “The inverted ‘V’ accomplishes two things, finding command wires and flushing out the trigger-men. The further we push out while dismounted, the more efficient our searches are. Don’t get comfortable and refrain from pushing out, your enemy is always changing their techniques, tactics and practices overseas in order to get you!”

    After mastering the individual, squad and platoon road clearance tasks, the Soldiers spent Saturday and Sunday convoying through lanes that tested them on tasks such as conducting a vehicle search, reacting to a possible improvised explosive device, mine sweeping a route and reacting to contact.

    The keys to success for the lanes training, situational awareness, visual observation for threats paired with maintaining security, were best summed up by 1st Lt. Jake Pfiester, “We have to be slow and methodical, especially when searching vehicles and personnel. We also need to know our nine-line unexploded ordnance report formats. We don’t want to be the platoon that cries wolf and abuses our Explosive Ordnance Disposal assets. If we stress them out, that will negatively impact their job performance and response time!”

    The Soldiers used teamwork and supervised each other’s activities at every lane scenario. During one vehicle search, Pfc. Devon Thompson said, “Double check my work,” to Pfc. Scott Kalishek as they inspected a vehicle interior. Standard operating procedures and following checklists were used during the route clearance lanes to avoid overlooking hazards that could have “explosive” results in a combat environment.

    Everyone was wearing “full battle rattle,” all of the equipment, including body armor, during the route clearance lanes training. The Soldiers using mine detectors carried the heaviest loads. Spc. Thomas Hyrkas said, “The AN/PSS 14 mine detector does get heavy after a while. The weight is all on your bicep, but at least you get a good workout from the process.”

    After each day’s training, the Soldiers conducted a final after action review at the armory, supplementing the AARs done at each lane station. The end of day AAR gave the Soldiers a clearer view of the “big picture” concerning the route clearance mission they completed and subjects such as how known areas of interest and targeted areas of interest were defined, clarifying such terms for lower enlisted Soldiers.

    Spc. Jared O’Conner concluded, “As Combat Engineers, route clearance is one of our bread and butter missions. The new Soldiers got to talk and learn from us combat veterans at this weekend drill, this knowledge will save lives in combat. Route clearance allows us to protect both civilian and military traffic that have to use the roads. Keeping innocent civilians and our fellow Soldiers alive is a mission I’m proud to be a part of.”



    Date Taken: 09.26.2014
    Date Posted: 10.10.2014 12:18
    Story ID: 144861
    Location: CALUMET, MI, US 

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