News: You can't spell 'combat engineer' without C4
Story by Spc. Bradley Miller
FORT CHAFFEE, Ark. – The 412th Theater Engineer Command and their supporting units are participating in River Assault 2012, here, training in key combat engineer skills such as demolitions, route clearance and river crossing operations from July 14 to July 27, 2012.
This year, a door has blasted open for six soldiers who haven’t practiced these skills in a very long time.
First Sgt. Jamie Pawlinski from Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 391st Engineer Battalion, saw this training as an opportunity that he could not afford to pass up. The ability to provide his soldiers with this chance to better themselves by refreshing the knowledge of their original Military Occupational Specialty training would benefit them in sustaining their military careers, he said.
HHC, 391st EN BN, an Army Reserve unit based in Greenville, S.C., has an opportunity for their soldiers to participate in an additional second two-weeklong annual training this year. Taking part in River Assault 2012 allows them to gain some long awaited MOS training, stated Pawlinski.
These soldiers haven’t worked in their MOS for several years, some since graduation from Advance Individual Training; typically performing other duties such as driving for the battalion commander and working in the various offices within headquarters, Pawlinski said.
In theater, combat engineers, or 12B, provide route clearance for forward moving troops, so these crucial skills require training periodically, says Pawlinski. Demolition ranges provide instruction and hands-on experience in handling explosives such as C4.
“I found out that I could get them integrated into this demo range today, so I brought six of my Soldiers to become proficient with their skills,” Pawlinski says. “This is a one-time per year deal, so it’s very important to keep up on your MOS specific skills.”
Having been assigned to the unit roughly seven months ago, Pawlinski says he immediately recognized the need to retrain his soldiers, considering that they could be called upon at any time to serve the role. Pawlinski’s previous duty position was as a demolitions instructor at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., so he truly understands why MOS training is extremely important.
For five of the six soldiers in the unit, this is a refresher course for skills that have lain dormant for some time. Such is the case for Spc. Josiah Smith who has been working in the Training and Operations (S3) shop for the last three years. Smith says that he hasn’t used any of his engineers training since graduating from AIT, but this fact didn’t shake his confidence.
“It was like riding a bike,” Smith says. “There were a few specific knots I didn’t remember, but when First Sergeant showed me pictures of them in a book I was confident.”
According to Smith, the most overwhelming feeling during the whole set up was not nervousness, as one might expect when handling explosives, but he was feeling anxious because he was ready for the end result.
“It’s almost like a kid in the candy store and mom telling him that he can pick just one, so the kid always goes for the biggest lollipop,” explains Smith. “It’s the same concept, just with explosives.”
Not all of the soldiers participating have dealt with explosives before. Spc. Roger Stone is a horizontal heavy equipment operator with the unit, but is thinking about reclassifying to 12B. He says this training is providing him with hands-on training which will help him make an educated decision about his future in the Army.
“Since the start of this exercise, I’ve had hands-on training in my own MOS as well as outside of my MOS,” says Stone. “It’s great to have this knowledge considering this is the job I’m looking to move into.”
Stone got detonation cord and blocks of C4 in his hands for the first time and thanks to the knowledge and help from Pawlinski and his five compatriots, Stone was able to perform the required tasks proficiently and safely. Although Stone admitted that he was a bit uneasy in the beginning, his teammates made him feel more at ease about handling the explosives.
After the charges were set off and the boom resonated across the range, the team cheered, fist bumped and praised each other for a job well done.
“I don’t know if there’s a better word than ‘awesome,’” Stone says as a big smile crossed his face, “but if there is, it would describe this.”
Following a near collective sigh of relief because the ordinance performed as planned, the soldiers retired to the shade for some much needed water. Under the trees, Pawlinski gathered his crew for an after action report. Pawlinski says this long awaited training on a well-run range was invaluable for his soldiers.
“The attention to detail required for running a demo range is hammered home,” says Pawlinski, “to make sure everything is performed safely by utilizing great opportunities with composite risk management; to get these guys out there with the rest of the 12B, to get a feel for what their job really is.”