FORT CHAFFEE, Ark -- Soldiers from the 388th Route Clearance Company hosted a three-day demolition range during River Assault 2012 here.
The purpose of the demo range was to expose and familiarize soldiers from various units to many different kinds of explosives. The 388th RC was tasked to provide their expertise in handling explosives such as C4, shape charges and sub-surface cratering blasts. Sgt. 1st Class Michael Schaub, a combat engineer, was designated as the range safety officer due to his experience and additional training qualifications.
“My job is to make sure the knots are tied correctly, everybody is moving as they should, and to ensure that every aspect of safety can be implemented here on the range so we can have a positive day.”
In order to be an RSO, Schaub was required to go through both a range safety and ordinance control agent course. Explosives peaked Schaub’s interest as a youth due to the fact his father often handled explosives during his time as a Navy Seabee. “He handled C4. It was just something my dad did, I thought it was cool and I’ve been blowing stuff up ever since.”
Demolition charges are often vital for mission success as a combat engineer and can serve various purposes.
“We use the C4 for cutting steel. We also use it for blowing up doors when we do building clearing,” said Schaub. “We use it for windows. You can putty it. You can form it.”
Most of the soldiers participating in the demo range were combat engineers and are required to handle explosives at least once per year to keep their certification current.
“When they go down range, a lot of these guys are going to be handling demo, they need to know what to do when they go into a building, how to calculate the right amount of C4 so that when they blow a door or window they don’t get hurt,” said Schaub.
Cpl. Carlo Heres was also selected to be a range cadre based on his experience deploying overseas as an active duty combat engineer.
“This is the bread and butter as a combat engineer. This is what we signed up for,” said Heres. “There is no problem you can’t solve without the proper amount of explosives. That is something we believe in. That is something we preach.”
Demolition charges are essentially a three part system requiring an explosive, a charging system and a triggering mechanism. The range safeties took every precaution to ensure soldiers’ safety at all times, including time to practice on inert charges prior to going down range. They also connected the explosives together in what is called a ‘ring main.’
“Everything can be charged at once, so it is a simultaneous blast,” said Schaub.
“As range cadre we hold on to the initiator while they prep the demolition system and once we determine its safe that is when we had them the initiator connector,” said Heres. “We pull the safety pin for them once we feel they’ve understood the instructions. Once we say fire in the hole 3 times we point at them and they know to initiate the explosion.”
Heres also stated that as an added safety precaution explosives, while very stable, are never kept near their initiators.
The range safeties also added a time delay fuse to the explosives just in case the triggering mechanism failed, ensuring all explosives would be properly charged. A final uniform and body search is performed at the conclusion to ensure soldiers don’t carry any explosive materials off range.
“As long as we are out there and everything is safe it’s really alot of fun for the soldiers and that’s the best part: is training soldiers and making sure they’re taken care of,” said Schaub “If it wasn’t for them being out here, I wouldn’t be here either. Some of these guys its there first time. They’re gonna be pumped. It is real nice to see those guys get their hands on it and handle it so they can go back to their families and tell them what they do.”
Unfortunately, River Assault 2012 is the last annual training Cpl. Heres’ is expected to attend as he intends to ETS in October to focus on his degrees in criminal justice and psychology.
“My motivation out here is that I want to go out with a bang. I told the first sergeant, ‘assign me anything you need help with,’” said Heres.
“He just asked me one thing: ‘Before you get out of the Army just make sure at least one soldier has the knowledge you have so you can pass it on to the rest of the soldiers.’ And I have,” said Heres. “I’ve trained a couple of soldiers who are pretty high speed and hopefully they will pass on some of this knowledge I am trying to pass on to these young soldiers.”