Story and photos by Andrea Sutherland
Last week Soldiers from 62nd Sapper Company, 4th Engineer Battalion, completed their first field training exercise since gaining more than 25 Soldiers from 569th Mobility Augmentation Company and Headquarters and Headquarters Company.
“This is a good, fresh start for this company,” said Sgt. Ben Olson, 3rd Platoon, who has been with the “Reapers” since 2006. “We’re starting from scratch and building up. We’re progressing a lot faster than we thought.”
From March 9-18, 94 Soldiers participated in route- and room-clearing exercises as well as demolitions.
Soldiers practiced building and detonating linear, silhouette and water impulse charges. Staff Sgt. Jamon Reagan, who recently completed the Urban Master Breacher Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., taught the Soldiers in the field.
“This is probably the first time some of these guys have done stuff like this,” Reagan said. “We’re trying to make sure they’re safe and give them the basic fundamentals and make sure they understand the preciseness that’s needed in the real world.”
Practicing these tactics now will serve Soldiers of the 62nd well as they are set to deploy later this year.
“The biggest misconception is that we just come out here and blow stuff up,” said 2nd Lt. Beau Hilland, 2nd Platoon. “It’s actually very calculated. Everything has a purpose.”
In addition to demolition exercises, Soldiers in the 62nd honed their route-clearing skills.
“It’s a simple process but it’s easy to grow complacent, and that’s when people can get hurt,” said 1st Lt. Adam York, 1st Platoon. “Everybody’s trained to do everything. We change up the jobs to help
York said the convoy, made up of Humvees, Huskies and a Buffalo Medium Mine Protected Vehicle, drove five to seven miles per hour, scanning the roads for “anything that looked out of place.”
“When the Iraq War first started we did a lot of things wrong,” said York, explaining that Soldiers tasked with route clearance sped along roads instead of driving slowly and cautiously.
“If you drive too fast and an (improvised explosive device) hits, it can flip the truck,” said York, referring to the Humvee.
York also explained the advances in vehicle technology since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The Buffalo has a V-shaped hull intended to deflect the blast. It also has an arm with a scoop and a spike to poke at anything that looks like an IED,” York said. “The Husky has radar and a giant metal detector. It let’s us know there is something on the ground.”
Capt. Mike Custer, 62nd Sapper Company commander, said his Soldiers did well in the field and will be ready for their deployment.
“The field training exercise was important because it allowed the Soldiers time to train on their mission for the upcoming deployment,” Custer said.
Just as important for the young company were the relationships the Soldiers formed.
“This training exercise was designed to allow all the new Soldiers in each platoon to come together and develop tactics, techniques and procedures that they will utilize once deployed to search and clear roadside bombs downrange,” Custer said.
“You can do tactics, you can do training, but these guys have to learn about each other as Soldiers and as people,” said 2nd Lt. Timothy Jeffcoach, 3rd Platoon. “Being out here for 10 days without showering, you learn a lot about each other.”