By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
FORT CARSON, Colo. — For more than 18 hours, small squads maneuvered in and around a makeshift town set up in a Fort Carson training area April 24, 2019. As they moved swiftly from building to building, the squads studied each structure they encountered, determined an appropriate course of action and executed a breach, whether it be a door, window or wall.
Sometimes, they used crowbars, other times, a shotgun did the trick. For the sturdiest structures, cutting torches and explosives were the preferred method.
It was all part of a field training exercise (FTX), the culminating day of what’s known as the Urban Mobility Breaching Course (UMBC), a training event taught and evaluated by expert combat engineers, and designed to train officers and NCOs on the latest in urban breaching techniques.
Hosted by the 4th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, the FTX allowed student Soldiers to apply the knowledge and techniques learned during a roughly two-week course at Fort Carson.
Instructors and evaluators traveled to the post from the UMBC school at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and relayed their knowledge to officers and NCOs in a variety of urban breaching systems. Students who participated in the course endured lengthy classroom and field training while earning UMBC certification.
“For combat engineers, breaching is one of our main missions,” said 2nd Lt. Michael Bryar, assistant current operations officer, 4th Eng. Bn. “We provide maneuver support to the maneuver elements (infantry and armored units). This training provides expert knowledge to our officers and NCOs on pretty much any situation Soldiers could come in contact with during an urban breaching mission. And, its important to have that knowledge embedded into units on post.”
The engineers not only hosted the training event, but its personnel provided all resources for the course and even constructed the doors and other structures used during breaching operations. While recognizing the value of this specific training, leaders invited officers and NCOs from other engineer units on post, as well as military police and 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade Soldiers, to take part.
“We cover the four pillars of breaching during the course, mechanical, thermal, ballistic and explosive,” said Staff Sgt. Matt Meddars, UMBC instructor and evaluator, 1st Engineer Brigade. “For the past two weeks, (students) have received training and instruction on those four pillars; they operated as a team, then as a squad for a mission profile and then as a platoon during the night time portion of the FTX.”
The Fort Carson teams performed well, according to Meddars. They produced solid plans for the FTX, briefed evaluators well, constructed their charges and dictated which members of their teams would perform each job.
“We evaluate them on site, check their charge placement, their target analysis and how they decide the type of charge they use, whether it be mechanical, thermal, ballistic or explosive,” he said. “They’ve already been graded on their work prior to this event and they just put it all together for the FTX.”
The explosive breaching proved to be a favorite among course participants.
“The effects are pretty special,” said 1st Lt. Seth Benefield, combat engineer, 41st Engineer Company, 4th Eng. Bn. “But there is also a lot of value in this (training). I’m a platoon leader and one of my squad leaders is here, too, so we can go back and not only train our troops to be subject matter experts, but I now have an idea of what that training needs to look like. I can now cover a lot of the logistical pieces so that I can resource correctly.”
Though he is an experienced combat engineer, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Grieco, 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade, said the course instructors relayed some invaluable tricks of the trade.
“This was not foreign to me, but some of us learned from others who might have taught us ‘their way,’” Grieco said. “Whereas, these instructors are teaching us doctrine, and including safety tips and other important aspects. It’s great to be able to glean the knowledge directly from the experts.”
Soldiers who completed the course earned UMBC master breacher status.