Engineers role redefined in changing Army
March 31, 2014
FORT HOOD, Texas -- Army engineers are entering a new era by making their way into specialized battalions in an effort to better support brigade combat teams in the future.
The transition kicked off in October, transforming brigade special troops battalions across the Army into brigade engineer battalions.
The 91st "Saber" Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division recently completed its transition, making the unit a topic of discussion during Engineer Week, March 31 to April 3 here.
Capt. Anthony Daniels, commander of Company A of the 91st BEB, said the transition builds engineer assets in preparation for more conventional warfare.
Before the change, the 91st BEB was the 1st "Centurion" Brigade Special Troops Battalion and contained only one company of engineers. Now it is primarily composed of engineers.
Daniels said he thinks Ironhorse would be ill-equipped to face a conventional army with only one engineer company to support the brigade.
One Engineer Week participant Sgt. 1st Class Bobby Lawson, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Ironhorse's engineer section, has seen the Army Corps of Engineers adapt and grow since he began his career as a combat engineer in 1990.
"With new equipment comes changes (and) … a lot of learning," Lawson said. "But most of all with a new piece of equipment it entails our survivability on the battlefield."
One of the newest pieces of equipment to engineers is the Assault Breacher Vehicle. It allows obstacles to be pushed out of the way during breach missions, can withstand several mine blasts, and is equipped with explosives to clear lanes of travel.
The 91st BEB has been training on the ABV for months and put it into action during the brigade's recent rotation to the National Training Center. The unit will be getting the new M104 Wolverine Heavy Assault Bridge to enhance current gap crossing capabilities.
Despite changes in roles, units, and equipment, combat engineers haven't strayed from their three key tasks: mobility, countermobility and survivability.
By providing unmanned aerial vehicle surveillance, digging fighting positions, clearing routes, breaching obstacles, building protective burms, and providing communication support, the battalion supported the brigade?'s maneuver units during NTC.
"At NTC, the BEB did excellent," said Lawson, who worked closely with Saber at NTC. "Being in that new role just (starting) up, there were a lot of things that had to be worked out, which they got through."
Aside from Ironhorse Rampage in Nov. during the 91st BEB's transition, NTC was their first operation as a newly formed battalion, Daniels said.
He said he thinks the 91st BEB?'s performance at NTC was good, but left room for improvement.
"We did well (at NTC) for the challenges that we had," Daniels said. "Everybody got a common understanding of how we should support the brigade. I think that was just the first step."
Lawson said the role of engineers has been redefined since the onset of the war and sharing information on performance and equipment is beneficial to engineers across the board.
he said he thinks Engineer Week should happen more often to facilitate learning and training for engineers new to the Army.
Daniels said it is good for engineers and commanders to get together during Engineer Week to discuss the future of Army engineers.
"The engineer job is important," Daniels said. "It all depends on what the threat is … (engineers) being able to do everything is key."
The 91st BEBs contributions to Engineer Week included a static display of equipment, featuring an ABV, and a brief on the new unit's capabilities.