EOD Soldiers instruct engineers on using robots
Under the guidance of 789th EOD Soldiers, Pvt. 1st Class Sunil Atri, an engineer in E Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, maneuvers the Talon robot during an exercise March 10, while other engineers look on.

Engineers learned how to maneuver small land robots March 10 and 11 at the 789th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company headquarters.

The EOD unit, which owns the robots, provided instruction for the engineers in E Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. The Soldiers learned how to maneuver through a tight space and over difficult terrain and how to open a door, pick up an object and dig in the ground with a robotic arm.

The Pacbot and the larger Talon are the most common robots used for IED detection in the Army, said Sgt. Adam Jenks, who showed engineers how to operate the two robots.

"Most of these guys haven't been to combat yet, so we're trying to get them familiar with the systems that they'll be using downrange," he said. "This is a perishable skill. It's one of those things if you don't do it a lot, you forget how to do it. You get sloppy and you get rusty. So, by allowing them to get time now, basically they'll be proficient when they get downrange."

The Soldiers guided the robots through a course that included uncovering a land mine buried in a sand pit.

The problems in this course are the same ones Soldiers encounter in Iraq or Afghanistan, and hands-on training prepares them best, Jenks said.

"This is my first time working with the robots," said Pvt. Vincent Gardner. "It's definitely a good experience. It's a lot better than what we learned in AIT, probing for mines by hand, digging in the ground. It takes a little while getting used to maneuvering the robots around, (but) it's a lot safer. I'd rather send a robot out and have to buy a new one than lose a comrade out there.

"It's just good training. Being ready for the mission at hand - that's what all training is really about."

Although the engineers will have robots at their disposal when they deploy, they don't have any for training available on post. They are partnering with the 789th EOD Co. through the end of March to borrow the equipment, said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Pancake, NCOIC for the training.

Helping the engineers prepare for deployment fits with the EOD company's task to support other units, Pancake said.

"That's our mission at EOD, to provide freedom of movement to the rest of the Army," he said. "If there's a roadside bomb, that road is closed until EOD gets on scene and disarms or destroys the IED. This way, we're keeping the troops safe and allowing them freedom of movement on the battlefield."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16