Engineers Train for Success in Hawaii
April 28, 2009
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (April 23, 2009) - A platoon of Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 130th Engineer Brigade, donned their combat gear, climbed aboard humvees and prepared to roll out for their mission, April 23, during a training exercise here.
Soldiers honed their combat capabilities on the road as they prepared themselves against the threat of improvised explosive devices and small-arms fire downrange in Iraq.
"We're doing this IED lane to get Soldiers familiar with routes and areas they might encounter," said 2nd Lt. Brian Williams, convoy commander, 130th Eng. Bde. "This course gives us an opportunity to practice our communication, tactical techniques procedures, and IED reaction drills."
The three-mile course set up for the troops tests their responses to a variety of scenarios such as near ambushes, roadside bombs, and dealing with local populations.
"This is our mission out there," Williams said. "We do a lot of route clearance and are expected to know how to deal with IEDs, so we need to know what we can face out there in the field."
During the training, the Soldiers drove down the course and immediately encountered a small-arms ambush along their left side. They rushed through the "kill zones" without any loss of equipment or personnel, dealt with simulated traffic further along the route, and traveled into an area congested with locals asking for food and water.
"All last week, we've been conducting drills, going over equipment and escalation of force procedure and techniques to spot roadside bombs," Williams said. "We've been preparing for this training for some time and this was our chance to culminate all that planning into one event."
Throughout the training, the Soldiers of the 130th Eng. Bde. valued the opportunity to fine-tune their Soldier skills for their upcoming deployment to Iraq in June. Some of the things the Soldiers learned were how to spot IEDs, call in unexploded ordinance (UXO) reports, and how to react to contact in a convoy.
"This training is crucial," said Pfc. Eliezer Bonilla. "Most of the time when we are in danger it will be while we are on convoys. Guys like me that are brand new have not been over there yet."
"All the things I've learned these last few weeks, I've never even heard of and it will help keep me alive and bring me back home safely," he added.
The new troops used the training an opportunity to further develop their skills, while experienced leaders helped them during difficult portions.
"If I had any questions, I knew who to turn to," Bonilla said. "They have a good knowledge about what the situation is like over there and did a good job mentoring and helping us new Soldiers along. I'm proud of my leadership; we all did our best out here."
Sgt. Maj. Raymond Theard, operations sergeant major, 130th Eng. Bde., rode with the first team during the training and said the Soldiers are taking steps in the right direction, after seeing them perform on the course.
"As engineers, we make a lot of the routes safe for other units to conduct operations in Iraq," he said. "This training today will allow us to mitigate the risk of IEDs that might be on the route to our construction projects and we're coming along real well."
Some of the challenges for the Soldiers included the initial run through the course. The Soldiers absorbed a lot of information throughout the initial preparation and execution on the course.
Bonilla said the Soldiers of his company realize the importance of the mission ahead and are using the time now to rehearse before they board a plane to Iraq. For any unit following the engineer brigade's footsteps the Soldiers offer one piece of advice.
"Keep practicing; make sure you know all your stuff," Bonilla said. "Before I went home yesterday, one of my NCOs told me to make sure I know my 9-line MEDEVAC (medical evacuation procedures). You never know if you're going to be the Soldier behind the radio, and it's vital for everyone to know."