Fort Campbell engineers use explosives to deter enemy
May 8, 2009
- 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division engineers conduct demolitions training on Fort Campbell
- Engineer Soldiers train in demolitions by blowing down a door with C-4 explosives
- Soldiers train with a variety of demolitions to deter enemy
- Senior NCO's pass knowledge down to less-experienced Soldiers during training
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - As Soldiers move toward their objective, a brick-built home with a known insurgent inside, they quickly notice the door is impossible to take down. They call up a squad of engineers to see what they can do to quickly breach the door.
Just as they have done so many times in combat and training, the engineers place a charge of C-4 explosives on the door. With the breach team ready to sweep through the door, the explosive goes off and pushed the door inward. The team pushes through the house and quickly nabs the known insurgent. Anther mission accomplished; thanks to the handy explosive work of the engineers.
The scenario above is just one way combat engineers help defeat opposing forces on the battlefield.
In order to preserve this art of handling and initiating explosives on the battlefield, Soldiers from Company A, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), conducted demolitions training April 21.
According to Capt. Daniel Antolos, the company's commander, his engineer company is losing many experienced, key Soldiers, especially senior noncommissioned officers.
"I want to take the opportunity for the senior NCOs and experienced Soldiers to pass on some knowledge," Antolos said. "One of the things along that line is demolitions."
Antolos is losing a lot of experience and knowledge of conducting their conventional mission of preventing assured mobility.
He wants to ensure no Soldier goes untrained without even a small amount of knowledge with demolitions.
"This training, if anything, is like shooting a weapon. Right off the back you're not going to be comfortable around it because you don't know what it's capable of," Antolos said. "Using this environment here where it's very controlled, low stressed, we can show these Soldiers, these first timers, there's nothing to be scared of. As long as you respect demolition systems you can work with it just as easy as handling your weapon. The minute you do lose respect it can possible hurt you."
The training broke down into three phases; with the first phase beginning nearly a month ago, said Antolos. In a classroom environment, the engineers were taught the very basics of demolitions, such as how to calculate for a specific demolition and prepare the charge itself.
During phase 2 of the training, the Soldiers got hands-on with the actual demolitions. The learned how to properly prep their various charges, such as prepping live C-4 with detonation cord, or creating an urban breaching charge.
Phase 3, though, sent the Soldiers down-range where they were able to see the target they were going to engage with demolitions. Step-by-step, the engineers placed their prepped charges onto the target and initiated the explosion using a timed fuse or command detonation cord.
During the training exercise, they used a variety of demolitions, like detonation cord, C-4, a 40-pound crater charge, shape charges and Bangalore torpedoes.
In combat, engineers, usually attached with an infantry unit, would come upon the objective and immediately determine the type of demolition they would need to bypass the obstacle. If using C-4 to bypass an obstacle, one would cut into the center of the block of C-4, place a piece of detonation cord - usually tied with an overhand knot - into the cut, and tape everything down to ensure nothing comes loose. One would then place the charge on the target, and then begin building the ignitiation system off the detonation cord to initiate the charge and breach the obstacle.
Using demolitions in combat is very realistic, especially during heavy, intense combat operations.
In Iraq, though not as much today, engineers have used charges in urban and rural areas, said Antolos, such as door knob charges, flex-liners or water impulse charges to enter a building or room.
"The intent is to keep you away from the door," said Antolos. "It gives you that added bonus and surprise to the enemy. You put them off kilter, giving you the initiative entering the building."
Staff Sgt. Shannon Shaffer, a platoon sergeant within the company, spent quite a bit of time in Iraq in 2003 using demolitions.
During his first deployment, he used demolitions to destroy caches and enemy ordnance while patrolling through An Najaf and Karbala, said Shaffer. While supporting the infantry, his squad was primarily used to breach doors and buildings with explosives. "If we weren't blowing up caches, we were blowing through chain locks," Shaffer said.
From his past experiences, he has been able to teach his Soldiers the importance of demolitions.
"You can't beat experience. Being able to use a personal experience with the task you are training allows Soldiers to picture it better," he said. "They take it to heart a lot more. They can see how they will be able to do their job by seeing an example."
The engineers will continue to hone their skills with demolitions, said Antolos. The next step for them will be to hone their maneuver skills. Next they will learn how to move to an objective tactically, prepare their charge specifically for the type of obstacle they are faced with, and bring down the objective successfully.