"Pretty awesome," that\'s how Pvt. Evan Tietz described throwing his first live hand grenade.
Tietz was just one of 172 Soldiers from the 35th Engineering Battalion, Charlie Company, that spent a day learning to safely and effectively deploy hand grenades on Range 31.
Capt. Joseph Bogart, the company's commander says the training allows soldiers to understand how they can defeat an enemy that may be more entrenched.
"This is their first time really experiencing a weapon beyond the M-16 or M-4 series rifle," Bogart said.
Six weeks into their basic training they were learning about the different types of hand grenades, what each one of them does and the proper grip and throwing techniques from the P1 class.
Next was the high and low walls, where the soldiers rehearsed throwing practice fuse grenades from the standing and kneeling positions.
Then there is the qualification course, which is a general introduction into how to deploy a hand grenade in a combat environment.
"Hand grenades are the basic, hand held, close quarters weapon that we have other than the rifle, pistol and bayonet. It allows our soldiers to go down range to protect themselves and their battle buddies," Staff Sgt. Richard Thornton from the combat training company said.
When they get to the mock bay each soldier has one-on-one time with an instructor to assure they are safe enough to throw a live hand grenade.
"They have to relax and enjoy what they are doing," Thornton said, "They are getting paid to blow stuff up. A lot of them will never get to do this again. This is their one chance to have a little fun."
The loud noise, the explosive power, the shrapnel flying. Finally the soldiers headed over to the live bay where they were going to throw a M-67 fragmentation hand grenade for the first time.
Range NCOIC, Sgt. 1st Class Billy Sumner said he can often see fear in the soldiers' eyes when they are preparing to throw their first live hand grenade.
"They are thinking, 'I've got something that can potentially kill everybody around me,'" Sumner said, "But once they throw that grenade and once they realize there isn't anything to it, you can see their eyes light up and they get a big smile on their faces."
Pvt. Nicholas Bardreau said the biggest surprise for him was how large the explosion was.
"I was extremely excited, it was a lot of fun," Bardreau said.
Smiling from ear to ear after throwing his first grenade Tietz has a piece of advice for future live grenade rookies, "Don't be scared and make sure you do everything how you were taught."
Bogart said the drill sergeants and the NCO's are to thank for giving the trainees their confidence.
"They are really transforming these young soldiers from civilians into soldiers and making it happen on a daily basis," Bogart said.

Page last updated Wed May 11th, 2011 at 15:51