By CourtesyMay 29, 2014
Story by 1st Lt. Maxwell McDonnell, 95th Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command
POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii - Whatever the task, combat engineers are required to be at the forefront of the battle, enabling friendly maneuver forces or denying avenues of approach for the enemy.
For the past three weeks, the 95th Engineer Company (Clearance), 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command put their skills to the test during a three-week-long demolition range density and route clearance field training exercise at Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA), May 1 through June 1.
"In comparison, PTA has a much higher blast limit than that of Schofield Barracks," said Capt. Ryan Lacey, the commander of the 95th Engineer Company. "I could not believe many of these Soldiers have not handled a shape or crater charge since basic training. We're out here at PTA to do things that just aren't possible on Oahu."
The unit trained on a variety of traditional explosives, and was introduced to a wide array of improvised demolitions.
"This was an invaluable experience for our Sappers," said 1st Lt. William Hinkley. "We are now prepared more than ever to support our fellow infantrymen in a combined arms breach,"
Lastly, Soldiers were introduced to expedient flame fougasse, an explosive that even many of the seasoned engineers were unfamiliar with. Per doctrine, fougasse is a form of napalm used for "incendiary, illuminating, and signaling effects." Constructed using a 55 gallon drum of gasoline and various explosives, fougasse was widely used in the Korean and Vietnam wars as well as other conflicts.
"I've never seen a fireball that big, except in the movies," said Pfc. Joshua Riffe, an engineer with 2nd Platoon, 95th Engineer Company.
During the second half of the training, platoons finalized their tactics, techniques, and procedures during a weeklong assured mobility field training exercise for the company's future preparations for two separate Joint Readiness Training Center rotations at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
On average, the platoons cleared 25 kilometers a day along various unimproved routes, both mounted and dismounted. This allowed them to train on detection and interrogation techniques and to use live demolition.
"As combat engineers, our Soldiers need to learn to be dependent on themselves and the assets they have," said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffery Weaver, an operations sergeant with the unit. "Route clearance is as much creative problem solving as anything."
The restrictive terrain on the big island was truly a test for the unit and a change of pace on the training calendar.
"It really forced us to use visual means to detect IEDs, as our metal detection assets rarely worked," said Staff Sgt. Tyrone Parker, engineer with the unit.
Leader said that the past few weeks will pay true dividends as the company ramps up for JRTC in July and August. As a result of this training, the 95th Engineer Company is building stronger combat engineers and has significantly improved operational readiness to support contingency operations across the Pacific theater.