By Sgt. Susan WiltSeptember 26, 2008
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - A big portion of a combat engineer's job is handling explosives like C-4 and 40-pound cratering charges.
Having that kind of responsibility can be a bit overwhelming to a new engineer.
However, when they have experienced leaders teaching them the proper way to use the explosives, the whole learning process turns into a fun week of blowing stuff up.
The combat engineers of Company A, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, spent the week of Sept. 8 at a demolition range refreshing their skills and learning about basic explosives.
For the more seasoned engineers it was a review, but for the paratroopers fresh to the unit, it was a chance to learn new skills.
"It's getting the new guys out here, getting them to understand how to tie the right knots, how they put the systems together and how to place them," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Farnsworth, the acting first sergeant of Co. A.
Farnsworth estimated that about 75 percent of the company is either new to the Army or to the 82nd Abn. Div.
Throughout the week the engineers learned how to put together a variety of charges, ranging from ones that were made from a can of soup or a soap dish that had the blasting power of a grenade, to a charge made from a 40-pound explosive that make a crater 15-feet wide.
"We started out the first day doing the basic confidence charge to get the troopers to see the effects of the C-4, the detonation cords and the time fuse," explained Farnsworth, a Rochester, N.Y., native. "As we went through the week, we slowly started to make improvements on what we've been learning. As the troopers got more confident, we were able to make more advanced charges and have some better training."
Pvt. Hector Mantilla, a Chicago native who has been in the unit for four weeks, agreed that the training was worthwhile.
"I learned a lot of really neat stuff," Mantilla said. One of the new charges he learned to make was a soap dish charge, which is a type of field expedient charge that's used as an anti-personal device.
Mantilla said the charge was his favorite part of the week.
During the field expedient portion Mantilla had the chance to pull the M-81 igniter pin, a type of pin that's used to ignite the charge, for the first time.
"When I first pulled the M-81, I kind of freaked out a little bit. I didn't know what to expect," explained Mantilla, a combat engineer.
His platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. Richard Gerzmehle, was there the entire time to guide him through the process.
"You definitely feel more of an experience than just standing there watching the explosion," Mantilla said of his first time pulling the igniter pin.
"It's hard to believe that something that small can cause that much destruction," he said.
The field expedient charge seemed to be the hit of the week.
Pvt. Robert Wisdom, a Palmdale, Calif. native, and Pvt. Daniel Lopez, of Glendale, Ariz., agreed that learning how to use and set-up the charge was their favorite part.
Overall, Lopez said he had a blast at the range.
"The whole week was pretty exciting we did a lot of different charges," Lopez said. "It's a great class and a great MOS (military occupational specialty)."