FORT CHAFFEE, Ark. - The Soldiers drive slowly down the road, watching on either side for any indication of an improvised explosive device. They must make sure this road is clear.
These Soldiers are not in Afghanistan. They are training at Fort Chaffee, Ark., during Operation River Assault.
Soldiers with the 689th Engineer Company, 420th Engineer Brigade and 412th Theater Engineer Command's Deployable Command Post, formed a route clearance team July 20.
"Today, we're out here at the IED lane range," said Sgt. Richard Berryman, a reconnaissance sergeant from Vicksburg, Mississippi, with the 412th TEC's DCP. "What it is, is for combat engineers, our primary job overseas is to search and find improvised explosive devices and get rid of them as safely as possible, not only for military personnel, but also for the civilian population over there."
The units conducted two route clearance missions as well as improvised explosive device awareness training, medical training, weapon familiarization and a dismounted patrol.
"The troops did really well," said Staff Sgt. David Rosado, a platoon sergeant with the 689th Eng. Company and a Kissimmee, Florida, resident. "The communication was outstanding, which is really key for route clearance. The tactics are a little rusty, but they kept communicating and adjusting as they went along, which is really key in route clearance."
Soldiers in the units said they worked very well together.
"It's worked out really well having all three units together," said Berryman. "The 689th is the host of this lane and having the 420th and then us, 412th combat engineers there, they've really accepted us. The great thing about being engineers we all just fall into place and do our jobs as a family. We know our basic jobs and then we just contribute as best we can here and there."
Not only did they fall in as a family, but this is great training for when Soldier are pulled from other units to support or cross-leveled when the unit deploys.
"We got to throw in Soldiers from the 420th and the 412th TEC into the line platoons," said Rosado. "You get cross-leveled Soldiers all the time so it's pretty important to know how to communicate and talk to others, build that rapport with other Soldiers who are not part of your unit. So, I hope at the end of this exercise, the Soldiers have a couple more friends, a couple more battle buddies they can lean on for information and training."
The lane is designed for route clearance engineers to preform their tactics, techniques and procedures and prepare them for any environment.
"The 689th has been deployed twice within last six, seven years, once to Iraq, once to Afghanistan, so we're pretty familiar with some of the newer tactics Afghanistan has to offer," said Rosado. "The lane mixes both Iraq and Afghanistan so it throws some of the old stuff back into play."
Not only is there a variety of experiences on the lane, but also in the vehicles driving through the lanes.
"We had a lot of new guys," said Berryman. "We did quite well today as far as their inexperience. We do have some experienced people, such as myself, who have seen IEDs over in Iraq and Afghanistan, the different types. As far as running though it, everything went extremely well for our first scenario."
While there was a mix of experienced and inexperienced Soldiers, there were even some Soldier who were in the mix to get a feel for what a combat engineer does and decide if they want to pursue that field.
Pvt. Derrick Benson, an intelligence analyst with the 412th TEC's DCP from New Orleans, is one of those Soldiers.
"I'm cross-training right now.," he said. "It's possible if I could re-class, 12B [combat engineer] would definitely be at the top of the list after this training. It's just more of an on-the-ground type job and it's just cool watching things explode. It's the heat of the moment, a lot of adrenaline and it's good training."
The leaders who went though the lane think this training is valuable for their future in route clearance.
"Those who have never seen it before, I think it's beneficial to them because the way we actually do it here in training is the same thing they'll see downrange," said Spc. Dakota Perez, a combat engineer from Dallas, with the 420th Eng. Bde. "It's never easy but it's not hard to spot something. As long as they can spot out the obvious and the small things, they can get a bigger picture out of it."
Not only is the training important for application, but it also is important for the experience of emotions.
"[The adrenaline rush] is there, especially for non-experienced personnel," said Berryman. "It can definitely be a rush as far as mentality and heart racing and definitely catches you your first time out and even every time after that it still does. Primarily, that first time is what usually breaks Soldiers in on how to deal with the pace, what to do and what to do if it actually does detonate."
Some Soldiers experienced this rush for the first time, but the experienced engineers' goal is to make sure that adrenaline doesn't take over.
"When we did take some course of action when something happened, knowledge just started pouring through my head of what to do, stay calm, keep my guys calm, make sure they weren't putting themselves out there in danger," said Perez.
Leaders at the lane hope this training helps the interaction among the Soldiers.
"I would like the junior [noncommissioned officers] to begin that leadership spot and they do that especially on a lane like this," said Rosado. "They have to make decision and the lower enlisted get to see these corporals and sergeants making decisions on the spot, learning how to communicate, learning how to lead Soldiers in basic Soldier skills, Army Warrior Tasks and training. For us it's part of that mission essential communication that everybody needs to know. So, hopefully by the end of this exercise, they're going to know the fundamentals of what it takes to make decisions, on the spot, on the go, especially if an event happens."