FORT CHAFFEE, Ark. - It's an elusive tool few of the Soldiers have seen and even less have touched.
That all changed for the Soldiers of the 364th Engineer Company (Sapper), out of Dodge City, Kansas, July 29 when they fired two M58 Mine Clearing Line Charges (MICLIC) at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, while attending River Assault.
"It was awesome," said Sgt. Joshua Moreau, team leader, 364th Engineer Company. "Both rockets were successful, which is two-thirds of the battle: Getting the rockets to go off, setting them up properly and making sure they're in the right location. Then from there, it's basically clean up after that when they're inert, considering nothing goes boom, so we don't have to worry about live ordnance. So, that's the more extensive, un-fun part."
A MICLIC is a rocket-projected line charge usually used to clear mines.
"Basically, it's a mine-clearing device which shoots a rocket out alongside C-4 to clear a path for incoming units to follow behind us," said Moreau, a Denver native. "Obviously, it was inert. We didn't get a chance to blow it up today, unfortunately, but we came out here and shot two separate rockets."
Although the line charge was inert, for the combat engineer Soldiers, this was an experience not always easy to come by.
"I've been in almost 15 years and have never been near one. My first sergeant has been in even longer and has not been around one. It's tough to get these," said Capt. Richard Durham, commander, 364th Engineer Company. "It's a very useful tool, but they're also expensive. One day I hope to fire a live one. That's a lot of demo, but it was a lot of fun."
"It was awesome. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, really," said Moreau. "I think there are only two places in the United States that allow a MICLIC to go off. So, even to get your hands on one that's inert and get the training is awesome."
Although very few of the Soldiers had ever shot a MICLIC, they performed well.
"It was a great learning experience," said Durham, a Kansas City, Missouri, native. "The Soldiers always do well. These guys, I've never been disappointed in them. They do everything top-notch, they're some of the best Soldiers there are from the Heartland. Good country kids, good city kids and they all work really hard. I couldn't ask for more. I literally could not ask for better Soldiers. They did an excellent job."
While the training went well, Durham hopes the Soldiers take the experience to heart.
"We have a lot of toys to play with as 12Bs (combat engineers). This is just one more thing they can hang their hat on, and they have the experience to take with them and use down the road as they progress in their military career," he said. "They can reflect on the days: 'Back when I was at River Assault, we did that, and here's how you do it,' and they have a good story to tell."
With River Assault just beginning, the 364th Engineer Company has more training to accomplish. While the MICLIC was unique, they are looking forward to more interactive training.
"Unfortunately, it's a little anticlimactic with these. There is not much to it. The rocket goes off and that's the end of it, so I think this was a good warmup," said Durham. "They had a good day yesterday. Today was neat. It was neat to get their hands on, but I think tomorrow is going to be a lot of fun. We'll be doing urban ops. They've got a really high-speed training facility they go through here that plays with all your senses."
Some of the Soldiers expressed their excitement to keep the training pace at a high rate of speed.
"That, I'm excited about. I love that close-quarter combat stuff," said Moreau. "As long as it's continuous training throughout, it's kind of hard to get bored."
The unit has a busy schedule, but the end goal is to train them to accomplish their missions.
"I think coming out of it, we've trained for the past year on a lot of the things we're doing now. This is sort of the culminating event, and they'll be able to hang their hat on that and say, 'Hey, we can do that. We can clear the way,'" said Durham. "Whether it's mine sweeping, whether it's taking out minefields, whatever it is we're doing, these guys know they can do their job."