DARIEN, Ill. - When Team Breacher deployed to Hohenfels, Germany, to play the role of enemy forces, they didn't fight against international foes, but their own national allies.
Their opponent: an active duty Armor Brigade Combat Team.In the real word, Team Breacher was made up by U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 428th Engineer Company (Mobility Augmentation), plus fill-in support from four other reserve engineer units. The other supporting units were from the 309th Engineer Company (Mobility Augmentation), 996th En. Co. (Horizontal), 402nd Engineer Company (Sapper) and the headquarters company at 389th Engineer Battalion.During Operation Combined Resolve III, which took place last fall, they were able to show that reserve engineers can compete on the battlefield with anybody."Team Breacher was able to demonstrate to 18 other nations that U.S. Army Reserve engineers are not to be messed with," said Capt. Michael Dyrdahl, commander of the 428th En. Co. (Mobility Augmentation), of Wausau, Wis.
Combined Resolve is a major training exercise involving roughly 3,500 troops from 19 different nations, lasting roughly two weeks. The exercise is designed to simulate a brigade-on-brigade armor battle, involving U.S. service members and allied partners. The international forces each play a supporting role, from surveillance and reconnaissance, to aviation and fellow fighting forces.
Ultimately, though, an entire brigade was brought down by one company's engineering ability.The company's focus was on 'countermobility', a term used to describe military actions that impede enemy movement. They placed concertina wire, dug tank ditches and spread out minefields to cut off their cavalry opponents' movement.
"We developed impenetrable engagement areas across the entire map," said Dyrdahl.Even though their enemy role was make-believe, the skills used in this training exercise was something very true to their nature. Mobility and countermobility are two main skills of any combat engineer unit. Mobility refers to military actions that allow friendly forces to move across a battlespace. But in this scenario, it was their countermobility that made them a success.
During this exercise, the company supported a bigger Operational Enemy Forces (OPFOR), manned by the 1st Battalion of the 4th Infantry Regiment. This battalion conducts the enemy portion of the exercise every year at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC), Germany, and they had never seen such countermobility success before, said Dyrdahl."In my opinion, no future OPFOR engineer company will be able to outperform the 428th MAC ... The brilliant planning and efficient emplacement of obstacles by the company gave the OPFOR a distinct competitive advantage in the defense. Planners and Soldiers across the organization still talk about the impact 428th MAC had on the rotation," said Cpt. Michael T. Leak, headquarters company commander for JMRC, who worked for the OPFOR Engineer cell for the 1-4th Inf. Regt.This company had so many obstacles in place that they rendered the cavalry brigade immobile. Unable to progress further, the cavalry's commander ordered a pause in the exercise to return back to base and regroup. Team Breacher's efforts were so effective, they had to terminate their own mission early in order for the rest of the exercise to continue."Team Breacher could not have had a more successful mission. Morale was sky high when our Soldiers learned that they had nearly single-handedly halted the advance of a multi-national Armor Brigade Combat Team," said Dyrdahl.
Though this was a humbling outcome for the active duty forces, the relief lies in knowing that the 428th Engineer Company still works for the good guys in the real world.