Army Reservists and Guardsmen came to Camp McCrady Training Center from across the United States this week to learn how to blow stuff up.
The 218th Engineer Battalion is in the middle of conducting Class 001-16, a two-week skill-level 10 course to reclassify Soldiers in the combat engineer military occupational specialty.
On Monday, the class of 30 Soldiers attended the training center's urban-terrain complex to learn how to fight in a city. The students learned how to enter buildings, search personnel and vehicles, and neutralize booby traps, said instructor Sgt. 1st Class James Huffman.
"Other classes we teach are self-extraction from minefields -- the old hand-probe method," he said. In that method, a Soldier would use a stick to slowly probe the ground ahead of him, searching for landmines. Once found, the mines would be marked and the process would continue until Soldiers found a safe way out of the minefield.
During the Vietnam War, then-Lt. Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf used this method to find mines, marking them using shaving cream.
Excited about learning a new trade, class members cited reasons to reclassify that were as varied as the locations they had come from -- as near as the South Carolina Army National Guard to as far away as the 979th Engineer Battalion in Lexington, Kentucky.
They also boasted myriad MOSes, from human resource specialist to special operator.
Some took the course because they were re-entering the Service; others found their units had been re-designated as engineer units.
For Spc. Jason Hodge of the SCARNG, the motivation was simple: He didn't want to be infantry anymore.
Hodge, who served with the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, joined a unit "right next to my house."
"I missed the military, I guess. Plus, all my friends are in the Guard,"
said Staff Sgt. Andrew Centella, a seven-year veteran of the SCARNG, found his unit had reorganized from firefighters into combat engineers.
"My unit recommended I come to this course," said Centella, an ex-infantryman with the double "A" of the 82nd Airborne Division combat patch on his sleeve.
Rejoining the Army after a "pretty good break in service" brought Sgt. Josh Johnson into the SCARNG. The one-time special operator joined because his wife serves on active duty at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and wanted him to "stay in but be a little slower."
Johnson was a Special Forces staff sergeant whom budget forced to take a reduction in rank to re-enter the service.
"This class is doing really well," Huffman said. "They've clicked.
"(With) the amount of experience and the wide variety of experience, they are an easy class to teach."
Centella and Johnson -- accompanied by other non-commissioned officers - took over room-clearing drills from the 218th cadre and ran with it, demonstrating tactics necessary to operate in urban environments: keeping vest plates toward the enemy and using a buddy as a shield while moving.
The veteran NCOs warned less experienced Soldiers about the dangers of urban combat.
In the open, a Soldier must be careful to be engaged horizontally, Johnson warned.
"But in a city, you can be shot at from anywhere," he cautioned.
It was important for those with combat experience to train some greener Soldiers.
"We have a lot of E-4s out here that have seen combat who are pretty solid," Johnson said. "We also have a few slick sleeves here, too -- but even most of them are pretty solid."
"Slick sleeves" denotes Soldiers who never have never seen combat.
One of those was soft-spoken Spc. Cameron Roseberry of the 848th Engineer Battalion in Douglasville, Georgia, who said bluntly that he liked the adrenaline "rush" that blowing up things and clearing rooms gave him.
Roseberry and his squad practiced room clearing for later in the day, when they would have to move through a simulated town inhabited by potential enemies. The enemy combatants would open fire with simulated rifle munitions that Centella and Johnson warned could veer off unexpectedly in different directions after firing.
Whatever their reasons for joining, the Soldiers got their hands dirty creating explosive devices and setting them off before performing clearance drills as the sunny South Carolina weather suddenly turned sour and cold rain began to fall.
"It's not like 'Call of Duty,'" Huffman said of fighting in a city.
A Soldier can't just run around and shoot everything, hopping along to avoid being shot.