FORT HOOD, Texas -- The Soldiers of Company B "Breach Masters," 8th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, worked to improve their skills and come together as a team during a field training exercise here, July 22-Aug. 3.
The majority of Soldiers in the company are fresh from Advanced Individual Training from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, home to the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence.
"In some cases, I have platoon sergeants that are E-5s because they are simply the most experienced Soldiers we have at the moment," said Capt. Beau Hilland, commander of Company B.
Some would see the lack of experienced leadership as an obstacle to conducting a successful field exercise, but the Breach Masters are familiar with clearing obstacles, literally and figuratively.
"We are focusing on growing our privates to specialists as soon as possible," said Hilland.
To accomplish this, Hilland and his platoon leaders, worked together to develop a field training exercise that would certify individual and team-level collective tasks.
"We get the reputation as the people who blow stuff up, but there is a lot of skill and craft to this field," said Hilland. "There is a tremendous amount of science behind what we do, as well as having to accomplish the mission in an open environment where security is concern."
"My platoon leaders really worked hard to plan these lanes and make this event happen," said Hilland. "They make my job easy."
The two-week long field exercise started with reinforcing the kind of skills the Soldiers received at basic training and then they moved on to practicing their specific job skills. This eventually led up to a 36-hour culminating training event where they could run breaching lanes.
"We spent the first few days going over the basics because many only had a day or two of this type of training at Fort Leonard Wood and these are skills that need to come like second nature to any Soldier," said Hilland
Once the basics skills were completed, they started practicing their combat engineer skills.
"We clear routes in order to gain mobility for follow on units," said Sgt. Vincent Grey, Bravo Team Leader, 1st Squad. "Security is a key element to anything that we do."
"You can put the work in now and increase your chance for survival in wartime, or you can put learning these skills off, and decrease your chance for survival," said 1st Sgt. Jaye Green, while leading an after-action review after Soldiers conducted a breach lane. "The choice is up to you."
"Since we all know how to work together as a team, it kind of brings it into the bigger picture," said Spc. Colby Wood, Alpha team leader, 1st Squad. "Once you get the teams trained, a squad can maneuver together and go from there, and the whole company can be able to move as one."
Besides the inherent risks involved when working with explosives, the Soldiers must also mitigate the risks of the terrain, vegetation and the never-ending Texas heat.
The terrain has kind of got them a couple times. There was dense vegetation in some areas, explained Wood.
"It's easy to say it's too hot, but that's not going to get us anywhere. We are encouraging the Soldiers to push past it," said Green. "They will thank us for it later."
"Water and shade," said Grey on how he is mitigating the oppressive heat for his team.
"It's easy to sit in red-cycle and let the time go by supporting tasking's, but it's not going to help anyone become proficient it their skills and jobs," said Hilland. "I want the Soldiers to have a positive experience at their first duty station. I don't want them to think Fort Hood is about guarding gates and pulling weeds."
"I have been here at Fort Hood for three weeks and most of my time has been in the field," said Pvt. Julio Sandoval, combat engineer.
Bravo Company will continue to train; in the coming weeks they will also be serving as engineer liaisons to 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Battalion, while they support Exportable Combat Training Capability, in an oppositional force role during the exercise.
XCTC is a large-scale training event happening here where over 6,000 Active Duty and Texas Army National Guard Soldiers from the 56th Infantry Brigade and the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and multiple support agencies are training together.