GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- In the woods, Soldiers move slowly together in a line, using thin branches to expose hazards hidden in the underbrush. They come across barely visible trip wires and small explosive devices that they must disarm.
This scenario was part of a joint training exercise conducted June 6 - 8 at Camp Aachen, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, between U.S. U.S. and German combat engineers and explosive ordinance detection specialists.
The U.S. Soldiers, who are assigned to Bravo Troop, Regimental Engineer Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, and the German soldiers, attached to 3rd Company, 4th Panzer Pioneer Battalion, 15th Panzer Brigade, took part in explosive hazards search, detection, identification, and defeat training in order to gain proficiency on explosive hazard clearing operations.
First lieutenant Colby Stitt, platoon leader, Bravo Troop, met the Soldiers from the German 3rd Company while participating in EURETEX 16, an international engineering exercise that took place in France in 2016. Since then, he hoped for another opportunity to meet with the German unit for more specific training, which lead to the recent cooperation on explosive hazard clearing.
"One of our new Key Collective Tasks is explosive hazard reduction and identification, so we figured this would be a good opportunity to train with them," Stitt said. "We have more experience on the tactical side and they have more on the explosive/hazard side."
The training included building and area search scenarios in which the Soldiers were given a set of circumstances and required to devise a plan on how to proceed.
In the building scenario, Soldiers had to send in a small team to conduct a thorough search indoors while watching out for hazard material. They looked in every conceivable place where actionable intelligence could be hidden, including ceilings, vents and under carpets. If people were inside the building, they were searched and interrogated.
The Soldiers learned how to process the evidence they found by photographing, bagging, and recording their findings.
Capt. Tom Brandt, commander for the German 3rd Company, said his Soldiers benefited from this type of training.
"We are really good with explosive ordinance detection; working on the improvised explosive device and conducting searches," Brandt said. "But we have not had much training on the exploitation of the (evidence)."
Stitt added that the joint training was an opportune chance for the two units to share their tactics, techniques and procedures, and to build a better understanding of each other.
"I have about eight new guys out here and they have never done joint training before," Stitt said. "They can work on their mission essential tasks as well as their interpersonal skills and (military) force integration."
"We learned a lot," Brandt agreed. "We are looking forward to doing it more often in the future."