FORT DRUM, New York -- "Muzzle placement, weapon at 45 degree angle, weapon on fire, head tilt," said U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Justin Carman a second before there was a loud boom at the Ballistic Breaching Range here Aug. 9, 2017.
Carman had just mentored one of his Soldiers from the 420th Engineer Company, 458th Engineer Battalion, 411th Engineer Brigade, 412th Theater Engineer Command, based in Indiana, Pennsylvania, how to breach an obstacle in-a four-man stack using the M26 Modular Accessory Shotgun System 12-guage shotgun. The obstacle was a plywood door attached to a concrete entry way. A wooden block nailed on the edge of the door and centered was the "doorknob."
This company was among 10 units of America's Army Reserve Soldiers training in the 478th Engineer Battalion's Extended Combat Training (ECT) at the fort from Aug. 5-19. ECTs like this ensure U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers like these numbering more than 400 become the most capable, combat-ready, and lethal federal reserve force in the history of the Nation.
Carman said this training went well.
"For many of the Soldiers it was an opportunity to do more than just fire the new weapons system," said Carman. "They got practical hands on training."
Pfc. Jason Beckley, a combat engineer and groundskeeper at a golf course in Montgomery, Penn., agreed that it was good hands on training.
"It is definitely something you should do if you're a 12B (Combat Engineer)," said Beckley.
A fellow combat engineer, Spc. Joshua Harshman remarked this type of training is "what he signed up for."
"This is the best [U.S. Army] Reserve unit I've ever been in," said the drill pipe inspector from Morgantown, West Virginia.
Carman noted that his Soldiers learned how important shot placement is despite the plywood doors.
"They liked and enjoyed the fact that everyone got to make more than one or two attempts at breaching as well," he said.
This training wasn't the only training that any U.S. Army Reserve Soldier would enjoy. The company had already expended more than 3,000, M2 .50-caliber machine gun rounds and coordinated with the Active Army 10th Mountain Division's 7th Engineer Brigade on a breaching with demolitions lane.
"Our company's biggest push was firing our weapons systems," said Carman.
He pointed out that by the end of the ECT, more than 70,000 rounds were fired from the M2, M240B Machine Gun, MK 19 40-millimeter grenade launcher and M16A2-rifle. The ranges varied from qualification to reflexive fire and known distance.
Capt. Dan Gusich, company commander, pointed out that his company was in an offensive training strategy of a three-year training cycle.
"We are going back to all of the basics for a route clearing company," he said. "(The training) ties in with one of the Mission Essential Tasks approved for this training year.
"We will be significantly more ready by going through this lane and all the other ranges we have set up for this ECT," continued Gusich.
He described this individual training as "the walk phase."
Squad and platoon movements are the run phase, said Gusich.
He explained that next year, his company will train on defensive tasks. The following year, he will lead his company into route clearance training techniques which will include vehicle training.
"Typically when you are doing clearance now, 50 percent of your patrol is dismounted," noted Gusich. "So they really need be able to refit and reorganize as infantry."
And at the same time, become a lethal fighting force.