By Scott Flenner, 225th Eng. Bde. PAO, MND-BApril 20, 2009
BAGHDAD - Just like Johnny 5 in the 1986 movie "Short Circuit," 17th Iraqi Army Engineer Regiment Soldiers had the opportunity to train on a robot designed to help Soldiers 'stay alive' April 16 during a course taught by Soldiers from the 515th Sapper Company, 5th Engineer Battalion, attached to the 225th Eng. Brigade at Joint Security Station Deason, located in southern Baghdad.
"You can replace a robot," said course instructor Staff Sgt. Shaun Williamson of Kansas City, Mo, 515th Sapper Co. "You can't replace a person."
During route clearance operations, combat engineers like San Antonio native, Pfc. Matthew Foote, also of the the 515th Sapper Co., and Williamson rely heavily on advanced technology and specialized training to effectively conduct their dangerous mission: the hunting down of hostile explosive devices.
The Talon Robot, reminiscent of Johnny Five, and the 20-foot ferret arm of the Husky route clearance vehicle are just two of the technological advances that are aiding on today's battlefield.
Foot and Williamson passed on their experience and knowledge to a class of 13 IA students. It is an effort to put the IA in the driver seat to ensure that the roads of Iraq will be safe for years to come.
Foote said the Husky is a vehicle mounted mine detector that is equipped with a ferret arm that extends from the front of the vehicle and is used to examine possible explosive ordinance. The Talon robot is an unmanned remotely controlled robot that is also used to examine possible threats in hard to reach areas.
The students took turns maneuvering the ferret arm of the husky through a pile of rubble trying to uncover previously placed dummy munitions while Foote stood by offering suggestions.
"They did very well and caught on very quickly," said Foote. "They were very receptive, they wanted to learn. They did an outstanding job overall."
After the students finished maneuvering the ferret arm, Williamson taught the complicated operation of the Talon robot. Since it is so difficult to operate, the Iraqi engineer students had many questions, but Williamson did not mind.
"I like questions, the more questions you (Iraqi students) ask, the more fun my day is," said Williamson. "I am here to answer your questions and make sure you understand this piece of equipment."
Understand they did.
Within minutes of taking the helm behind the controller box, the students were able to drive the Talon robot down to a pile of rocks, gently pick up a bottle and return it to Williamson with ease.
"Today's training was very good, and I appreciate this opportunity. I look forward to more training in the future," said one of the Iraqi Army engineer students.