By Scott PraterSeptember 21, 2018
FORT CARSON, Colo. - Donned in full combat kit, Soldiers sprinted off a starting line and leapt over a double hurdle before diving into a low-crawl station at Range 30 Sept. 13, 2018. Shouting at the top of their lungs, they stabbed tires and slashed dummy targets before carefully crossing a narrow foot bridge en route to their next challenge station.
Thankfully, range control staff had the field grass mowed a few days prior, otherwise, Soldiers with Company A, 52nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, would have sprinted through knee-high weeds as they took their first swings at rusty, squealing targets.
"As far as we know, this is the first time Soldiers have challenged the Bayonet Assault Course (BAC) at Fort Carson in many years," said Capt. Will Kirschenman, commander, Company A, 52nd BEB, 2nd IBCT. "I know I haven't been on a bayonet assault course since basic training and for most of our Soldiers, this is the first time they've even seen one."
Inspired by their battalion commander, Kirschenman and his company's senior leaders decided to give the Soldiers an opportunity to try something new. These are combat engineers, after all, so they're mostly focused on a Sapper company mission - mobility, counter mobility and survivability tasks.
"Basically, we had these bayonets collecting dust in our arms room," Kirschenman said. "Our battalion commander is fond of the saying 'bayonets and bellies,' and as a response to that we thought it would be a great idea to get some close-quarters combat training in. Sgt. 1st Class Herman Thola, (52nd BEB), worked with Fort Carson Range Control staff to reopen the dormant (BAC) range, and from there, all that was left was training for it."
1st Lt. Wakana Pasterczyk, range OIC, Company A, 52nd BEB, 2nd IBCT, said officers and senior NCOs first certified on bayonet tactics before passing on the specific tactics and movements to their platoons. A week of training culminated with a short session at the range, before more than 80 combat engineers lined up at the course's starting wall.
With the .2-mile course laid out in a U-shape, the engineers challenged 10 separate obstacles, including hanging-tire targets, barbed-wire-framed low-crawling cages, balance beams, mud pits and hurdles.
Most attacked the course with reckless abandon. Meanwhile, platoon sergeants shouted, "move faster" and "crawl lower."
"We've been fired up to do this for a while now," said Pfc. Logan Spann, combat engineer, Company A, 52nd BEB, 2nd IBCT. "It was fun to get some aggression out."
At first, the engineers sprinted through the challenge stations. Most had slowed by the midway point, however, and many stumbled across the finish line, out of breath.
"Exhilarating, but exhausting, is how I would describe it," said Spc. Cassanda Capello, Company A, 52nd BEB, 2nd IBCT.
The company ran through the course three times, once in just uniforms, once with a weapon, and a final time with full kit, weapon and bayonet attached.
"It was hard to get through that wire-framed low crawl obstacle, too," said Pfc. Logan Spann, Company A, 52nd BEB, 2nd IBCT. "It seemed like everything got caught on the ground ... or the frame. You had one arm out, pulling yourself, and there's no room to move your legs, so you're kind of pushing with your feet. But you had to keep your weapon muzzle out of the mud and keep dirt out of your eyes, and you always had to be conscious of where that bayonet was."
Company leaders capped the event with a platoon competition, when each platoon selected a few Soldiers to represent them, then those Soldiers attacked the course again in full kit.
"Even though we're combat engineers, at the end of the day, we're Soldiers," Spann said. "This training helps our lethality. We work closely with infantry units and it's helpful to know infantry tactics. I'm not alone when I say I hope we get to do this again."