OCEAN CITY, Md. On a brisk Fall day, all seemed routine on the Ocean City Boardwalk and beach.
But this was no ordinary day. Steps away from the Boardwalk, Maryland National Guard Soldiers, as well as Ocean City emergency responders, were hard at work dealing with a series of notational emergency scenarios. In the afternoon, the Soldiers were carefully searching and digging in the sand, but not for the normal seashells or hidden treasures left behind.
Soldiers from the 253rd Engineer Company work to identify the locations of simulated mines on the beach, during a domestic emergency response exercise at Ocean City, Maryland on Nov. 3, 2018. The demining training was one of the many dynamic, high intensity training scenarios that occurred on and around the beach including decontamination, active shooter, and civil disturbance.
Sgt. Steven Vermont, a communications chief with the 253rd Engineer Co., said that this training is important because they need to be able to go in there and sweep out areas, so that others can come in and be safe.
In this scenario the Ocean City Police called on the Maryland National Guard to help locate suspicious objects that were placed on the beach. The Soldiers in the 253rd Engineer Co. had to locate simulated mines buried in the sand.
"When you have good units going through here, like the 253rd, a lot of the times they'll do their internal checks," said Capt. Adam Dulling, who was in-charge of the demining exercise. "I might see someone doing something incorrectly, but before I can correct them, their immediate supervisor is already there doing it."
The thorough search had Soldiers walking in a straight line, scanning five-feet side to side listening for the signal of a possible ordnance with a metal detector hooked up to a headset the Soldier wears. When they heard anything in their headsets, they would mark a small area, and then signal to the rest of the group that something was detected. Each Soldier stopped where they were, and a careful exchange of positions occurred. A different Soldier, standing behind the detector would come up and switch positions, so that they could start their careful work.
Checking the sand with a probe and digging slowly with a two-finger technique, in a clover formation, the Soldier works to figure out what was found. Sometimes the Soldier found nothing, and sometimes they found the simulated ordnance, then the Soldier would identify and mark it. Either way, they would have to get back up and continue the search until the area was clear.
"It's great doing this on the beach for demining," said Vermont. "It looks like they did a good job smoothing over the beach so it's not really obvious where they have hidden it."
These types of exercises allow Soldiers to use their skills not only in a live training area, as well as a more urban environment then they usually do, said Dulling. These types of exercises remind Soldiers that the techniques and information they learn in their advanced individual training isn't something that they can forget, even if they don't use it on a daily basis.
"Coming out here and getting the hands on experience, there's nothing better than that," said Dulling.