By 1st Lt. Kyle Suchomski, 95th Engineer Company (Clearance), 65th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment CommandJune 25, 2012
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan (June 17, 2012) -- Sgt. Christopher Weiss watches as his squad carefully attaches an explosive charge to a mocked-up door. "Alright," he says. "That looks good. Let's make it happen." As if on cue, the two teams of Soldiers move back to take cover behind plywood barriers. Moments later they echo, 'Fire in the hole!' With a loud explosion, the silhouette charge detonates and sends wood splinters into the air, leaving a perfect hole for the breach.
For the Soldiers of the 95th Engineer Company, 65th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, working with explosives is simply another day on the job in Afghanistan.
Explosives are an important part of a combat engineer's arsenal. Whether conducting route clearance or breaching an obstacle, Sappers must be confident with many types of demolitions. As the preeminent route clearance experts in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, the 95th Eng. Co. has developed a bittersweet relationship with explosives.
Although the charges in an improvised explosive device usually consist of homemade materials, they are no less of a threat, and by understanding how explosive systems function, the unit can work more safely to eliminate IEDs.
"As route clearance Sappers, our Soldiers are well-accustomed to explosions, controlled or otherwise," said 1st Lt. Wade Robertson, platoon leader. "Demolitions are our primary means of safely neutralizing IEDs, so it's important that every Soldier maintains a high level of familiarity with all of the assets in our inventory."
They have been working to sharpen their skills with an assortment of explosive charges, each designed for a specific task. The Soldiers have learned to construct specialized charges that can be emplaced with the Talon robot to detonate an IED from a distance. They use detonation cord to create ribbon, donut, and water-impulse charges, which can be hastily employed to cut through a wall or door.
"Working with explosives is one of those things that is not only good to know, but is also really cool to do," remarked Spc. Roy Adams during one of the company's recent demolitions ranges. "There's nothing like feeling that blast pressure in your chest."
Over the past several months, the unit has been consumed by the high operational tempo associated with conducting route clearance missions.
"Demolitions ranges are a chance to blow something up," said Staff Sgt. Aumoana Sailo, 4th Platoon sergeant. "It's a really good way for us to let off some steam between missions."
In garrison, Sappers rarely get the opportunity to experience the full potential of explosives, said Sgt. 1st Class Paul Tuimivave, the 95th Eng. Co.'s Operations NCOIC.
"Due to range restrictions on Schofield Barracks, our ability to run the scope of demolitions training we'd like is pretty limited," he said. "There just aren't many size or quantity restrictions on demolition out here."
If the resounding cheers and wide smiles on Soldiers' faces are any indication, the 95th Eng. Co. will continue to have a blast until returning to Schofield Barracks this summer.