New York Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to Bravo Company, 152nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, conduct demolition training July 15 at Fort Drum, New York. During the training the Soldiers prepped and detonated Bangalore torpedoes while honing their combat engineer skills. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alexander Rector / New York National Guard)
New York National Guard combat engineers practice using explosive skills at Fort Drum
Sgt. Alexander Rector
New York National Guard
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (July 22, 2020) – Fresh from duty assisting New York in tackling COVID-19, New York Army National Guard combat engineers hit the ranges at Fort Drum to practice clearing the battlefield of any other obstacles that stand in their way.
Thirty-nine Soldiers from two platoons of Bravo Company, 152nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, spent their time at the demolition range as part of their annual training, honing their skills with things that blow up.
Many of the unit Soldiers had already met the annual training requirement by serving as part of New York’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 152nd is the combat engineer brigade for the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
At the range, the engineers trained on the safe preparation and deployment of C4, Bangalore torpedoes, and cratering charges.
Bangalore torpedoes consist of an explosive charge in a tube that is pushed under an obstacle like concertina wire to destroy it.
C4, the type of plastic explosive used by engineers, is deployed to remove obstacles and structures, while cratering charges blow holes roads or runways to impede the enemy.
Combat engineers have one of the most rigorous jobs in the U.S. Army. During war they are tasked with breaching trenches, clearing obstacles, and constructing fortifications to slow the enemy's advance, said Sgt. Kieth Vosburg, a squad leader assigned to Bravo Company, 152nd Brigade Engineer Battalion.
“It's why I come out here, to train for something like that,” said Pfc. Tiger London. “So if we find ourselves in a combat situation we'll be prepared and know what to do.”
While training at the range, the Soldiers were also able to conduct hands-on familiarization with the unit's TALON remotely operated tracked robot.
Commonly used by military and civilian explosive ordnance disposal units, the TALON is a man-portable robot that can be used to identify and eliminate explosive threats while keeping Soldiers out of harm’s way.
“We use the TALON to inspect and identify unknown explosives,” Vosburg said. “If we come across an IED (improvised explosive device), we can use the TALON to place a charge next to it. That way we can detonate the IED without having to send someone downrange.”
Vosburg has been an engineer for the eight years of his Army career. But most of that time was as a “horizontal” engineer, building roads and runways.
He switched over to the combat side of engineering, becoming the leader of, to further his career, Vosburg said. Now he’s leading seven engineer Soldiers, often known as “Sappers,” who specialize in blowing things up.
U.S. Army combat engineers are often called 12 Bravos, in reference to the alphanumeric designation that is used to identify a Soldier's military occupational specialty.
'My favorite thing about being on the 12 Bravo side would definitely be the explosives,” Vosburg explained. “So far, it's been great. Everyone wants to be hands on, they want to learn what to do, they want to pull the pins and blow stuff up.”
Aside from blowing stuff up, the Soldiers spent time at the small-arms range, where they were able to hone their marksmanship skills on both the M4 rifle and M9 pistol.
As a squad leader, Vosburg is tasked with the important job of training and mentoring the junior combat engineers in his squad.
“Eventually they're going to be sitting where I'm sitting and they're going to have to teach other guys,” Vosburg said.
“It’s important for them to sit down, listen to the training, and hone those skills because one day they're going to be teaching somebody.
“They're going to have to help other people succeed whether in their squad or outside of their squad. They're going to help the unit readiness as a whole,” he added.
“We're like one big family,” London said. “We just get the job done.”
“I came out of training a year ago,” London said. “The signing bonus was great for this job, and it sounded awesome so I was like ‘let’s do it.’ If you haven't joined yet, I highly suggest joining."