FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - Members of the 251st Engineer Company,
Maine Army National Guard in Norway, Maine, are no strangers to
explosive situations. As combat engineers, also known as sappers,
soldiers of the unit specialize in working under fire and in
In preparation for a deployment to
Afghanistan in the fall, the sappers are training to be even more
effective in a hostile environment through the Route Reconnaissance
Clearance Course, or R2C2, offered by the Counter Explosive Hazard
Center at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Spc. Cedric Collins from New Vineyard, Maine, a member of the 251st
Engineer Company, Maine Army National Guard in Norway, provides
security for a route clearance mission on a simulator during
training at the Counter Explosive Hazards Center, Fort Leonard Wood,
Mo. March 21, 2013. Attending the Route Reconnaissance Clearance
Course, 67 Maine soldiers have been learning how to operate all the
vehicles used to scan for IEDs, and how to neutralize them. The
251st is training in preparation for a deployment to Afghanistan in
the fall. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Adam J. Simmler, 121st Public
Affairs Detachment, MEARNG)
While in R2C2, the sappers are taught the many critical
tasks involved in ensuring that roads traveled everyday are
safe for conveys carrying much-needed supplies and
personnel, as well as civilian vehicles.
intense from a training perspective, said Mark Miner, the
training supervisor and R2C2 course manager. “We conduct
operators training where they're getting into a vehicle and
operating it by themselves, we have no brake on our side to
stop them if they have an accident, so there's always a
chance of something happening.”
During R2C2, students
train on the top hand-held mine detection platforms, in
order learn the most effective techniques to search for
explosives. They are instructed on a number of robotics
platforms, from hand-launched drones for reconnaissance, to
remote controlled mine-clearing robots, such as the TALON
bomb disposal unit. Some soldiers also train to operate the
vehicles used in a route clearance package, The RG-31,
Husky, and the Buffalo, dubbed by many troops as the
“Cadillac” of the three trucks.
training, the equipment we've had to use has been top notch,
and the scenarios have been very realistic, said Staff Sgt.
Dennis Troxell, a squad leader from Waterville, Maine.
“We're picking up more information and utilizing it and
Miner, who has managed the course since
it's beginning in 2005, said that roughly 39,000 students
from all branches of United States military have studied at
the CEHC, with approximately 60 percent taking R2C2 over the
last eight years.
“They've actually been one of the
best courses that I've had while I've been here,” Said
Miner. “They are very attentive, very disciplined and really
care about what they're doing, paying attention to what they
need to do to survive in a combat situation while doing
“The instructors have been great,”
commented Pfc. Calahan McCue from Denmark, Maine. "They're
really willing to teach and help us, and stay late if we
need more time to understand the material."
offered by the instructors, and the motivation of the
soldiers to learn was demonstrated at the end of the first
week; every one of the 67 Maine sappers received a passing
grade on their written test.
During the final week,
students from the 251st are placed in a virtual route
clearance simulator, to put into action all the lessons they
have been learning over the duration of the course.
Throughout the simulation, sappers are tasked with scanning
for, and clearing all roadside bombs they find along a
designated route. Students use realistic vehicle and
equipment controls, and simulated weapons to neutralize
explosives and if necessary, fight off virtual enemies.
“I think [the training] is very important,” said Joe
Clarke, training facilitator for the simulation program.
“it's training soldiers to go do things that will save not
only their lives, but also other coalition forces lives.”
After completing the The two-week course, the sappers
will return to Maine, where they will be able to teach
soldiers from the rest of their unit all the important
skills they learned while here.
The role that we
play, teaching the route clearance course, is crucial, said
Miner. “The biggest killer that we have in-country is IEDs,
so teaching them to operate the equipment to the best of
their ability, to the best of our teaching ability, and to
the maximum capability of the equipment is very important,
and it is saving lives.”
Troxell stated that “The
biggest motivation is to train these younger soldiers, and
make them proficient so that we can get in country, do our
mission, and come home.”
“We really appreciate not
only what they do, but the attitude they have to do it,”
said Miner. “And we wish them the best of luck on their
mission in Afghanistan.”
By U.S. Army Spc. Adam J. Simmler
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