By Spc. Samantha J. Whitehead
105th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Two platoons of combat engineers spent April 7 atop a hill at a demolition range at Fort Riley, reading exacting step-by-step instructions out of training manuals and setting up thousands of pounds of equipment, all in preparation for one short radio message: “Fire in the hole!”
Soldiers assigned to the Kansas National Guard’s 772nd Engineer Mobility Augmentation Company, 891st Engineer Battalion, were training with two inert Mine Clearing Line Charges made of more than 1,500 pounds of simulated C-4 designed to clear a 100-meter lane of mines and other obstacles.
“The purpose of this training is to increase our readiness level by actually deploying the MICLICs,” said Capt. Theresa Schumer, commander of the 772nd. “We’re a MAC unit; our job is to conduct breaching and demolitions, and to clear obstacles for other units to be able to move forward to their objectives.”
The unit trained with and detonated live MICLIC systems at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, in May of last year. This year’s training helped bring new Soldiers up to a proficient level with the system in preparation for another NTC rotation in 2019, said Schumer.
“My goal is to ensure Soldiers receive this training in order to improve their skills related to the MICLIC,” said Schumer. “It’s a perishable skill and we’re constantly getting new Soldiers within the unit. They need to have an understanding of how this system works in order to enable other units in the future.”
The charge is connected to a rocket and mounted on a trailer behind an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier. When the rocket launches, it takes with it the line charge of C-4, which is detonated on a time delay. The process of setting up and firing an MICLIC puts many essential combat engineer skills to the test. Schumer said demolitions are one of a combat engineer’s most essential tasks, but all of the training and testing prior to an explosion is just as important to their skillset.
Though many Soldiers were participating in the training for the first time, they were mentored by Soldiers who had trained last year with the unit at the NTC.
Spc. Austin Kosman, a combat engineer assigned to 2nd Platoon, saw this training as a good opportunity for new Soldiers and long-time unit members alike.
“This training is essential for the Soldiers who were with us when we went to NTC last year, too,” said Kosman. “Knowing we’re going to go back to NTC, it gives us more time to prepare our newer Soldiers. That way, when we get there, everyone’s familiar with the system and not jumping into it for the first time.”
One of the most time-consuming and difficult parts of the training is performing continuity testing: checks on the electrical system connecting the rockets to the line charges and to the personnel carrier.
“A lot can go wrong with this charge,” said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Pierson, a combat engineer assigned to 2nd Platoon. “But this type of training – the demolition and everything – that’s our bread and butter. Being able to train on the MICLIC and the experience that goes along with it adds a huge asset to our company and makes us that much more efficient and effective in the field.”
As the sun dropped in the sky after hours of training, setup, continuity and safety checks, the two platoons filed into their personnel carriers and prepared to drive to the firing line. Schumer looked on with pride.
“This is their element and this is where they shine,” she said.