A common threat for Soldiers deploying to Afghanistan is that of improvised explosive devices. IEDs, as they are called, account for a large percentage of coalition deaths each year. Soldiers assigned to Fort Bragg are no exception, but efforts to combat that threat are underway.
Soldiers of the 27th Engineer Battalion recently participated in training that included the use of robots to help minimize the threat of IED. According to unit members, the training is a valuable skill to possess, prior to its scheduled deployment later this year.
“We’re doing some clearance operations for our platoon before it forward deploys in mid-July and this is our first hands-on (session) with the Talon robot and getting to know how it works in this environment,” explained 2nd Lt. William Enicks, 1st Platoon, 264th Clearance Company, 27th Engineer Battalion. “So far, it’s been pretty successful.”
Enicks explained that the training is geared so that one member of the platoon is fully qualified to operate the robot and other members received minimal training. One of their responsibilities includes integrating the Talon into the platoon’s normal route clearance operations.
He added that the goal is for the Soldiers who have experience with the robot to train other members of the platoon with various scenarios.
He explained the platoon’s operation for that day’s training.
“If we think there’s an IED, we would stop, get everybody into the vehicle and bring out the bot so that it can check it out. It’s a good tool to have. It helps us out a lot,” said Enicks. “We really appreciated what the instructors do for us is providing this type of training,” he said.
“This is one of the best training lanes I’ve been on. It’s very realistic,” said Sgt. Kwinten Timberman. “It’s very realistic. It’s hard to find IEDS just like in real combat.”
Timberman said the unit is deploying with all of its assets during the summer, including the Gizmo, the Talon IV and the PSS114 minesweeper. He said he likes that his unit is using the robots during route clearance.
“We’ve had some success. We found all of the IEDs so far. It takes some time to find them, it includes a lot of digging, a lot of searching. It’s tedious and a lot of work, but as long as you’re patient, you will find them all,” said Timberman, who’s also assigned to 1st Platoon, 264th Clearance Company.
He said having the Talon IV is a big advantage for his unit and it should provide valuable assistance during their deployment missions.
“It definitely saves lives. That’s the biggest help you can get and we have more possibilities of taking out the IEDs before they’re actually set off,” said Timberman.
In the unit’s 3rd Platoon, which is lead by 1st Lt. Benjamin Scott, the mission was a little different as technical problems did not allow his platoon to use its assigned robot.
“We were doing route clearance training, going over react to strike, looking for other things than just using the metal detectors to find IEDs, we were also looking for disturbed dirt and just trying to prepare our eyes before we go downrange,” he explained.
Scott said despite not having the robot, his platoon was still successful in finding all of the IEDS.
“We actually didn’t take out the bot, but when we did our mission, we actually had two personnel up front with the PSS 114 minesweepers and then two people behind to probe anything they might have marked. We were pretty successful in finding all the IEDs,” said Scott.