Here comes the boom: Engineers train for battlefield demolitions Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 May 2013
As Staff Sgt. Robert Overstreet watches, Pfc. Collin Finnigan prepares an M81 detonator for a cratering charge during a demolitions range May 16.
Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Heather Denby
Special to GUIDON

More than 120 blocks of C4 explosives were detonated May 16 during demolitions training here conducted by the 515th Engineer Company, 5th Engineer “Fighter” Battalion.

“Just like each Soldier is required to qualify with his weapon and take a PT test, combat engineers have to certify on basic demo tasks,” said Sgt. Anthony Bollin, a combat engineer and squad leader assigned to the 515th Engr. Co.

During the training, Soldiers prepared Directional Fragmentation Charge for four types of demolition: confidence, shaping, cratering and exploratory charge.

“The first charge is the confidence charge, which consists of a block of C4 that is molded around knotted detonation cord and then wired for priming,” said Pfc. Collin Finnigan, a combat engineer assigned to the 515th Engr. Co. “It’s probably the most common type of charge used because it’s simple and effective.”

The confidence charge contains the same components as the exploratory charge, which provides engineers with the ability to create a controlled explosion to minimize damage in densely populated areas, Finnigan said.

A cratering charge creates the opposite effect. The cratering charge is placed in the ground and then detonated creating a funnel-shaped hole also known as a crater.

The cratering charge must be positioned below the surface requiring someone to dig down to a specific depth or to place a shaping charge, which causes a concentrated, directional blast and provides room for any additional charges needed.

During the company’s deployment to Afghanistan in 2011, the Soldiers were able to use these charges to prevent the placement of a covert Improvised Explosive Device by hostile forces.

“We were conducting a dismounted patrol when my team discovered a tunnel system that was dug from a remote urban location to directly beneath the main roadway,” said Spc. Matthew Scheib, 515th Engr. Co. combat engineer. “We used the shape and crater charges to collapse the tunnel.”

“Normally, there are some sort of wires that can be detected when an IED is placed on the roadway, but this tunnel could have prevented its detection,” Scheib said.

Demolition operations are a mission essential task for combat engineers, along with survivability construction, mobility and engineering operations.

Capt. Ricky Brown, 515th Engr. Co. commander, said the location of his unit and this training are ideal for Forces Command engineers.

“The Soldiers within the unit are able to attend several specialized engineering courses like Sapper and (Explosive Ordinance Clearance Agent) because we are right here at the home of the Engineer Corps,” Brown said. “These courses and range training are what make engineer Soldiers tactically and technically proficient in their field.”

Brown said his unit plans to build upon the training during their rotation to the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., next month.

(Editor’s note: Denby is a photojournalist assigned to the 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.)

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 12 June 2013 )