Story and photo by Sgt. Logan Thomas
Soldiers from the 5th Engineer Battalion’s Forward Support Company braved freezing temperatures to conduct vehicle recovery and casualty care training Feb. 18.
According to 1st Lt. Ethan Carmack, FSC maintenance control officer, the training centered on key aspects of their logistical support mission.
“We pretty much support all the companies in the battalion in all forms of maintenance, distribution and repairs,” Carmack said. “(Feb. 18) we were training on vehicle recovery and casualty evacuation — something we might do in garrison or on a deployment.”
The day began with a review of their mission, followed by their first challenge — casualty care after a simulated strike from an improvised explosive device.
“IEDs are something the Army has dealt with since its inception,” Carmack said. “They’re designed to disable vehicles and create casualties. We have to be able to conduct proper care for those casualties and recover the damaged vehicles.”
At the training site, a role-player laid near a vehicle representing a wounded Soldier in need of help.
“Our Soldiers attend a week-long combat lifesaver class,” said Sgt. Tyler Koppes, squad leader. “It’s important the Soldiers practice what they learn because it’s a perishable skill and things change constantly. People’s lives are in our hands.”
The combat lifesaver teams practiced caring for and evacuating the simulated injured Soldiers, then worked to recover the vehicle, a disabled armored personnel carrier.
Resembling a small tank, the APC features tracks instead of wheels. The FSC had to use specific equipment to tow the carrier away.
“To recover tracked vehicles, we use the M88,” said Sgt. Dalton Orvis, recovery operations specialist. “It’s a medium tracked vehicle recovery vehicle — it’s pretty much a tracked crane. The chassis is based off of the M60 tank.”
According to Orvis, the M88 is one of the largest recovery vehicles used by the Army. Capable of recovering tracked vehicles from almost any situation, including vehicles that are flipped over or mired in mud or snow.
While at the training site, Soldiers also practiced recovering wheeled vehicles using a wrecker.
“We have to be ready for any situation,” said Sgt. Lucas Denio, recovery operations specialist and wrecker operator. “The wrecker recovers wheeled vehicles — it has a crane and winch on it, and it has the stinger on the back that is used to lift a vehicle up and tow it. It’s a pretty handy piece of equipment.”
According to Spc. Devin Henry, recovery operations specialist, the skills they practiced were initially learned in a two-week course colloquially named H8 — or Hotel 8 — because of the Additional Skill Identifier it grants to Soldiers who complete it.
“H8 is basically a school for Soldiers to learn vehicle recovery operations,” Henry said. “You learn multiple ways to tow a vehicle — rigging techniques. There is a lot of math involved with it.”
“You come out of H8 school capable of recovering any downed piece of equipment,” Orvis added.
According to Orvis and Henry, the school is essential for a mechanic’s career development.
“All said and done, we put together this training event today, but it’s the hard work of our Soldiers and non-commissioned officers that make our mission a success day in and day out,” Carmack said.
According to Carmack, the training they conducted was in preparation for a larger training event scheduled for the summer.
“We will be out there supporting four other companies,” Carmack said. “It’ll be a major event and we will be there to recover any vehicles that need to be recovered and to provide maintenance so (the other companies) can keep training.”