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Engineers get their own.

IT'S not unusual to see an engineer element accompany an infantry element on a mission. It's evident in the mountains of Afghanistan, for example, where engineers clear land mines and destroy weapons caches.

Now, the 18th Engineer Company of the Fort Lewis, Wash.-based 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, is working to improve the engineers' ability to support the infantry mission. The first step toward that objective was for the engineers to trade in their old tactical vehicles for new Stryker engineer squad vehicles.

"This has made it so much easier to keep up with the infantry," said 1LT Christopher Evans, an 18th Engr. Co. platoon leader. "This puts us right in the fight. Without the ESV the brigade wouldn't be able to use us."

Evans said that the ESV, one of eight proposed Stryker variants, has the same power as the Stryker infantry carrier vehicle, making it easier for engineers to negotiate rough terrain. The unit's older vehicle made keeping up with the infantry a challenge.

"That hindered the mission," said SSG Clifford Beattie, a 3rd Bde. rifle-squad leader. "They couldn't see through the dust. But now, they can negotiate the same terrain we can."

Aside from power, the ESV shares other similarities with its Stryker brethren. Like other Strykers, it's equipped with two Javelin missiles and a .50-caliber remote weapon station that allows the gunner to fire from inside the vehicle. It also comes equipped with a video camera, allowing the driver to see what's going on outside the vehicle. Additionally, the squad leader has a touch-screen display that allows him to see what both the gunner and driver see.

"I think this was built by a driver, for a driver," said SPC Tim Walterscheid, a gunner with 2nd Platoon. "Three people can essentially do a mission."

The ESV also makes it easier to fire the unit's main tool, the Mine Clearing Line Charge. This device contains nearly 2,000 pounds of C4 explosive, which is shot out 100 yards ahead of the vehicle to clear a 14-meter-wide area of mines. Once the MCLC is fired, an ESV with an attached mine plow goes through the area, making sure all mines are cleared. Soldiers follow, placing lane markers to identify cleared routes so the ICVs can pass safely.

The 18th Eng. Co., along with the rest of 3rd Bde., trained at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in preparation for the brigade's certification exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. The NTC training marked the first time the entire brigade deployed for a field training exercise. While this may seem like a large demand for a company that only received its Strykers six weeks before arriving at NTC, Evans said his unit has handled the pressure well.

"It actually increases the excitement, because the guys got to use the tools they've only been told about," he said. "We've trained continuously for 20 days." Learning the system was a lot like driving a car. "There are a lot more buttons," he said. "But the instructors were good, and they were patient about explaining how the buttons worked. They took the time to make sure the gunner knew the procedure."

SPC Tim Walterscheid, a gunner with the 18th Engineer Company, checks the Remote Weapons Station screen in the Engineer Squad Vehicle. The 18th Engr. Co. is the first engineer unit in the Army to use the ESV.

A Stryker ESV with attached mine plow breaches an area cleared with the Mine Clearing Line Charge.

(Right) A Mine Clearing Line Charge is launched from the rear of a Stryker ESV in the "Box" at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin. Calif. The detonation of the charges causes buried mines to explode.

(Far right) A cloud of smoke billows from the impact point of the MCLC. The detonation of the line charge causes buried mines to explode, thus creating a clear lane for vehicles and personnel to pass through.

The 29th Signal Battalion set up antennas throughout its perimeter at the National Training Center. The battalion is part of a new digital bridge concept developed in conjunction with the Stryker Brigade Combat team.

SSG Rhonda M. Lawson and SPC Alfredo Jimenez Jr. are assigned to the 28th Public Affairs Detachment at Fort Lewis, Wash.
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Title Annotation:Stryker Update
Author:Lawson, Rhonda M.
Publication:Soldiers Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2003
Words:718
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