Printer Friendly

Sappers Transformed.

During the annual ENFORCE conference at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, in May 2000, I listened to some of the Army's top leaders speak on the future of the Army and the Engineer Regiment. As I learned of the developments taking place within the Army and specifically the Regiment, I could not help but wonder at the monumental task this undertaking has become. Those of us who have stayed relatively informed of Army Transformation initiatives have feelings of excitement, intrigue, and skepticism. After all, with change comes an element of uncertainty and, as soldiers, we have an understandable reluctance about our mission if there is ambiguity lingering in the air. Nevertheless, the future is coming, and all of us will have a chance to play a role in its formation.

During ENFORCE 2000, the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Eric K. Shinseki, talked about the future fighting force of the Army as one yet to be defined but possessing several qualities. It must be responsive, deployable, agile, versatile, lethal, survivable, and sustainable to support our requirements for the full spectrum of conflict.[1] Consequently, the Initial Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs) are being task-organized to meet these requirements. But what exactly are these new brigade combat teams?

They are roughly defined as highly mobile, full-spectrum-trained, logistically sustainable, rapidly deployable forces whose strengths come from the exploitation of technology and speed. They aptly support General Shinseki's three rules of warfighting: (1) win on the offense, (2) initiate on our own terms, and (3) build momentum rapidly. [2] With the future operational landscape increasingly being small-scale contingencies, peacekeeping operations, and peace-enforcement operations on urban terrain, I--as well as others-- have concerns about engineers supporting mobility requirements for these IBCTs.

Sappers Forward

Ask any steely-eyed sapper what engineers do in the offense, and he'll tell you that we breach hard and fast Survival in the breach is a difficult prospect for sappers. Add in the complexities of an urban environment, and the bar is raised--which is why I believe that these selfless sons and daughters of America deserve the best training and the most technologically advanced equipment the Army can afford.

One area that is being improved is countermine training. Currently, we have engineers deployed in 73 countries around the world, and several of these soldiers are supervising, and conducting training on, humanitarian demining operations. In the former Yugoslavia, there are perhaps as many as 6 million mines littering the countryside, or roughly 15 mines for every square kilometer. (See article "Mine Threats in Mission Areas" in Engineer, February 2001, page 4.) The different types of mines number in the thousands. There are some unassuming mines out there that are cleverly disguised and employed in unorthodox manners. Our soldiers need to know this.

As a platoon leader in the 326th Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, my maneuver task force played opposing force (OPFOR) on one occasion for one of the infantry brigades. My platoon was responsible for countermobility operations in support of the OPFOR. Although I requested Class IV/V supplies, my platoon was left to fend for itself. So we gathered a miniscule amount of training mines and wire from our own stocks and set off to emplace some point obstacles along potential Blue Force (BLUEFOR) avenues of approach. To make a long story short--with a little sapper ingenuity, my poorly equipped OPFOR engineer platoon managed to stop a brigade maneuver element for several hours while its leaders figured out how to breach our obstacles.

How did we do it? We used whatever we could find. We created rubble obstacles with large rocks and fallen trees that we placed across roads and anchored with pickets and wire. And we threw in a few buried mines in the rubble for good measure. Unorthodox--yes; realistic--definitely.

Despite our success, the whole episode upset me--a brigade in the most powerful Army in the world was stopped by my unequipped sapper platoon. Needless to say, there were some lessons learned that day, but all I could think of was what might have happened if we had been properly equipped? And how would my platoon have fared if the shoe had been on the other foot? It was then that I wondered, Why aren't there OPFOR minefield/obstacle kits that we could use in tactical scenarios?

Granted, the sheer number of foreign mines would make it difficult, if not impractical, to reproduce training mines for all of them. But it would be helpful to be able to see, feel, emplace, and breach a VP-13 Seismic Mine Control System, a PMA-3, or an MRUD/PMA-2 booby trap. These are some of the numerous antipersonnel mine systems used in Bosnia and Kosovo where currently some 11,000 U.S. troops are deployed and rotating on a regular basis.

In humanitarian demining, we have the luxury of having time to be methodical and deliberate in order to reduce the risks to our soldiers to a tolerable level. This luxury, however, doesn't exist in countermine operations when you're taking fire and blowing down doors to clear hostile buildings in an urban environment.

Imagine going to the Training Support Center and drawing several large plastic boxes like the ones that hold Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES) equipment. You open the lid and there, separated neatly and encased in foam, are several of the most common types of foreign mines used in a specific geographic area. Upon further examination, you find that there are instructions with each type of mine system with a complete history of the mine, its employment, and how it's armed and disarmed. Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, you find out that you can actually arm the mines by emplacing a small explosive cap--similar to the cap guns that you played with as a kid. Now you have the ultimate foreign-mine training system. Soldiers will tell you that those mine-identification cards are helpful, but show him something similar to what I described, and those cards will become vivid reminders of the three-dimensional killers they are attempting to avoid or are seeking to destroy.

The above proposal addresses only one aspect of our mobility tasks and just scratches the surface of engineer Transformation issues. I only raise the countermine-training issue as an example because of its significance to the Engineer Regiment. There are equally important Transformation issues that apply to our other Battlefield Operating Systems. However, the fact remains that we're putting a heavy burden on the shoulders of our soldiers. So shouldn't we make it as easy as possible for them to learn and absorb information so they can truly become masters of their trade?

Soldiers Are the Bedrock

During ENFORCE 2000, then Maneuver Support Center (MANSCEN) Commander Major General Robert B. Flowers pointed out in his "State of the Engineer Regiment" presentation that one of the major characteristics of the Objective Force is versatility and that this is and will be a great leadership challenge. [3] At the same conference, TRADOC Commander General John N. Abrams explained, "As we push more power into the hands of fewer people in smaller organizations, the importance of each individual's contribution and effectiveness will remain." [4] My translation: Engineers get more technologically advanced equipment, are expected to know more, do more, and still get the job done.

Sure, we're going to have more complex scenarios, rules of engagement, operational environments, equipment, and--undoubtedly--more complex tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) and "asymmetric forces," and engineers will continue to be experts in their trade. But the truth is, this isn't just an engineer challenge. If history is any indication of things to come, soldiers Armywide will embrace the new challenges and, when the time comes, will step up to the plate and perform admirably as they have always done.

By the way, the time is now, and soldiers like those involved in engineer platform testing have been energetically participating in the transformation process. The technology being tested, if properly utilized and designed, should make our jobs easier. But just ask any computer user; it's a love-hate relationship, and it's likely to remain that way as we go through this process and work out the bugs.

The Directorate of Training Development (DOTD), the Directorate of Combat Developments (DCD), the Countermine Training Support Center (CTSC), and other agencies at Fort Leonard Wood are taking positive steps toward supporting the future engineer force. The Warrior Department of DOTD is laying down the foundation for a Master Breacher's Course, which is still early in development. The Countermine Capability Set (CMCS), Ground Standoff Minefield-Detection System (GSTAMIDS), Interim Vehicle-Mounted Mine Detector (IVMMD), Handheld Standoff Mine-Detection System (HSTAMIDS), and numerous other initiatives are big steps toward increasing our survivability and maintaining our mobility in our future operational environments. But as then Major General Flowers pointed out at ENFORCE 2000, "We are several years away from being able to neutralize every mine we come across." [5] That is assuming first that we are prudent, informed, and trained well enough to identify them beforehand.

In an article in the February 2001 issue of ARMY, Retired Brigadier General Huba Wass de Czege and Major Jacob D. Biever listed "guidelines for the Army's future Transformation." One of several key points in the article was that "Soldiers--not technology--are the key to continued superiority." [6] In TRADOC Pamphlet 525-5, Force XXI Operations, former TRADOC Commander General William W. Hartzog iterates the fluid nature of Army Transformation, "Change is so rapid, so pervasive, and so complex that the work of crafting the Army for the next century is now everyday work for us all." [7] The Army Vision ( states first and foremost that "The Army is People." The Engineer School ( Web site has a link, "One Voice," which documents top engineer priorities. In his article "One Regiment, One Fight" in the April 1999 issue of Engineer, now retired Lieutenant General Joe N. Ballard, then Chief of Engineers, wrote, "Without a dedicated effort at every level, unit y cannot be achieved. Ultimately, the future of the regiment is in your hands. We can continue working in our isolated cells and performing marginally, or we can realize the benefits of applying our collective power to the Regiment's problems." [8] The roles that soldiers play on a day-to-day basis are critical, and when those efforts are combined, the Army realizes its greatness.

Lend Me Your Ears

As a platoon trainer for the Engineer Officer Basic Course, I've mentored nearly 200 second lieutenants who I'm sure, are all doing great things for the U.S. Army and the Engineer Regiment. I hope that those of you who read this article will pay special attention. You are down where the rubber meets the road, and your combined input from the field is essential toward doctrinal and technological development. If you're not already playing some role in Army Transformation, take the time to educate yourself and your soldiers, because the Army of the Future is yours, theirs, and mine. Our battalion commanders may not be around to see it, so we should take on the responsibility of making this Army what it is envisioned to be.

After all, isn't that what the new Army Motto, "Army of One," is trying to get across--that you or I, the soldier, can make a difference? Isn't it about empowerment and through that power fulfilling our obligations and living up to the Army Values? Despite the controversy surrounding it, I believe that the new motto is well-suited to the issue at hand, because the accomplishments and contributions of individuals over the years have been largely responsible for making this Army great. I believe this trend will continue.

Where do we start? The Fort Leonard Wood Web site is an excellent resource. Several departments within the MANSCEN and the Engineer School play roles in Army Transformation, including the Directorate of Training (DOT), DCD, and DOTD. The Engineer Concepts Tiger Team, under DCD, has the mission of ensuring that the engineer force is properly integrated into the IBCTs. You can download a copy of Field Manual (FM) 5-2, Initial Brigade Engineer Combat Operations, at this site to get the in-depth look at engineers in the IBCT.

An excellent resource for general Army Transformation knowledge is "The Hooah Guide to Army Transformation" in the February 2001 issue of ARMY. If you haven't read it, you can go to ( and click on "Army Magazine Archive" to view the issue. The Army home page has several links. For information on Army Transformation, see ( There are several other links on the Web, but these will get you going in the right direction.

Finding the Way

How do you get your engineer ideas across? First, ask your chain of command to review your recommendations for accuracy, completeness, and quality control. Although contacting departments in the Engineer School directly with your issues is a good way to give constructive feedback to the school, finding the right department can be a daunting task. Look at the MANSCEN Web site to find appropriate points of contact through the "Departments and Directorates" link.

Issues concerning changes to engineer publications--FMs, mission training plans (MTPs), soldiers training publications (STPs)--should be submitted using the DA Form 2028, Recommended Changes to Publications and Blank Forms. The DOT's Doctrine Development Division in the Engineer School, through the Center for Engineer Lessons Learned (CELL), collects information from the field and ensures that feedback gets to the right agency. If the issue is clearly a training issue, then it should be routed through the Training Development Integration Office for the Directorate of Training. There's also the Doctrine, Training, Leader Development, Organization, Materiel, and Soldiers (DTLOMS) Integrator and the Chief of Staff of the Engineer School, who ensure that issues are broken down and handled by the appropriate agencies. Issues that require higher visibility because of their controversial nature, because they address a theater-wide concern, or because they represent a major departure from current doctrine may be bro ught to the Engineer School by your chain of command during the ENFORCE Conference or the Council of Colonels meeting.

Junior leaders, do not sit on your ideas. Do not become cynical of procedures or embittered by slow progress. Take the words of the MANSCEN Commander Major General Anders B. Aadland, to heart: "Think through problems and let me know what you would do it YOU were the CG. DON'T COMPLAIN. "[9] Use your senior leaders to convey your thoughts. Win their support by being detailed, thorough, and constructive in your analysis, and they will make your cause their own. Army time is a valuable commodity, and finding time to work issues outside of our daily jobs seems all but impossible. I believe, however, that developing the future of the Engineer Regiment should and must be a part of our daily routine, regardless of where we work. The Engineer Regiment, through the Engineer School, is transforming the way engineers will do business in the years ahead, and it is doing this admirably. We must also do our part because our thoughts and ideas will help give substance and shape to the somewhat nebulous future.

As Lieutenant General Ballard said at ENFORCE 2000, with regard to the future of the Engineer Regiment, "We must act collectively ... become more adaptable... and become more flexible." [10] Let us work the issues as our Army transforms into this lightweight, technologically superior, and lethal powerhouse. Let us tell our soldiers that we care about their welfare and want to increase their survivability on this increasingly complex battlefield of the future so they can return home safely to their families. Let us question our TTP; assess our training aids, devices, simulators, and simulations (TADSS); and evaluate our equipment to see if they suit our future operating needs. Let us implement the means and the ways to train our engineers, making them better experts so we can win! If we can't, then at least "Let us try!" Essayons!

Captain Taphorn is a platoon trainer for the Engineer Officer Basic Course, B Company, 554th Engineer Battalion, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Former assignments include platoon leader, C Company, 326th Engineer Battalion, and executive officer, HHT, 2-17th Cavalry Squadron, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.


(1.) ENFORCE 2000 Conference notes May 2000.

(2.) Ibid.

(3.) Ibid.

(4.) Ibid.

(5.) Ibid.

(6.) Brigadier General (Retired) Huba Wass de Czege and Major Jacob D. Biever, "Six Compelling Ideas on the Road to a Future Army," ARMY, Vol. 51, No. 2, February 2001, pp. 43-46.

(7.) TRADOC Pamphlet 525-5, Force XXI Operations, (part of front material, no page number).

(8.) Lieutenant General Joe N. Ballard, "One Regiment, One Fight," Engineer, Vol. 29, April 1999, pp. 9-11.

(9.) MANSCEN CG Philosphy.

(10.) ENFORCE 2000 notes.
COPYRIGHT 2001 U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Taphorn, Captain Daniel J.
Publication:Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2001
Previous Article:565th Engineer Battalion FEMs.

Related Articles
Clear The Way.
A Light Combat-Engineer Platoon in Kosovo.
54th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Mechanized) FEMs.
The sapper leader course.
GULF WAR 2: The families want respect for their dead..the one thing Blair denied them.
Ambushed soldiers buried side by side.
Light engineer lessons learned in the contemporary operational environment.
Sappers: masters on the battlefield: the Sapper Leader Course is open to promotable specialists and above, and captains and below, in any job...

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters