By 1st Lt. David C. Hoy
2nd Engineer Battalion
The presence of tents, noisy generators, dusty workspaces and body armor in the Sapper Steel Battalion on July 14 was indication that the 2nd Engineer Battalion was participating in a brigade level training event with 4th BDE, 1st Armored Division.
The Battalion participated in “Iron Focus” from July 13-29. This is the first major training exercise for 2E supporting 4th BDE, 1st AD since the battalion joined the historic 1st Armored Division. Iron focus provided many opportunities for the battalion to work alongside maneuver forces, conduct staff planning, execute engineer and support operations as well as develop relationships with 4th Brigade.
The 2E deployed to Iron Focus with three organic companies along with an attached EN CO and a computer network team. Of the three organic companies, Forward Support Company was located with the Brigade Support Battalion; Headquarters Company was located with the 4th Brigade headquarters, 40th Mobility Augmentation Company was assigned to 4-6 Infantry Battalion of 4th Brigade and Charlie Company of the 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion was attached to 2E and assigned to 1-77 Armor Battalion of 4th Brigade.
The 2E Forward Support Company conducted multiple logistics movements, fueling operations, food operations and ammunition distribution. Their efforts were not only to support 2E but to support the entire 4th Brigade during the event. The FSC distribution platoon has been able to practice resupplying the battalion’s elements with essential supplies. On one such resupply mission Pfc. Michael Bibo transported over 400 pounds of explosives to 40th Mobility Augmentation Company. Bibo is a driver who helps transport equipment and supplies from location to location. “One of the most exciting things for me has been driving all this food over this terrain and linking up with other units,” Bibo said.
The 2E HHC played a critical role is supporting the battalion tactical operations center with personnel, logistics and force protection. HHC command team masterfully managed all their requirements. These requirements were to man the BN TOC 24 hours a day, manage a force to protect critical field infrastructure, lead battle drills that prepared Sapper Steel Soldiers for attacks and conduct internal logistic efforts for maintenance, food and fuel. During one battle drill members of HHC captured two “enemy” role players attempting to enter the perimeter. Additionally, HHC was tasked to support a platoon of engineers from the 40th MAC. The task of supporting an external platoon was executed without impact on the battalion TOC or force protection.
Of note, the communications section, S6, was hard at work supporting the battalion with minimal manpower and an attached communications team. “The S6 provides network and communications support for the battalion, this enables the battalion to talk with the brigade on the radio and share documents through the Command Post of the Future or CPOF,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shasta Villarreal, the battalion signal NCO.
Pfc. Ryan Murawski with Bravo Company, 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, who is a member of the attached communications team, said he helps provide internet for multiple users and the CPOF. “It has been both a challenging and rewarding experience, I feel appreciated and valued out here doing my job in the field,” he said.
The 2E 40th Mobility Augmentation Company worked through all their training objectives and established themselves a worthy member of the team. 40th MAC provided mobility, counter-mobility and survivability support for the brigade’s maneuver elements and friendly forces as well as the opposing force.
The 1st and 2nd Assault Platoons from 40MAC conducted Bangalore breaches during company level missions creating vehicle lanes for the infantry to attack the objective. These missions incorporated maneuver forces and engineers into a cohesive unit, working together to achieve a common goal. Additionally, it laid the foundation of mounted maneuver techniques that would be later tested during the battalion task force breach. “I was surprised at how efficient we were at lane marking – it was smooth. We had practiced it before, but we did really well there,” said Sgt. Jacob Mostiller, team leader in 2nd PLT 40MAC. “It takes patience to work with maneuver forces, and we will need to work out some kinks to get back to conventional warfare,” Mostiller said when asked about challenges faced.
“You can practice it independently, but until you get into the breach with maneuver it is pretty much new to everybody,” said Sgt. Shae Crusch, team leader in 2nd PLT 40 MAC.
The 3rd Platoon from 40th MAC, emplaced numerous obstacles for the opposing force increased proficiency in digging fighting positions, emplacing wire obstacles, creating surface laid minefields, and constructing anti-tank ditches. Pfc. Kyle Ellingson, combat engineer M113 Driver 3rd PLT 40 MAC, was pleased with his platoon’s performance, commenting, “We realized how much faster we got at (emplacing) obstacles. We did larger ones than we had done before and completed them faster than the smaller ones.” At the end of the Iron Focus, 40th MAC solidified their core competencies and is poised to execute a successful rotation at the National Training Center.
Iron Focus helped the Soldiers and leaders of 2E enhance their tactical and technical proficiency while operating in a realistic battlefield environment. 2nd Engineer Battalion Commander Lt. Col. James Koeppen spoke of how impressed he was with the battalion. “I am very proud of how well the Soldiers of the 2nd Engineer Battalion performed during IRON FOCUS. Being new members of 4/1 ABCT, our Soldiers made a great first impression. There was a lot of great effort put in by everyone from our combat engineers, mechanics, cooks, medics and staff. It was great to see engineers supporting a heavy brigade again. It’s been a long time since our Army has operated in a Decisive Action type environment. There was a lot of learning going on across the brigade,” he said. “I believe the battalion is postured to have a great training event at the National Training Center. Our Soldiers are prepared and this is an outstanding opportunity to train and grow as a unit.”
The 2nd Engineer Battalion is stationed at White Sands Missile Range and realigned from the 36th Engineer Brigade, to 4th Brigade 1st Armored Division on June 16. In the future 2E, along with other engineers such as Charlie Company BSTB, will become the Brigade Engineer Battalion for 4/1.