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Feature Stories

NEWS | March 8, 2018

National Guard engineers get valuable training with Active Duty unit

By Sgt. Amber Criswell 35th Engineer Brigade

Soldiers from the 35th Engineer Brigade of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., were given an opportunity to train with the 797th Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Company of Fort Hood, Texas, on armored breaching and effective demolition in early March. 

The soldiers were able to effectively breach vehicles with demolition while simultaneously demonstrating the effectiveness of the armored vehicles.

The soldiers assessed the vehicles, determined the best way to breach the vehicles and tested their theories. After the first demolition, the soldiers re-assessed the vehicles to see if the vehicles were successfully breached, and to see how well the armored body of each vehicle withstood the blasts. 

It is not often that combat engineers get to train on demolition, especially with EOD soldiers. “We get to hone our skills and interact with EOD elements, because at times we are embedded with EOD for route clearance opportunities,” said Sgt. 1st Class Travis Toman, of the 35th Engineer Brigade. 

Capt. Matthew Vick, commander of the 797th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company agrees with Toman. “Combat Engineers and EOD have a long history of working together in tight proximity to each other on both dismounted and mounted route clearance missions. While in a permissive environment, I believe it to be essential that both the combat engineers and EOD soldiers cross train on explosive effects and provides better interoperability once on the ground, running missions in a non-permissive environment. When being shot at or blown up is not the time to learn what the other person does. EOD loves to teach others about explosives and how they can be better utilized.”

Pfc. Alex McCubbin a combat engineer with the 35th said he learned a lot from the training with EOD. “They showed us all the non-traditional ways. That’s the experience, right there.”

Not only is it rare that combat engineers and EOD get to train together, it is not often National Guard and active duty soldiers get to train together.

This is Vick’s first time training with Guard soldiers. “They have [different] lives when they are not in uniform, so they always bring with them a plethora of other information that is useful.” 

Soldiers of the 35th Engineer Brigade also share the same sentiments of training with EOD. “It’s an opportunity to enhance my skills as a combat engineer. I have been working in intelligence, so getting to do my job as a combat engineer, it’s a great learning experience,” says Spc. Corey Madden.

Spc. Victoria McGuinn, one of the few female combat engineers in Missouri explains, “I can actually train and do my military occupation. It is really interesting and fun working with the EOD guys.” 

Pvt. Vincent Alexander, a 35th Engineer Brigade combat engineer, described his experience with the training. “It gets me interacting. It is a great opportunity to expand my Army career and to understand what is going on.” 

Leadership of the 35th Engineer Brigade also appreciates these valuable training opportunities. “I get to help soldiers practice demolitions on the range. I enjoy instructing and helping them learn. The first deployment I was on, I was a junior enlisted soldier. Now I am in a leadership role, which gives me the opportunity to mentor soldiers,” said 1st Lt. Joshua Gallagher.

The soldiers of the 35th Engineer Brigade are currently serving in Kuwait in support of Operation Spartan Shield, and are roughly four months into their deployment. They are making the best of the deployment by staying engaged in training events and always remaining ready.