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NEWS | Nov. 26, 2018

Route clearance unit gets new components for life-saving mine detection vehicles

By Sgt. 1st Class Jason Proseus 416th Theater Engineer Command

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 305th Engineer Company (Clearance) are tasked with travelling supply routes looking for deadly improvised explosive devices (IED), and other explosive threats. The 305th recently received updated components for their Husky Mounted Detection Systems (HMDS). The new components allow the soldiers to better see explosive threats buried in the ground. 

The unit comprises different vehicles designed to slowly travel in a pack sniffing for fatal, concealed threats, that endanger the lives of anyone travelling the supply routes. The unit will usually roll out with a bunch of Medium Mine Protected Vehicles (MMPV) Type II (RG-31), a massive Buffalo Mine Protected Clearance Vehicle (MPCV), and a couple Huskies. 

The Husky is like the blood hound of the pack. This is the vehicle that will travel out in front of the rest, and look for the hidden dangers. The husky is designed to take an explosion. The front and rear will just fall apart; while the middle, where the single occupant is, will be safe. Once a threat is found, the Buffalo will come up and dig out the threat.

“It’s not like any other vehicle that goes from point ‘A’ to ‘B’, basically this will keep you at the edge of your seat the whole time,” said Sgt. Raymond Hammersley, a squad leader from the 305th. “It’s not just driving that you have to worry about. You have to keep your eyes on a swivel.”

The Husky and previous versions of the HMDS are responsible for saving an indiscriminate number of lives on its mission up and down the supply routes in hostile areas, because of its ability to find threats.

A Virginia-based fielding team from CACI, a contractor supporting Product Management Counter Explosive Hazards (PdM CEH), installed the new components, and then instructed the soldiers on the new HMDS.

“We basically put the system on, and then teach them what the system does,” explained Burl Hill, CACI fielding team chief with PdM CEH.

The first day involved a seven-lesson classroom instruction, where they learned safety, troubleshooting, and operations. After that, the instructors rotated the soldiers on the Huskies through alternating routes. When they came back from each route the instructors debriefed them. On the final day, the soldiers receive a written test, and a performance evaluation. 

“Basically, we are learning the system that helps us detect mines, and IEDs, so we can get all the knowledge we can, and take it back to our unit,” said Hammersley.

The 305th is a unit of combat engineers (12B). An occupational specialty of soldiers that usually breach obstacles, build emplacements, and generally like to blow stuff up. Put them in a clearance company, and they save lives. 

“There’s no way to determine how many lives this system saves, but it’s a lot. It finds a lot of stuff in the ground,” said Hill. “When they first started this program, they gave out coins for the amount of threats found. It [Giving out coins] became a drain on the financial aspect of the program, because it was so successful.”