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NEWS | July 27, 2021

469th Engineer Company Soldiers explode into action

By Cheryl Phillips 88th Readiness Division

There’s more than one way to breach obstacles in an urban environment, and that’s just what Soldiers from the 469th Engineer Company learned here on July 16, 2021.

Unit First Sergeant Master Sgt. Bradley Schmoll described the breaching capability as a “niche” the engineers can employ in an urban locale.

The engineers spent the afternoon learning how to form a half dozen different types of charges at the live fire explosive breaching range. Each charge serves its own purpose and gives off a different type of explosion.

Because of varying skill levels, the unit took a crawl approach to building their skills and the charges.

One of the trainers was Sgt. Paul Modaff, who instructed his team on how to build a water impulse charge. This charge uses “water to force the impact toward the door,” and is especially effective at buckling bigger flex steel doors that were at the demo range, he said. The Soldiers sandwiched a few feet of detonation, or “det,” cord between saline IV bags.

The most challenging charge for Sgt. Carson Heimerl? “Tying that knot, the Uli knot [slider charge],” he said, describing the versatile wrapped configuration of det cord named after its inventor, Sgt. 1st Class Peter Uli, who later retired and become a long-standing figure at the Army Engineer School. This was Heimerl’s first time building the charge.

Uli knot sliders work well for blasting off door hinges.

Donut charges are for door knobs. “A donut charge would defeat the locking mechanism because it cinches around the door handle. You place the main charge where you want it to blow out and it separates the locking mechanism from the door handle,” explained Sgt. Troy Troxel.

Math skills are an essential part of ensuring the explosives go off properly with the desired effect while maintaining the Soldiers’ safety. As a result, the Soldiers got out their notepads and pencils and smart phone calculators and ran through a mathematical formula to ensure they had the right measurements for the charges.

For normal urban breaching operations, there are usually about four to six people, including the combat engineers and the assault force, in a stack (the line of people), behind a Kevlar blast blanket. Once a door is breached, for example, the assault force can storm the building.

Before setting off the charge, the Soldier with the detonator counts down from five. With heads down and mouths open, the troops in the stack exhale on three, clearing the air from their lungs.

Following a massive door breach, one of the Soldiers yelled, “Woooo! Yeah!” Another said, “Pretty awesome!” A lot of thumbs up and big smiles.