FORT McCOY, Wis. –
Imagine having to clear a mine so that follow-on units are safe as they move through an area. That’s exactly what Army Reserve Soldiers with the 483rd Engineer Platoon, 863rd Engineer Battalion, Joliet, Illinois, practiced during Warrior Exercise here July 25, 2022.
One of those Soldiers was Spc. Nicholas Zalusky, a 12B combat engineer for about three years. The tools of the trade are basic. Zalusky depended on a hand-held mine detector that can pick up metallic material embedded in the ground. When discovered, he then sprayed orange paint on the center of the mine and the four corners, along with the direction of travel. He used a knife to probe the ground and verify the presence of the mine. White paint is sprayed to indicate “clear” at the end of the line and 6 feet out.
Zalusky is used to practicing in gravel. “This is the first time I’ve trained in a grassy field which took longer,” he said. I took about 15 minutes for each mine, requiring patience to go through the entire process.
The combat engineer chose his military occupational skill “because as recruiter explained it, I’d get to blow up things, and there was a big bonus, $9,000,” he said.
Overseeing the training was Staff Sgt. Matthew Hengstl, an observer/controller/trainer with the 181st Infantry Brigade. He explained that this wasn’t the first time the Soldiers had undergone mine clearing, as they learn the skill during one station unit training.
“This is one of the key tasks for a combat engineer,” Hengstl said.
Hengstl said the Soldiers “definitely know what they’re doing. They’re going through the proper procedures. They’re finding the metallic material and interrogating it, but there’s always room for improvement.”
The O/C/T emphasized that “this is an important task because without this ability, other coalition forces that might want to come into this area might be walking into something they don’t want to be.”