U.S. Army Europe, Spanish engineers train to defeat improvised explosive devices

Nov. 9, 2012

By Spc. David Huddleston, 18th Engineer Brigade Public Affairs

  • ZARAGOSA, Spain - Sgt. Chino Thompkins of the 1st Platoon, 541st Sapper Company, 54th Engineer Battalion, 18th Engineer Brigade, interrogates a suspected pressure plate improvised explosive device with a Spanish engineer soldier during a tactical foot patrol to discover and defeat IEDs during a joint training exercise here, Oct. 29. The exercise known as Interdict 12, hosted by the Spanish Engineer Command, was designed to foster and enhance the interoperability among engineer units.
    (Photo by Lt. Col. Wayne Marotto)
  • ZARAGOZA, Spain - Engineers from the 21st Theater Sustainment Command trained with their Spanish counterparts during a multinational joint training exercise Oct. 26 to Nov. 1 at the San Gregorio Training Center here.

    The exercise, known as Interdict 12 and hosted by the Spanish Engineer Command, was designed to foster and enhance interoperability among engineer units and improve counter-improvised explosive device operations. The intent was to focus on the roles military engineers can perform to defeat enemy IED systems using a scenario similar to past combat deployments.

    The 21st TSC sent 1st Platoon, 541st Sapper Company, 54th Engineer Battalion, 18th Engineer Brigade to participate as the route clearance element and represent U.S. Army Europe.

    "It has been great for us, because when we conduct route clearance training we are typically the main effort or the lead of the operation whereas here we serve as a secondary role which is similar to how we will be utilized in Afghanistan and other operations," said platoon leader 2nd Lt. Chris Wagner.

    "We walk the roads and clear the roads for follow-on units, being logistical clips to infantry moving into their sector to do different types of missions. For us we are going to clear every day, any day. So every day we can train doing those things, getting practice, learning from our faults or vehicle problems, is going to help," added platoon sergeant Sgt. 1st Class Augustine Haro.

    "I appreciate the opportunity to come and fail in a safe environment, so when we finally deploy we will be ready to be successful and bring all of our troops home alive," said Wagner.

    Overcoming the language barrier proved to be a minor hindrance when coordinating link-up times and rehearsals, according to Wagner. American Soldiers proficient in Spanish served as interpreters.

    "Sometimes they still had to communicate without me, because I was occupied. When my platoon was on the ground with Spanish soldiers, they had to use signals or other means to communicate," said combat engineer Spc. Alberto Apolinario.

    "It is close to what we will see in combat working with other NATO  forces, pertaining to the difficulty of making link-ups and language barriers, to exactly let the commander know what our capabilities are and how to best use us in their missions," said Haro. "Communication is key."

    "It is a once-in-a-lifetime and very unique and appreciated opportunity, to train with the Spanish. I would say that we really lucked out being selected as the representative for the United States for this mission," said Wagner.

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