Engineers breach obstacles to form bilateral relationships
By Maj. Randall Baucom

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A Stryker engineer platoon demonstrates an in-stride breach to their Japan Ground Self-Defense Force partners at Aibano Training Area, Shiga, Japan, during exercise Orient Shield 12.
AIBANO TRAINING AREA, JAPAN- Combat engineers take pride in their ability to break down barriers and breach obstacles, and that pride is no less evident during this year’s Orient Shield exercise as military engineers from two critical bilateral partners exchange tactics, techniques, and procedures to improve interoperability.

“We are here to build up partnerships and increase bilateral cooperation between U.S. and Japanese forces,” said 1st Lt. Eric Collett, platoon leader, 3rd Platoon, 66th Engineer Company.

To do this both the engineers from 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division and the 33rd Infantry Regiment, 10th Division from the Middle Army of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force demonstrated their individual techniques for breaching wire and mine obstacles.

The highlight of the U.S. demonstration was an in-stride breach of a wire-mine-wire obstacle with an Engineer Stryker Vehicle with a mounted mine plow. The battle drill began with an individual combat engineer soldier, dismounted forward of the vehicle, using a grapnel hook and executing the “crow’s foot technique.” The soldier executes this technique to left, right and front, using a three-pronged grappling hook to snag antipersonnel mines and tripwires. Pfc. Patrick Smith executed the task with experienced vigor, throwing the grapnel, immediately diving onto the ground to protect himself from a possible exploding mine, using a swim technique to recover the grapnel, and then repeating the process.

Once the wire is reached using the crow’s foot technique, combat engineers move forward with Bangalore torpedoes, tubes filled with explosives designed to detonate any buried vehicle mines and physically remove wire obstacles in the path of the maneuvering Engineer Stryker Vehicle. Once detonated, the ESV drops the mine plow mounted to the front of vehicle, clearing away any remaining hazards, and it drives through the obstacle while simultaneously marking the lane with lane marking poles.

“There is a lot to be gained for the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (who were observing the demonstration),” said 1st Lt. Eric Collett, platoon leader, 3rd Platoon, 66th Engineer Company. “Military engineers across the world, regardless what military they are in, have a common bond just because how unique our job and our skill set is. We are going to take back to the United States (some of what they have demonstrated) and apply it our platoon, and they say there is some stuff they are going to apply to their training.”

Orient Shield 12 is a U.S. Army Pacific bilateral exercise that is co-hosted by U.S. Army Japan and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. The exercise is designed to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance at the tactical level by partnering infantry units from both nations in a two-week exchange program where soldiers and defense force members can exchange tactics, techniques, and procedures at the lowest levels. The exercise is scheduled to run from the end of October through to the second week of November.