Monday, July 02, 2018

Combat Engineers Bring Construction, Destruction to Battlefield

By Marine Corps Cpl. Mason Roy, Marine Rotational Force Darwin

KOUMAC, New Caledonia -- Whether it’s building schools or changing the battle space, combat engineers have always been there to pave the way.

Though established as a military profession in 1775, the first combat engineers didn’t see much recognition until the War of 1812, when Army Col. Jonathan Williams, chief of the Army Corps of Engineers, and his successor, Joseph Swift, built expanding fortifications around New York Harbor. This included an 11-pointed fort that is now the base of the Statue of Liberty.

Today, combat engineers bring both constructive capabilities, such as building bunkers and providing utilities; and destructive capabilities, such as demolition and breaching support on the battlefield. This unique combination of capabilities provides knowledge, experience and skills to commanders at the operational and tactical levels with which they can, according to Marine Corps Warfighting Publication 3-34, reduce friction, facilitate maneuver and improve the morale of friendly forces or create friction and disorder for the enemy.

“My favorite thing about being a combat engineer is that my job is so versatile,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joseph Manzie, who’s assigned to Marine Rotational Force Darwin 18. “I can build schools for communities, or obstacle courses to keep Marines fit to fight. I also have the ability to change battlespace by performing breaches, sweeps and engineer reconnaissance.”

Tackling Obstacles on the Battlefield

Breaching actions are the tactics a unit will execute when it reaches an obstacle. Forces who encounter an obstacle either attempt to bypass it or reduce it.

Sweeps are typically conducted with a compact metal detector to search for materials that may be used against friendly forces or be of intelligence value.

Engineers also perform their own reconnaissance, consisting of methods to obtain information about the activities and resources of an adversary or to secure data.

“It’s always a rush being able to reduce obstacles with explosives,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Johnathan Sacre, combat engineer with MRF-D. “Being a combat engineer is probably one of the best jobs in the Marine Corps. I enjoy every minute of it.”

Combat engineers also enjoy their jobs because it helps them to develop or refine skills that can help them later in their careers, Manzie said.

Manzie, who previously served as a vehicle operator for the Air Force, thought it was time to expand his career from behind the wheel, so he joined the Marine Corps as a combat engineer.

“I selected combat engineering because it was a job that I was able to gain skills from and be combat-oriented,” he said. “I plan on taking my knowledge of demolitions, wood-frame construction and concrete construction with me to future [work].”
Being a combat engineer can be a risky business. Service members in the Middle East rely on combat engineers to detect different kinds of improvised explosive devices. These engineers who take the first steps into mission-critical areas provide intelligence that shapes a safer battlefield for the service members who follow.

Face of Defense: Australia Native Comes Full Circle as Army Guard Vocalist

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Erich. Smith, National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. -- For Army Sgt. Vicki Golding, a vocalist with the District of Columbia Army National Guard's 257th Army Band, performing during the “Centenary of Mateship” celebration event at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall here June 27 was, in a way, about coming full circle.

The celebration marked the 100-year alliance between the United States and Australia, and was a fitting place for Golding, a native of Brisbane, Australia, who now lives in the U.S.

"In terms of representing both countries, this event felt like it was ready-made for me," said Golding, who was approached by Australian Embassy officials to perform at the event once they learned she was vocalist in the D.C. Army National Guard. "It wasn't lost on me on what a big deal this was for a girl from Brisbane -- ending up here in D.C. with the best military band in the country."

Musical Family

Her journey from "Down Under" to singing in the 257th Army Band started as a child. Growing up, she was part of a musical family act with her three sisters and brother. The group was led by her father, who Golding described as the "essential music man."

"My father was a music teacher and an opera singer and was a very technical musician," she said. "He was just the sort of person [who] would make you want to do better."

While the music bug subsided for her siblings, Golding said her love of performing continued. Following the footsteps of a high school friend, she enlisted in the Australian Army as a musician, eventually landing a position as a vocalist.

When the United States Army Band "Pershing's Own" performed during an international tattoo in Brisbane, Golding said she was captivated by the variety of music they played.

"They had a rock band and a rhythm section along with the trombone section," she said, adding she felt she was witnessing the "sheer talent of a premier band."

Years later, marriage to an American brought her to the Washington, D.C., area. Though she had left the Australian Army, Golding said she was still interested in serving and performing. That lead her to reach out to soldiers she knew from "Pershing's Own," who suggested the 257th Army Band as their performance schedule would be a better fit for her life.

Singing For a New Nation

She followed the suggestion and enlisted in 2003, but she wouldn't be serving in a singing capacity. The 257th Army Band didn't have a singer vacancy, so Golding was confined to the percussion section and also played the tuba, two instruments that she had previous experience playing.

Yet vocal performing remained her goal.

"When I first joined the 257th, I had videos and demos of me singing, and I said 'Look, I can play tuba, I can play percussion, but I really want to sing for you guys,'" Golding said.

Eventually, a vocalist position opened up, and she wasted no time in securing her new role.

Now, Golding performs more than 35 shows a year, representing the D.C. Army Guard and the Army as a vocalist.

She said she thrives off the excitement of large-scale shows, especially in stadiums when she sings "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"It's a sacred piece that never gets old because there's this energy that comes from the audience," said Golding. "You can feel the audience just waiting for you to sing it to them."

Discipline, Love

But it was a military funeral for a D.C. National Guard member lost in battle that she will never forget.

"I was singing the national anthem," Golding said. "Maybe 10 feet away was his family, and I remember struggling."

Years of performing in uniform, however, provided the focus needed to sing the song through.

"They had just lost their family member," she said. "If I can't suck it up for 90 seconds, be professional and do my job when they lost just about everything -- that's just not acceptable to me."

Golding brings that same kind of discipline and love of music to the civilian side, volunteering at non-profit organizations that cater to military spouses and veterans who use musical therapy to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I have been blessed with musical abilities, and anytime I feel I am not using them, I feel like I am wasting something that was given to me," she said. "And so I want to share what I have been given, whether it's performing, teaching or writing musical arrangements -- whatever that might be."

Golding added her civilian experiences working with non-profit organizations, plus keeping abreast of popular music trends, help broaden her horizons as a military vocalist.

"It's not a bad thing to think outside of the box," she said. "Because if things aren't flexible, they'll break sometimes."

While Golding said the pinnacle of her musical ambition is performing on a network show back in her native country, she said she is still thrilled with being a singing soldier and sharing the same kind of camaraderie in the D.C. Army National Guard she felt in Australia.
"The common thread between the two militaries is the sense of family," she said. "It was a real lifeline for me in Australia, and the same is true here in America."

Australian, U.S. Forces Team Up for Exercise Hamel

By Army Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson, 25th Infantry Division

ROCKHAMPTON, Australia -- On the 100th anniversary of WWI’s Battle of Hamel, when U.S. and Australian forces first fought side by side against German forces in Le Hamel, France, the longtime partners once again joined forces, this time for Exercise Hamel at Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area in central Queensland, Australia, from June 18–July 1.

Indiana Army National Guardsmen traveled nearly 9,000 miles to join their Australian counterparts for the exercise, which saw U.S. forces integrated into the Australian Battle Group to enhance tactical and sustainment interoperability with allied partners.

“It was truly an honor to be able to integrate into one of our coalition partner’s headquarters,” said U.S. Army Col. Robert Burke, the commander of the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “We were able to conduct a very challenging and worthwhile command post and field training exercise, outside the United States, and achieve a higher level of readiness than I anticipated while creating great relationships with the Australians during an historic time in our shared military history.”

More than 6,000 Australian soldiers and nearly 800 U.S. military personnel participated in the training. Hamel is an Australian Army field training exercise that serves as the Army’s culminating event in the unit train-up/certification process before transitioning to a ready brigade.

International Training

Indiana Army National Guardsmen from the 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry Regiment, joined up with Australian soldiers from 7th Brigade at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area and moved through a series of battles and engagements to certify the Australian brigade for deployment and to fulfill the annual training requirement of the Indiana Army National Guard battalion.

Additional U.S. participation included soldiers from the 10th Regional Support Group, based at Okinawa, Japan; U.S. Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Regiment, also based in Okinawa; U.S. Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 5th Marine Regiment, based at Camp Pendleton, California; and exercise support from U.S. Army Pacific and the 25th Infantry Division, both based in Hawaii.

“We’ve had a number of great scenarios involved, from non-combatant evacuation operations to an amphibious tactical lodgement [landing], population security operations and also more high-end joint land combat, so on all accounts, it’s been a fantastic get-out for our ADF,” said Australian Brig. Gen. Ben James, the director general for training and doctrine.

Australian soldiers began operations with an amphibious landing before facing a wide variety of challenges, from complex urban operations to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive response and large-scale combined arms battles, with their U.S. counterparts.

Urban Operations

U.S. Marines from Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, assaulted an enemy-held urban complex in predawn darkness, followed by Australian soldiers from the 6th Royal Australian Regiment and U.S. soldiers from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry Regiment.

“They needed to clear a village with a mixture of insurgent forces, conventional forces and a significant number of civilians,” said Australian Army Capt. Tom Patterson, who served as an observer and trainer for the battle.

The scenario required infantry, tanks, military police and police dogs, engineers, air support, explosive ordinance disposal and other forces and considerations, Patterson said. It challenged soldiers in scenarios learned from real-world battles in urban areas where it is often not clear who is a fighter and who is a civilian, who is a friend and who is a foe.

The 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry Regiment soldiers guarded critical artillery and logistical positions, cleared routes and performed area reconnaissance, secured enemy prisoners of war, and served as the Australian brigade’s reserve force as the 7th Brigade pushed westward through the 1,754-square mile training area.

In the final battle of the exercise, as Australian and U.S. forces took on a near-peer adversary played by the 3rd Brigade, Australian Army elements captured a critical airfield in a large-scale combined arms battle with tanks, dismounted infantry, air support, artillery and unmanned aerial vehicles.

“We supported the tango call signs -- the tanks -- as the infantry attachment clearing the route providing blocks and clearances of vulnerable points,” said Australian Army Cpl. Daniel Petterson, 6th Royal Australian Regiment. “We culminated in a large, complex assault and a hybrid attack.”

New Equipment

The exercise also allowed Australian military planners to test new equipment and capabilities.

The forces utilized the Australian Air Force’s C-27J Spartan, the LAND 121 protected mobility vehicle, three separate digitized logistics common operating picture systems, vehicle camera systems, a fuel distribution and monitoring system, an automated base refueling point, an expeditionary fuel installation system for aviation and a programmable or manual-control precision aerial delivery system.

“Because Hamel simulates a tactical operation it gives us the best test bed to modernize, to refine our tactics, techniques and procedures, and apply the best outcome in our area of operations for the Australian Defense Force,” said Australian Army Maj. Samuel Luke, the operations officer for the 9th Force Support Battalion, 17th Brigade.

Exercise Hamel was successful in more than just certifying 7th Brigade for deployment and fulfilling the training requirements of the Indiana Army National Guard, James said.

“We’ve broken new ground in a whole range of areas,” he said. “For the first time, we’ve had a rotating ground combat element, that is, the land element that’s embarked onboard our new Navy amphibious ships, so we’ve broken new ground there. It’s the first time the [Australian] Army’s worked alongside the [Australian] Air Force’s new C-27J Spartan aircraft, which has been fantastic. And also, there are a number of trials on our unmanned aerial systems in the training area as well, so in a whole range of areas -- new trials, new capabilities and new doctrine -- it’s been really exciting.”