Large or small, tunnels no longer provide the enemy with a place to hide weapons or themselves.
The Asymmetrical Warfare Group and soldiers with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, dug deep into the underground training center on West Fort Hood to provide training on how to search, clear and navigate through tunnels of all sizes Nov. 20-22.
“We’re trying to validate previous training with (the company) and identify training and capability gaps that a regular infantry unit would have when conducting operations in a subterranean environment,” said Capt. J.D. Carlton, with the warfare group’s 2nd Troop commander, Able Squadron.
The group provides operational advisory support and solutions to issues Army units may have while downrange or at home station.
“When we identify asymmetric threats or new emerging threats, usually we develop solutions under fire,” Carlton said. “We’re trying to get ahead of that and identify these emerging threats before we actually deal with them in armed conflict and develop ways to defeat them.”
This training has been an ongoing process for the past year for Bravo Company and the group. Taking lessons from as far back as World War II and Korea, the group developed a training plan that focused on such skills as how to operate in a confined space, adapting battle drills and reworking standard operating procedures.
“(Theses soldiers have) never seen this before. They’re learning for the first time from the private to the company commander,” Carlton said. “It’s difficult to step into a situation where you’re in charge but not trained on it.”
Bravo Company sent about 40 soldiers to Virginia for two weeks to learn and develop tactics and techniques to operate in a subterranean environment.
At West Fort Hood’s underground training facility, the company took their lessons and applied them in a crawl, walk, run progression culminating in a rapid response to a possible underground threat while still assessing solutions.
“Part of what we’re doing here is continuing to address or capture what we think are critical operational issues with operating in a subterranean environment such as communication, mission command, air quality/monitoring or those kinds of capabilities that may not reside within the unit,” said Maj. Scott Bailey, the tests and evaluations officer for the groups’s Dog Squadron.
Cutting torches, burning at 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, slowly sliced through the 6-inch thick steel door guarding the entrance to the underground facility.
A man-sized hole allowed the troops access. Carefully peering into the darkness, the first squad made their way in, weapons at the ready.
Infrared lasers crisscrossed the cavernous hallway. Shouts reverberated off walls as the staccato of machine gun fire put down the first enemy.
“It’s a complicated mission set,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Schueler, a platoon sergeant with Bravo Company. “It has some of the similarities to urban operations, the fundamentals apply to this, but the additional complications of communication, low visibility and special equipment has been an issue.”
Besides their own breaching equipment, engineers from 2nd Brigade’s Special Troops Battalion were given cutting torches and other equipment from the group to help open doors or break through locks.
“We’re excited as a platoon and company to contribute to the overall implementation of these (tactics, techniques and procedures) that will be worked through at the culmination of this event,” Schueler said. “Even with my experience from different deployments, it’s good to get that knowledge and to spread that information to the folks.”
Underground facilities, tunnels and culverts are not a new terrain feature, but it’s been a while since soldiers have had to face an enemy in the dark.
“We’re seeing the battlefield evolve,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Cordell Ackley of the group’s Dog Squadron. “As we increase our capability to detect our enemy above ground, then we see a natural reaction of our enemies to go underground.”
“Soldiers adapt,” Carlton said. “That’s one of our biggest strengths as an army.”