Engineer School commandant testifies about mine awareness training, by Jacqueline Guthrie (Feb. 20)


WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- Thousands of American soldiers are putting their lives on the line to protect the citizens of Bosnia and U.S. leaders are working to protect these soldiers.

Maj. Gen. Clair Gill, commandant of the U.S. Engineer School and post commander, recently testified before a joint Congressional hearing on "Response to the Land Mine Threat in Bosnia." Members of the military procurement and research and development subcommittees held the hearing.

"We want to gain an understanding of the readiness of U.S. forces to deal with the land mine threat in Bosnia," said Rep. Curt Weldon at the hearing.

"Gen. Gill's purpose was to testify on the training of soldiers to do countermine operations," said Maj. Dave Brinkley, chief of the doctrine development division at the Engineer School. Brinkley accompanied Gill to Washington.

"(Committee members) wanted a comfort level that all soldiers were prepared for the operation," said Brinkley.

Gill provided that information by explaining his role in Operation Joint Endeavor, which is to prepare soldiers to conduct countermine operations.

"The U.S. policy ... is that we will conduct only those countermine operations required to protect the U.S. and NATO forces," according to his testimony. Countermine operations are the tactics and techniques used to detect, avoid, reach and neutralize enemy mines.

"Developing soldier awareness is key. I cannot overemphasize the importance of a mine-aware soldier," he told the committee.

"Every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and civilian deploying to Bosnia receives mine-awareness training," Gill stressed. Members of the Engineer School's mobile training team travel around the country training all types of units on countermine operations.

"Our efforts are focused on developing a mine-aware and mine-alert soldier," he said. "The mine threat is of great concern to us. We cannot guard every footfall. We cannot prevent all innocent errors -- such as taking a wrong road -- in spite of our care. We do the best job we possibly can to prepare and equip our soldiers.

"Collectively, we know a great deal about the mine threats and about counter-mining. At the same time, we're continually looking for more ideas, anything we can obtain from any source to evaluate and possibly apply to the counter-mine problem.

"I am confident that we have done and are doing all that we can do to protect our soldiers," Gill concluded.

(From the Fort Leonard Wood "Essayons.")