The Bayonet

Wednesday, Dec. 04, 2013

Here comes the boom

Marines demonstrate mine-clearing line charge during live fire

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Members of the Fort Benning Marine Detachment, the Marine Corps’ 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion and the Army’s 11th Engineer Battalion got a closer look Nov. 26 at one of the military’s largest explosive devices.

The Fort Benning detachment demonstrated a mine-clearing line charge during a live fire at the Digital Multi-Purpose Range Complex.

The charge consists of a rocket-propelled cable that has 1,750 pounds of C4 explosive attached to it. The cable is fired from an Assault Breacher Vehicle before detonating the C4.

The resulting explosion is used in minefields to either cause live mines to detonate or to push those mines out of the path of the ABV.

Lt. Col. Ruben Martinez, the detachment commander, said the ABV’s use of the MICLIC represents a sizable step forward for both the Army and the Marine Corps’ capabilities.

“Previously, these were employed using the back of a trailer or a modified amphibious vehicle that we have,” he said. “Those work well, but they weren’t specifically made for that purpose. So, there was inherent danger in that as well as more opportunities for failure. In the past, you’d have an M1A1 move up with a plow and the vehicle with the MICLIC would have to come up from behind and shoot over it because you needed the protection from the tank. Now, with this vehicle, it increases the capability dramatically. One vehicle just has to pull up and fire the line charge, while having the plow and the ability and armor protection to clear the lane.”

Sgt. Onix Polanco, an ABV instructor and one of the first Marines to use the vehicle once it was introduced to the Marine fleet in 2007, said the explosion caused by the MICLIC can be intimidating even for ABV operators.

“Once the rocket goes off, you pretty much feel like the back of the vehicle goes with it,” he said. “That’s how much force it puts out. It’s a lot of weight. It’s over 3,600 pounds in the tub that the rocket pulls out. When it detonates, at first you just see the blast and then you feel the concussion. It just gives you the feeling of a roller coaster with a sudden drop.”

The live fire was part of an ABV course that the detachment normally conducts twice a year. This course, however, was held at the request of the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, which is preparing for a spring 2014 deployment to Afghanistan.

“The 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion is getting ready to deploy and they had several Marines who had never been on the ABV, which they’ll have available to them in Afghanistan,” Martinez said. “So, they asked us if we wouldn’t mind creating an impromptu course. It was very fortuitous that we had this range set up and we had the ammo so we could come out and conduct this live fire for these Marines. With the firing of the line charge, the complexity of the vehicle and the nature of the blast, it’s a pretty complex and dangerous job that we want to make sure our Marines are trained very well to do. Especially if they’re going to go into combat, we don’t want that to be the first time they use this.”

Polanco, who helped to instruct the class of 12 Marines, said the live fire was tough for the students despite their previous instruction, mainly because no amount of classroom training can prepare them for the size of the blast.

“It’s pretty daunting because we focus heavily on the misfire procedures and we go in-depth with the explosive charge,” he said. “It’s pretty scary for them. They’re shaking inside the vehicle because they don’t know what’s about to happen. Once they receive that shockwave, it comes home. They get the feeling of the power they’re launching down the minefield. It lets them know that when things go bad, they have to be careful of who is around you because when it goes off, there’s no mercy.”

Soldiers from the 11th Engineer Battalion were also on hand to observe the MICLIC fire, and Martinez said it was a good opportunity for the Marines to provide valuable experiences to Soldiers.

“It’s a great feeling because where we’re usually tied on to their courses and dependent on them, now there’s an opportunity for us to pay back and provide some help to our fellow Soldiers,” he said.

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