FORT PICKETT, Va.- Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to Fredericksburg-based 229th Engineer Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team completed two weeks of training on route clearance operations in the Husky Mounted Detection System and the Buffalo Armored Vehicle Feb. 17, 2017, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The route clearance platoon has been immersed in assembly, maintenance and operation of the new vehicles since February 4, 2017.
“Training has gone great,” said Staff Sgt. Jimmy Brinkley, assigned to Company A, 229th Engineer Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “It was a good way to bring everyone together, work together, put everything in motion, and then get out here on the actual lane and actually use the vehicles.”
The Husky is used during route and area clearance operations to detect and mark the location of suspected metallic explosive hazards, such as metallic anti-personnel, anti-tank, and improvised explosive devices, described in the New Material Introductory Briefing for the Husky and Buffalo. The Husky is used in conjunction with the Buffalo Mine Protected Clearance vehicle to remove suspected explosive hazards and devices.
The newly fielded vehicles will enable the platoon to clear routes of possible explosive hazards for units and convoys on the road safely, said Brinkley. He deployed to Iraq three times, conducting route clearance on his first deployment to Iraq.
“I look forward to training with this new equipment, getting the Soldiers back at the units trained up and have successful future missions,” said Brinkley. This group of Soldiers will return to their units and train additional skilled operators on the use of the Husky and Buffalo.
The new equipment fielding follows the transformation of the Fredericksburg-based engineer battalion in October 2016 when it was was redesignated the 229th BEB from the 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
“The route clearance platoon adds a new capability to the 229th which enables additional mobility support to the 116th BCT that didn’t exist prior,” said Lt. Col. Charles B. Martin, Jr., commander of the 229th. “It’s the only unit of its kind in the commonwealth, and the training on the Buffalo and Husky vehicles, as well as the simulators was very successful. This initial fielding and associated training will allow our unit to build individual and crew proficiency as we progress through our training cycle.”
The Fredericksburg unit traces its lineage and honors to 1858 and its service as a militia unit in the Army of Northern Virginia, explained Capt. W. Chandler Pearson, battalion operations officer. In 1985, the 229th Engineer Battalion was formed, and units in the battalion saw multiple overseas deployments to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The 229th was reorganized in 2005 to the 116th BSTB in an Army-wide reorganization of brigade combat teams.
The transformation brought a second engineer company, Company B, to the battalion structure to join the existing engineer company, Company A. In addition, the battalion’s structure includes Company C, a signal company, and Company D, a military intelligence company. The transformation also brings a forward support company that provides sustainment support like transportation, maintenance and food service.
“Both engineer companies are similar but ultimately provide different specialized capabilities,” Pearson said. “Company A will have a larger section of combat engineers and Company B will have a route clearance platoon. These additions enable the BEB to more adequately support the brigade commander’s intent and provide mobility, counter-mobility and survivability to units on the battlefield.”