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AREA CLEARANCE

Area clearance is also a combined arms mission. Clearing operations occur when engineers receive a mission to clear an area of mines or to clear a specific minefield in a friendly AO. In most cases, the minefield has been reported and may already be marked on all sides. The engineer unit receiving the mission must base its plans on available information and prepare equipment based on the estimate.

PLANNING

Planning area-clearance operations is very similar to planning breach operations. Commanders and staffs plan and coordinate all the breaching tenets.

Intelligence

Intelligence is particularly important for discovering the types of mines and mine fuses the enemy employs. The engineer uses this information to determine which clearance and neutralization techniques offer the best chance for success and minimize the risk to the sweep teams. Intelligence also helps the commander determine the need for outside resources, such as EOD and SOF elements.

The information needed for area-clearance operations includes--

  • Minefield location.
  • Minefield orientation.
  • Presence of wire as an obstacle.
  • Location of gaps and bypasses.
  • Minefield composition (buried or surface-laid mines, AT or AP mines, AHDs, trip wires, and minefield depth).
  • Types of mines, employment techniques, fuses, and booby-trap configurations.
  • Information on whether or not the minefield is marked and, if it is marked, the material used.
  • Possibility of hostile forces in the area.

Fundamentals

You must plan to apply the four fundamentals of breaching operations (SOSR), but you may not execute all of them due to the lack of enemy presence.

Organization

Task organization is similar to that used for route-clearance operations. The breach force is the clearance element, and the support force is responsible for all security and maneuver responsibilities. There is no assault force in area-clearance operations. Table 11-3 shows a sample task organization for an area clearance. The size of the force can be tailored, based on the probability of contact.

Table 11-3. Sample task organization for an area clearance

Team Support Force Breach Force
Heavy
  • Mechanized infantry platoon
  • Mortar section
  • FIST
  • Armor platoon
  • Engineer platoon with organic vehicles
  • Medical team (two ambulances)
  • EOD team
Light/heavy
  • Bradley platoon with dismount capability
  • 60-mm mortar section
  • Forward observer
  • One infantry platoon (light)
  • Engineer platoon with organic vehicles
  • Medical team (two ambulances)
  • EOD team
Light
  • AT/MP section with M60/MK19 mix
  • 60-mm mortar section
  • Forward observer
  • Two infantry platoons (light)
  • Engineer squad (-)
  • Medical team (two ambulances)
  • EOD team

Mass

Sufficient maneuver and engineer assets must be allocated to the clearance company team. The length and width of the route and the amount of time available determines the size of the sweep team. A platoon is normally used to clear a 200- by 300-meter minefield; additional assets are required to clear larger and multiple minefields.

Synchronization

All aspects of synchronization should be implemented when planning area clearance. It is especially important that rehearsals be conducted at the combined arms level. Rehearsals should include--

  • Reaction to enemy contact.
  • Reaction to an ambush.
  • Communications exercise.
  • Fire support (obscuration smoke, immediate suppression fires, critical friendly zones for counterfire radar, and no-fire area around the clearance site).
  • CSS (maneuver, casualty evacuation, marking materials, and demolitions resupply).

PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS

Area-clearance BOS planning considerations are parallel to route-clearance planning considerations. Brigade and battalion TF staffs should use the planning considerations outlined on pages 11-3 through 11-7 plus the ones outlined below:

  • Intelligence. Focus on the most probable enemy attack method and AAs.
  • Maneuver.

  • Clear and secure flanks (at least 500 meters) and the farside of the area to be cleared.
    Provide security for the cleared area.
  • Fire support. Ensure that the area-clearance team has a FIST coordinator. The FIST should be collocated with the support force OIC.
  • Mobility/survivability. Establish minefield control points along the area to be cleared.
  • CSS.

  • Ensure that the medical team consists of one or two ambulances and that it is located with the breach force.
    Ensure that all personnel wear flak vests or IBASIC (Figure 11-1).
  • C 2 .

  • Determine the area length, using clearly definable perimeter points.
    Coordinate with adjacent units, the host nation, NGOs, PVOs, and SOF.

TASK ORGANIZATION

The battalion TF will focus a company team (minus) as the main effort to conduct area clearance.

Support Force

This force is comprised of two maneuver platoons and an OIC. The support force provides flank security, forward security, and protection for the breach force. It neutralizes hostile forces that are encountered by the company team. The support force secures the area 500 meters beyond the area to be cleared. METT-T factors will affect the actual distance based on the threat and the weapon systems. The support force OIC establishes static security positions around the area until the clearance operation is complete. He also has control of fires and the responsibility to neutralize any hostile force.

Breach Force

The breach force is comprised of an engineer platoon that is organized into sweep teams, a medical team, and an EOD team (or one that is on call). The sweep team (squad-size) is organized as shown in Figure 11-3. The breach force's mission is to sweep and clear the area of mine and explosive threats.

MEHTODS AND TYPES

The breach force OIC determines the perimeter of the area to be cleared and ensures that it is marked. The OIC divides the area into sections to be cleared (Figure 11-9). The sections should be no larger than 40 meters wide and 100 meters long. This is an optimal-sized area for a sweep team to clear at one time. The OIC assigns squad-size sweep teams to each section.

Figure 11-9. Area clearance site layout

The squads clear their assigned sections using the sweeping techniques discussed earlier in this chapter. As the sections are cleared, they are marked for safety and control purposes. This process is continued until the entire area is cleared. Progress is reported to the company team commander as required.

IMPROVISED MINE THREAT

Mines are not always employed conventionally by military forces organic to the host nation or its enemies. In many cases, they are also employed by terrorists against allied forces or the host-nation populace. In these cases, the threat increases because of the improvised methods in which the mines were emplaced. In conventional emplacement of mines, a pattern emerges from the emplacing force's doctrine, and the threat can easily be reduced by using this knowledge. There is less pattern in the case of improvised mining methods, and this makes detection and removal very difficult.

Improvised mining has many different employment techniques. In most of the techniques shown below, a UXO can easily be employed in place of a mine:

  • Coupling mines. Coupling is done by linking one mine to another, usually with detonating cord. When the initial mine is detonated, it detonates the linked mine. This technique is done to defeat countermine equipment.
  • Boosting mines. Buried mines are stacked atop one another, and the farthest mine from the surface is fused. This reduces the probability of detection and increases the force of the blast.
  • Sensitizing AT mines. On some nonmetallic AT mines, the pressure plate can be cracked and the spring removed or the mine's explosive can be cut into smaller blocks and employed as powerful AP mines. The pressure plate can be removed from metallic AT mines and employed in the same manner. Alternatively, a pressure-fused AP mine can be placed on the top of an AT mine.
  • Mixing training mines with live mines. Hostile forces can employ training mines at the start of a minefield and emplace live mines toward the end. The sweep element falsely believes that the minefield is phony and becomes complacent in its reduction activities. When this technique is used, live mines are painted to resemble training mines.
  • Daisy-chaining mines. Command-detonated AP mines are commonly used in daisy chaining. Hostile forces link the mines with trip wires or detonating cord. When the initial mine is detonated, the other mines will detonate.

MINE LOCATIONS

Hostile forces normally place more than one mine in each mined area. Do not focus the detection effort solely on a horizontal mine threat, such as on the ground or in culverts. The mine threat is also vertical, such as in trees or attached to an overpass. Clearance efforts must accommodate the three-dimensional battlefield. Mines may be placed in--

  • Frequently used roadways.
  • Brush and other traffic obstructions placed on roadways.
  • Bridge bypasses and fording sites.
  • Road junctions.
  • Obvious turnarounds, bypasses, culverts, ditches, and shoulders.
  • Key logistic points (water, fuel, food).
  • Debris along a route.

DISPOSITION OF MINES

The following actions should be taken when a suspected mine is found:

  • Mark the suspected mine location; do not leave any mine unmarked.
  • Search for electric wires and trip wires in the immediate area. Trace the wires in both directions to determine if items are attached to them. If there is nothing attached and the IPB does not state otherwise, cut loose trip wires and electric wires.
DANGER
Never cut taut trip wires. Alert the security element to search for an enemy that may be manning a command-detonated mine. Keep troops away from the mine until all the wires are traced and cut. Be alert for booby traps and ambush. If booby traps are found, use the clearance procedures outlined in Chapter 13.
  • Probe the suspected mine location and uncover enough of the object to identify it. Other personnel should stay at least 30 meters away.

  • If the object is a mine, the prober withdraws and notifies the OIC. The OIC decides to bypass the mine, destroy it in place, remove it with a grapnel, or notify EOD for hand neutralization.
    If the object is debris, get in a protected position and carefully remove the debris with a grapnel hook. Be alert for booby traps or AHDs wired to the debris.

MINE-REMOVAL TECHNIQUES

A mine can be bypassed, detonated in place, pulled out by a rope or a wire, or neutralized and removed by hand. The method used depends on the location of the mine, the type of the mine and the fuse, and the tactical situation. Methods of removal and actions on finding a mine should be addressed in the OPORD and rehearsed prior to executing the mission.

Trip-wire and tilt-rod mines can be detonated by throwing a grapnel, with a rope attached, past the trip wire or tilt rod and pulling the grapnel back to actuate the mine. Grapnels may be improvised from any available material, such as a bent drift pin or scrap material.

A hand-emplaced charge is the standard demolition material used to destroy a mine in place (see FM 5-250). A 1-pound block of explosive placed next to a mine is sufficient to detonate most mines. A charge can be placed next to each mine in a group, then the charges can be connected and fired simultaneously.

Rope or wire can be used to pull a mine out of its installed position. This is a safe method and only detonates mines that are equipped with AHDs. It also reduces noise and cratering. A tripod (Figure 10-21) makes it easier to pull a mine out of a hole on the first attempt. Use the following procedures to remove mines:

  • Uncover only enough of the mine to expose a handle or a projection. Attach a 60-meter length of rope or wire to the mine or engage a grapnel. If there is no projection, engage a grapnel on the bottom side of the mine, opposite the direction of pull.
DANGER
Do not move the mine while uncovering it or attaching the rope because movement detonate an AHD.
  • Ensure that the covered area is not mined. Take cover and lie in a prone position at least 50 meters from the mine. Pull the rope to remove the mine from the hole.
  • Wait at least 30 seconds before leaving cover and approaching the mine if the mine type is unknown. This guards against the possibility of a delay firing mechanism.
  • Dispose of the mine according to the unit directive or SOP.

HAND NEUTRALIZATION

Appendix A discusses procedures for hand neutralization of US mines. Foreign mines and booby traps should only be neutralized by EOD personnel.

Mines are neutralized by hand, when--

  • Units are conducting a covert breach.
  • The mine is located on a bridge, building, or other facility required for use by friendly forces.
  • Neutralization by other means is not possible.
  • The mine can be positively neutralized by hand and is required for reuse.
  • The mine type is unknown and recovery must be attempted for intelligence purposes.
  • Chemical mines are located in areas where contamination would restrict the use of the area by friendly troops.

SAFETY

The following safety procedures should be observed during route and area clearance:

  • Personnel should wear helmets and flak jackets to protect them against fragmentation. Sweep team members should wear IBASIC, if available.
  • Vehicle floorboards should be sandbagged.
  • Vehicles should be dispersed at 50-meter intervals. This ensures that a mine detonated by one vehicle will not cause casualties in other vehicles.
  • One person at a time should be allowed at a suspected mine location.
  • Personnel should assume that mines and explosive devices are equipped with AHDs until proven otherwise.
  • Personnel should not run and should move only in previously cleared areas.
  • Armored vehicles should have their hatches open to vent the pressure pulse from a mine detonation.
  • Soldiers should wear ballistic and laser protective spectacles (BLPS) or lightly tinted, protective eyewear to reduce eye fatigue and improve their ability to recognize mine indicators.

REPORTS

Dissemination of information is the key to battlefield management. Units encountering minefields or explosive devices should follow a five-step process--stop, secure, mark, report, and avoid. Units must provide adequate information to their higher headquarters to ensure that follow-on elements are well informed. Information must include the known or suspected minefield location, types of mines (if known), the marking method, the time the minefield was encountered, and any additional information that may be of use to the clearing unit.

Division and maneuver brigades must establish a central control cell for mine clearance information. This cell receives and gathers all mine and explosive threat data within the unit's AO. Mine-contact reports are reported through maneuver command channels with a priority of flash or immediate. The information is then jointly controlled in the operations cell and the central mine control cell by the engineer staff officer, the G3/S3, and the Assistant Chief of Staff, G2 (Intelligence) (G2)/S2. The mine contact database is jointly maintained by the engineer and the G2/S2, who subsequently conduct pattern analysis and integrate it into intelligence and operational updates.

The central mine control cell performs the following actions:

  • Maintains a current situation map and overlay that depict friendly and enemy mines and obstacles.
  • Maintains and updates enemy obstacle (Figure 11-10) and route status (Figure 11-11) information.
  • Receives and maintains minefield recording forms (US and foreign) within the unit's operational area (this includes host-nation minefield data, if available).
  • Maintains a mine-contact database. (This could be a clearinghouse for future operations.)
  • Processes, analyzes, and updates information; disseminates the information to subordinate commanders and staff.

SITUATION REPORT

Clearing units submit a situation report to higher headquarters if enemy activity is encountered or if an explosive device is discovered. This information should be tracked in the TOC and the CTCP. Information must be disseminated to subordinate units, especially CSS elements.

PROGRESS REPORT

The clearing unit submits progress and completion reports until the clearance operation is complete. Progress reports must be timely and accurate. Report format and frequency are established in the OPORD before the clearance mission is executed.

Figure 11-10. Sample enemy obstacle report

Figure 11-11. Sample route status report

MINE INCIDENT REPORT

A mine incident includes any unplanned activity involving a mine, UXO, or a booby trap. It also includes near misses that could have resulted in damage or injury. The mine incident report (Figure 11-12) is a technical report that follows a serious incident report (SIR), and it should be submitted as soon as possible (local SOP will indicate time requirements).

Figure 11-12. Sample mine incident report



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