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The Volcano

by SFC Henry J. Gerving, Engineer Platoon, Observer/Controller, CMTC

The Volcano enables U.S. Forces to rapidly place large minefields under diverese conditions. Tanks or Bradley Fighting Vehicles escort the Volcano to the minefield location, and provide security for the minefield and the Volcano as it is reloaded or withdraws to a secure area.

The Task Force developed with a near-perfect plan. They issued the orders yesterday. They conducted rehearsals. They made sure all the information was passed down to the lowest level. It was one of those rare moments at Hohenfels where it looked like the OPFOR might be soundly defeated -- a huge victory for BLUEFOR.

The engineer commander and platoon leaders have made the right preparations. Right now they are following up to make sure that all sections of the unit have complied with the plan. The Volcano mounted on the back of the M548 draws special attention. Just one more check. Gotta make sure it's ready for its gallant mine-laying run across the path of the OPFOR.

The intent is to stop the OPFOR dead in their tracks. The Volcano minefield keeps the enemy at bay. Our tanks will use direct fire to destroy the enemy on the far side of the minefield. Artillery units will mass indirect fire to assist in the destruction. A bullet-proof plan. Success guaranteed.

After a final review, all levels of command felt confident that today they would know how it feels to whip the butt of a full-up OPFOR.

On the morning of the attack, the Volcano platoon leader and his NCOIC arrive early to perform one last operational check. The tests on the system are conducted to standard. The system works. The Volcano is ready to perform its heroic mission.

Meanwhile, the A&O platoon leader assigned to the Volcano is conducting his final checks. He is responsible for linkup and mission readiness of other critical pieces of engineer equipment that are generally attached to one of the line platoons until the mission is complete.

The crew already begins to savor the sweet taste of victory.

The Volcano platoon leader goes over everything just one more time. It is very clear from the start that two M1 tanks would provide security whenever the Volcano moved. About an hour before the start of the mission, the platoon leader confirms that the M1 tanks are located within one kilometer of the Volcano. During a subsequent call, the tank platoon leader reports that he is repositioning his tanks away from the planned minefield site. The Volcano platoon leader takes no further action, however. He continues to confirm that his remaining equipment has moved out and is at its proper place.

The platoon leader has an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. He, too, begins to smell success. It is now 15 minutes before placement of the Volcano minefield. The Volcano platoon leader again calls the tank platoon leader to confirm that the tanks will be ready for movement.

Confusion on the tank platoon's net concerning reports of enemy contact causes a delay in reaching the tank platoon leader. The Volcano platoon leader finally finds out that the tank platoon has been committed and is currently engaging the enemy in the opposite direction from the planned minefield.

The engineer platoon leader learns that the reserve force has also been committed and is moving in the direction of the tank platoon, leaving no combat vehicles in his sector for security. The tank platoon leader assures the engineer platoon leader that he will be able to send at least one tank to escort the Volcano.

The Volcano platoon leader begins to feel the pressure. He knows that the critical minefield must he laid within the next few minutes or the mission will be a failure. He waits as long as he can, hoping that the tank will arrive. He places several anxious radio calls to the tank platoon leader. None are answered. Later he finds out that the entire tank platoon was destroyed during the initial engagement. This also turned the OPFOR directly toward the location of the planned Volcano minefield.

Time is now critical. The platoon leader makes a desperate call to the engineer commander explaining the situation. The commander tells him that the minefield is critical and must be laid or the whole mission will fail. The platoon leader decides to move the Volcano to the minefield location and place the minefield.

There is no enemy contact, and the Volcano arrives. The platoon leader verifies, with the proper authority, that he can place the Volcano. The platoon leader gives the order and the Volcano starts its heroic run. An enemy tank only a few meters into the clearing blows away the Volcano and its valuable cargo.

The enemy now knows that there are no obstacles in their path along this route of advance. They change their axis of attack to the intended minefield location. The OPFOR destroys the entire task force as they continue to attack.

A majority of the OPFOR arrives on the objective. The OPFOR is commended for the use of battlefield information and the knowledge of how important the destruction of the Volcano is to the success of the task force operation. The OPFOR is clearly victorious in today's battle.

Technique: Protect the Volcano to ensure that it performs its mission. A dead Volcano means no critical minefield.

As illustrated in this vignette, the Volcano is a critical piece of the battle plan. Lack of security neutralized the Volcano. There was nothing to slow the enemy down so that direct and indirect fire could destroy them. Proper timing is essential. The minefield must be placed late enough so that it will still be operational when the enemy arrives, and early enough to avoid detection by scouts and be a total surprise to the enemy's main body. The best time to place the Volcano minefield is normally after reconnaissance elements have passed through the planned minefield site.

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