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As TFE executed its historic crossing of the Sava river, a four-HMMWV patrol moved forward to place route identification signs. The signs were to aide units in navigating in their new area of operations. As the patrol traveled in the unfamiliar setting, it became disoriented and decided to use an unimproved side road the soldiers believed would put them back on course. The side road was covered with snow and had no visible tracks indicating recent use. The patrol began traveling down the side road when, suddenly, the lead vehicle hit and detonated an anti-tank mine. The tremendous explosion destroyed the entire front of the HMMWV and seriously injured the vehicle driver. The three passengers in the vehicle received only minor injuries. An immediate call to the unit TOC was unsuccessful but, eventually, the soldiers were rescued and treated.

Mine strikes are sudden and present little or no indication of danger. The following TTP can deter their effects in a mine-rich environment.

  • Stay in uniform. Doctors assessed that the injuries sustained by the three passengers in the minestrike above were minimized because they were wearing their Kevlar vests and helmets with chins traps fastened. Proper and disciplined wear of individual equipment may greatly reduce the severity of minestrike injuries.

  • When operating in unfamiliar areas, all routes should be considered mined until cleared. Even though an uncleared route would significantly reduce travel time, the danger is too great. Roads covered with snow and have no overlying treadmarks should be avoided all together. Every patrol or convoy should carry the latest intelligence (mine maps) on mined or suspected mined areas.

  • Never travel on a bridge or road bypass of any sort. Analysis of factional mine reports show that bypasses are almost always mined or booby trapped.

  • Patrols/convoys must always closely track their location on the map. Whenever possible, patrols and convoys should travel with a navigational aide such as a global positioning system (GPS) or "plugger," as it is called. With training, these devices provide many navigational benefits and may even track movement.

  • Maintain communications with higher headquarters. This is easier said than done. Radio checks should be made with the TOC when a patrol or convoy leaves the unit area. Radio checks should be continued IAW unit SOP. Mountainous terrain, as in Bosnia, may cause radio communications challenges. In emergencies, the MEDEVAC net should provide better communications than regular frequencies throughout the area of operations. SOI information on frequencies and call signs should be available at least two levels up.

  • After a mine strike has occurred and the situation is under control, mark all mines and minefields encountered on a map, preferably with the aid of a plugger to ensure accuracy. This will not only help updated current mine records but will also aid in the analysis of enemy obstacle patterns, tactics and techniques.

  • Situation permitting, leaving the hatches open on armored vehicles reduces the concussion affect inside the vehicle should a mine strike occur.

  • Convoys should carry an emergency supply of food and water. In the event of a minestrike that renders all vehicles immobile, supplemental Class I will be needed while awaiting rescue.

  • Combat lifesavers with equipment should accompany all patrol and convoys. The number depends on the size of the element being supported. It really could mean the difference between life and death.

TTP for Immediate Action during Mine Strike (without Engineers) in a Convoy

Units must develop Immediate Action Drills to quickly assess and get on top of a minestrike situation. Below are recommended convoy drills for immediate action during a minestrike with and without engineers present.

1. All vehicles immediately stop. Moving off the road or toward the shoulders (herring bone) could expose more vehicles to mines.

2. Convoy commander reports to higher headquarters. A situation report is given along with a request for any medical, engineer, or maintenance support needed for extraction from the area. Some mines are sensitive to electronic transmissions so always ensure radio transmissions are made at least 100 meters away from the mine strike.

3. For security, maintain vehicle spacing and alternate vehicle-mounted weapons.

4. Dismounted movement should be restricted to the rescue of the personnel in the disabled vehicle. Dismounting soldiers only use the tracks made by the disabled vehicle.

5. METT-TC dictates when the convoy can continue movement.

TTP for Immediate Actions during Mine Strikes with Engineers in Convoy

1. All vehicles immediately stop.

2. Convoy commander reports to higher headquarters.

3. Halt all vehicle movement and prevent soldiers from dismounting.

4. Establish 360-degree security from vehicles.

5. The senior engineer, through the convoy commander, directs clearance operations.

6. Mine-sweep team clears footpath to injured personnel and begins first aid.

7. Convoy commander determines the method of MEDEVAC. If necessary, the mine-sweep team clears landing zone (LZ).

8. Clearly mark all mines located.

9. Engineers clear wreckage and fill mine crater.

10. Road guards guide vehicles around mines.

11. Engineers clear mines after convoy moves out of area.

12. Unit continues mission.

Vehicle Recovery from a Minefield

A tank platoon was traveling on a route that had been cleared by factional engineers when the tank commander on the lead tank observes an anti-tank mine in the middle of the road. After halting the platoons movement, the lead tank attempts to turn around. When executing a wide turn, the tank detonates a buried anti-tank mine. The detonated mine causes the sympathetic detonation of two other mines buried adjacent to it. Heavy damage is done to the track and road wheels of the tank; however, the crew suffers only minor injuries. The tank commander in the damaged vehicle radios to the rest of the platoon that the crew is OK, but the tank is immobile and has to be recovered.

TTP for Vehicle Extraction from a Minefield

During Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR, units sometimes suddenly discovered they had entered a mined area and had to extract themselves. In other cases, the lead vehicle in a convoy would detonate a mine. In either case, extracting a vehicle from a suspected mined area should be conducted the same way regardless of whether a mine strike has occurred. The following procedures proved effective in Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR.

1. When a minestrike occurs or mines are visually detected, halt all movement!

2. No vehicle should attempt to turn around or go forward. If possible, the best course of action is to back out in your own tracks to a safe area.

3. If a vehicle has been immobilized, engineers should clear a lane to it. The cleared lane should be wide enough to accommodate the recovery vehicle. (An M88 has a wider track base than most other tracked vehicles.)

4. If the lane cannot be cleared all the way to the disabled vehicle to attach a tow bar, a mine-sweep team should clear a footpath to it and hook up a tow cable. (An M-88 can run its cable out to 200 feet.) This decreases the risk of the M-88 also striking a mine while recovering the disabled vehicle.

5. The recovery vehicle should then pull the damaged vehicle out at least three vehicle lengths before switching to a tow bar.

6. If the disabled vehicle is on a curve, recovery crews may have to bring the M-88 or other armored vehicle up to the disabled vehicle and use a tow bar to recover it.

The following TTP proved effective during operations in B-H.

  • If possible, affix tow cables to all vehicles, front and rear. This allows recovery without touching the ground. Rear cables should be attached to lower mounts to prevent vehicle damage.

  • During PMCS, emphasize checking that shackles are installed and complete!

  • When towing a vehicle after a mine strike, the possibility of a fire starting is much greater due to probable damage done to the vehicle.

TTP for Personnel Extraction from Mined Areas

Dismounted personnel exaction drills should also be established and trained. The following drill is a method of extraction. As soon as you realize you are in a minefield, either visually or by the detonation a mine, all personnel must freeze.

1. The senior leader must immediately take charge, but remain calm.

2. Turn off all radios.

3. The leader designates a route out of the minefield.

a. First, determine whether there are any casualties. If there are none, identify within the group's position the start point for extraction. This must be a specific point, not an area.

b. Identify the safe area. A safe area is where one could reasonably assume that if casualties were laid down, they would not detonate another mine.

c. Identify a centrally located reference point along the route. This point must be visible to all personnel to show them exactly where the extraction route goes.

4. All personnel probe from their location to the designated escape lane.

a. Probe a space on which to ground personal gear.

b. Probe to the disignated escape lane.

c. Bring gear and leave it along the proofed (probed) edge of the designated escape lane.

5. Leader designates personnel to evacuate casualties.

a. A minumum of two personnel should evacuate a casualty; use no more than needed.

b. Probe a one-meter lane to each casualty.

c. From the casualty's location, determine probing responsibilities around the casualty, such as "I'll probe left, you probe right."

d. Probe a one-meter zone around each casualty.

e. Perform only enough first aid on a casualty to keep him/her alive until evauated to a safe area.

6. Personnel move to safe area. All personnel not involved in probing routes to extract casualties, should probe their own route out of the minefield to and along the designated escape lane.

7. Report mine strike to higher and request MEDEVAC, if required. Remember to move at least 100 meters away from the minefield before keying your radio transmitter.

Correct Method for Using a Probe

  • Probe at a 3-degree angle.
  • Probe 3 inches into the ground.
  • Probe every 1-1/2 inches, side to side.
  • Probe at least a one-meter-wide path.
  • Mark ALL mines found!!!

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias