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Assistant Brigade Engineer (ABE) Proficiency
by CPT Shawn McGinley

To be proficient in their duties, assistant brigade engineers (ABEs) must accomplish the following tasks for each mission:

  • Engineer battlefield assessment (EBA)
  • Terrain analysis
  • Situational obstacle planning
  • Engineer-related input to the brigade combat team (BCT) order

OBSERVATION: Too many ABEs and ABE sections, though working hard and accomplishing some great things during National Training Center (NTC) rotations, do not demonstrate proficiency in providing continuous mobility and survivability support.

DISCUSSION: Part of the problem is the lack of a mission training plan (MTP) that specifically addresses the tasks an ABE must accomplish. (The best training plan currently available is the 1989 version of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Engineer Battalion, Heavy Division MTP.) This article discusses the tasks an ABE must accomplish, and provides some associated training techniques to implement at Home Station.

Engineer Battlefield Assessment (EBA)


1. Most ABEs are proficient in the elements that make up the EBA, but seldom complete them due to poor time management skills.
2. Many units train using computer simulations. As a result, they are unprepared for the battlefield friction that the NTC imposes on them.

Training Techniques:

1. ABE sections and engineer battalion plans sections must incorporate the time constraints, battlefield friction, and stresses of continuous operations into their Home Station training.
2. Units should prepare detailed SOPs to include distribution of labor within the ABE and engineer battalion plans sections.
3. Units should cross-train all members of the ABE and engineer battalion plans sections to increase their flexibility.

Terrain Analysis


1. The brigade staff does not appreciate the significant impact that terrain may have on their units' operations. Many ABEs brief terrain only in general terms (mountain high, valley low) and do not discuss OCOKA or effects on trafficability.
2. Mission-specific terrain products are produced too late to assist BCT and task force level planning.

Training Techniques:

1. The brigade staff must allow sufficient time during the military decision-making process (MDMP) for the ABE to brief the impact of terrain in detail.
2. The ABE section must anticipate mission-specific requirements and produce terrain products early in the planning process.
3. Everyone in the ABE section must be proficient in using Terrabase software.

Situational Obstacle Planning


1. The brigade staff plans situational obstacles only where the BCT expects to make decisive contact with the enemy.
2. ABE and brigade staffs do not synchronize the observer and trigger plan for employing situational obstacle employment. As a result, the ABE section assigns engineer companies "mission impossible" situational obstacle tasks.

Training Techniques:

1. Situational obstacles must be planned through the depth and width of the brigade's zone. Without them, the enemy may not do what we want him to do.
2. The observer must see the trigger (Terrabase helps with this). If he cannot, the observer must move to another location, or another observer must be put into a new position. If neither of these solutions is possible, the brigade should forget about that planned situational obstacle.
3. All planned, brigade-level situational obstacles should be wargamed during the MDMP. The brigade staff must address the feasibility of employing situational obstacles based on the enemy situation and the employment system.

Engineer Related Input to the BCT Order


1. Brigade S3s often do not allow ABEs to include critical engineer-related tasks (such as sub-unit and coordinating instructions) in the base order. As a result, brigade orders lack engineer-specific details to assist with executing missions.
2. Many brigade sub-units receive the brigade order but do not read the engineer annex. As a result, the sub-units do not accomplish critical engineer-related brigade tasks listed in the engineer annex.
3. Brigade orders rarely include survivability and countermobility timelines.

Training Techniques:

1. Engineer battalion leaders must ensure that Home Station training for brigade staffs includes the requirement to incorporate critical engineer-related tasks in the base order.
2. The brigade order must include survivability and countermobility timelines to facilitate task force level planning.


The information presented in this article is intended to assist assistant brigade engineers as they plan Home Station training strategies. It is not an all-inclusive list of the many tasks ABE sections must accomplish. While the ABE position may be deleted in future engineer battalion tables of organization and equipment, the mobility and survivability tasks discussed above will remain. Therefore, engineer battalions must plan to "do more with less." Using the techniques in this article will help ensure that engineers provide quality mobility and survivability support and remain an integral part of the brigade combined arms team.

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