Every step in unfamiliar territory can potentially be fatal, so the obstacle clearing platoon moves slowly. At the front are men with steel probes and mine detectors, but even modern electronics do not always immediately give an answer as to what kind of surprise the enemy has prepared. “It can only distinguish an anti-tank mine at a depth of up to 40 cm, and an anti-personal mine at a depth of up to 10 cm”, stated Vadim Lebedev, the squad leader. Once the mine detector gave a signal of impending danger, the convoy stopped. At this stage, work was conducted only by the officers, and only with their bare hands. Life at this moment, as said by the Sappers, is at their fingertips.
“We have detected a TM-62 anti-tank mine. We have decided to destroy it with a 600 gram overhead charge, awaiting permission”
The men move away to a safe distance, and then an explosion echoes. The next obstacle is an anti-personal trip-mine, and the convoy stops once again. The average speed of a convoy moving through a minefield is around 100 meters an hour. The area ahead of the convoy is scanned by steel rods, but the Sappers must be aware that regular mines are not the only obstacle. The Sapper should not only scan the ground next to him, but in front of him and even upwards, as well. The obstacle could be a thin wire hanging from the trees, which is linked to mines that will explode if a vehicle’s antenna touches it. The mine is set very high on a tree. The platoon’s commander decides to shoot it with a machine gun.
“We cannot determine if the mine is safely reachable, whether it can be disarmed, or whether there are more mines in the area. Shooting it from a distance will remove it without endangering human lives”, stated the platoon commander, Alexander Ovcharenko. Again, the commander chooses to personally carry out the more dangerous task. Even during training, the soldiers work with real explosives, so each day they carefully learn to weigh their every decision, ever step, and even every word. “I think a real-life combat situation would certainly be scary, so it’s good to have a good commander who is ready to provide support at any time. I want to issue him a big thank you,” stated Sapper Alex Volkov. In spring, a big exam awaits the platoon. During the upcoming tactical military exercise, the Sappers will lead a convoy of vehicles safely through a simulated enemy minefield.