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14th Engineers train play with the new High Mobility Engineer Excavator Type 1

When moving dirt is fun

22nd Engineer Clearance Company practice operating the High Mobility Engineer Excavator Type 1 by digging trenches at a dig site near the Off-Road Vehicle park at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Spc. Loren Cook

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - If you went to basic training more than a few years ago, you may remember digging a fighting position. After learning about the theory and variations of fighting positions, you had to dig your own. A "Ranger grave" was easy enough to make, but a proper fighting position took hours to dig. Privates in initial entry training have wished there was another way to dig their holes for years.

Don't tell any new recruits, but there's an easier way after all! Engineers with the 22nd Engineer Clearance Company got their hands on the new High Mobility Engineer Excavator Type 1 during operator's training earlier this week. The HMEE is capable of digging a fighting position in minutes, and can perform a wide variety of other tasks as well.

"It's like an up-armored backhoe," said John Concepcion, an equipment instructor with the Army's Tank, Automotive, and Armaments Command (TACOM).

Route clearance companies will mainly use the HMEE to clear natural and artificial obstacles to create safe and navigable routes for U.S. forces. It can also be used to construct roads, lay power lines and create obstacles to hinder enemy forces.

After two days of classroom training, soldiers of the 22nd finally got a chance to go out and try the HMEE for themselves.

To familiarize themselves with their new equipment, soldiers drove out to an excavation site near the off-road vehicle park and practiced digging trenches.

"We are digging trenches so the operators can get more familiar with the functions of the controls and everything," said Pfc. Aaron Truman, a wheeled vehicle and construction equipment mechanic with the 22nd. "I'm not really going to be operating this equipment, but I need to know how it works if I'm going to be maintaining it."

After digging deep fighting positions in just minutes with the HMEE's backhoe, operators filled the hole back in with the front-mounted bucket loader, which can also double as a snowplow.

"Besides the backhoe and the bucket loader, there are a variety of attachments for the HMEE depending on a unit's mission," Concepcion said. "This is a route clearance company, so they get the auger, the forklift, and a street sweeper to help them accomplish their mission."

The High Mobility Engineer Excavator Type 1 might have a long name, but the HMEE and its newly-trained operators can make short work of any route clearance mission you have for them.

LINK: More photos of HMEE action

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