HESCO GROUP: Innovation-Driven Problem Solving


Sometimes being in the right place at the right time lets us discover/explore something we have never considered before. After volunteering to assist with constructing a new shoot house at my home range, I began delving deeper into the system that made it possible. Based in the U.K., with a large U.S. subsidiary spread across multiple cities, HESCO is the original developer of earth-filled barrier technology. HESCO literature points out that, since 1991, HESCO products have been deployed in the most hostile parts of the world, saving countless lives and billions of dollars’ worth of mission-critical assets.

HESCO barriers originated in the late 1980s with the idea of one man who needed to protect his property from fierce storms on the coast of North Yorkshire, U.K. Jimi Heselden, a renowned industrialist and philanthropist, created what would become the HESCO Concertainer Unit based on a wire mesh gabion system. The HESCO barriers were soon acknowledged as the most significant development in field fortification since WW II. In 1991, the British Ministry of Defense, in cooperation with HESCO, adapted the system to serve as protection barricades for troops and supplies in the first Gulf War. By 1996, the HESCO barriers had been selected by the U.S. military as its force protection barricade system—one that has continuously grown and adapted as the war on terror has escalated. HESCO has proven true to its roots; it remains an innovative company that has expanded to include environmental and security barriers, border security, training/shooting ranges, hostile vehicle mitigation solutions and ballistic resistant armor plates.

Stretching out a five-panel section and placing it in preparation for filling.

Echo Valley Training Center (EVTC) was originated to satisfy its owner’s (C.R. Newlin) quest for a place to enjoy his passion for shooting and firearms training. There is a definite lack of ranges, private or public, in the Mid-Atlantic region that create an effective training environment. Sure, if you want to sight in your deer rifle or shoot clay pigeons, places exist; however, for training involving modern tactics, CQB operations or long-range target interdiction, not so much. EVTC was spawned nearly 15 years ago on the backside of more than 300 acres of land owned by C.R. Newlin. EVTC hosts numerous local, state and federal law enforcement entities, DOD, security firms and several of the most renowned private instruction organizations in the nation. EVTC does not have its own training cadre or agenda, lending absolute flexibility to the courses on offer and visiting instructors. While the firing ranges are concentrated within a certain area of the property, the full 300+ acres can be utilized for training that encompasses off-road vehicles, patrolling and even riverine operations.

What began as a single 25-yard handgun bay has expanded into multiple ranges capable of handling dozens of students on any given day. EVTC offers two 100-yard by 50-yard graveled, bermed shooting bays, a multilevel 300-yard-deep, target-rich range with multiple firing positions including two “dug-in” firing points, a 360-degree “drive-in” graveled range, 700-yard Known Distance Range and 250-yard by 45-yard “Jungle Walk” lane next to a stream. This article is inspired by EVTC’s most recent improvement … the HESCO-based CQB Shoot House. This hands-on experience of EVTC’s HESCO microcosm served to highlight the attributes that have made several HESCO product lines so successful across the world.

Rounds missing the target are easily contained by the HESCO barriers, causing only minimal wear/tear.

Over a two-day period, with an inexperienced force guided by a HESCO Manager, an entire CQB shoot house was created. The only real prerequisite was flat ground; with the HESCO system, foundations are not required. Pallets of HESCO geotextile-lined defensive barriers were unwrapped and unfolded. The heavy-duty fabric is surrounded by zinc-coated aluminum wire mesh that resembles a chain link fence in pattern. Each pallet can generate a 100-foot-long, 7-foot-high barrier composed of sections measuring 5 feet by 5 feet. Two men stretch out the HESCO panels and make sure they are orientated according to HESCO’s diagram. While surprisingly easy to manipulate by hand, the HESCO cells are obviously stationary once loaded with fill material, which was piled into the sections via backhoe and track front-end loader. Panels are interlinked with wire rods and intertwining corners. This allows for units to be broken apart into 5-foot-by-5-foot segments as needed, to achieve the specific designs for the shoot house layouts. An important nuance of the HESCO system is that it is constantly expandable as future need arises.

EVTC’s HESCO CQB Shoot House comprises two long intersecting hallways with rooms located on either side. The rooms were set up so that one had to be traversed before the other could be entered. Nooks simulating closets were also incorporated. Sections of HESCO barriers were also installed at offset locations around the shoot house for further assurance of ballistic integrity, no matter the type of training taking place or target arrangement. The EVTC HESCO Shoot House’s inaugural event was the HESCO-sponsored Zombie Invitational.

The filling of HESCO barriers at Echo Valley Training Center. The material is loaded using lifts.

The EVTC experience highlighted all of HESCO’s hallmark features: simple installation, effectiveness, adaptability to specific site needs, ease of maintenance and so on. HESCO’s other products, including defensive barriers, firing ranges, flood barriers, protective structures, security barriers, TERRABLOCK and rapid deployment fortifications all share these traits. HESCO revolutionized field fortification, allowing troops to move into remote areas and establish a secure base of operations in a rapid fashion. According to one anecdote unearthed during the research for this article, if all the currently deployed HESCO barriers were placed end to end, the resultant barrier would circle the world 10 times! That is hard to fathom.

The HESCO RAID (Rapid In-Theatre Deployment) containers allow for the easy transport and deployment of over 1,000 feet of HESCO barriers in 60 seconds directly from the container, so that filling operations can begin from native materials. Literally, a force can arrive and be fortified overnight. RAID was developed to reduce the logistical burden of supporting force protection missions on expeditionary operations, such as the construction of forward operating and patrol bases. RAID utilizes a specially designed and engineered ISO container that conforms to all ISO stacking and transportation standards and this patented configuration has the potential to remove 50% of all road traffic involved in delivering defensive barriers to the end user.

HESCO protection is possible even in remote regions, giving commanders flexibility in locating outposts.

A key HESCO advantage is their ability to support their products around the world via technical services and onsite support. The Royal Malaysian Army requested a “Train the Trainer” course for their Military Engineering School. HESCO deployed a small team to provide both theoretical and practical product training over a five-day period. This culminated in a final day product demonstration overseen by the HESCO Technical Support Team for all key officials within the Royal Malaysian Army.

HESCO’s roots in storm protection are still evident in its current lineup of flood barrier products. The HESCO CART has been designed to achieve maximum logistical efficiency and rapid protection in emergency situations. CART is a rapid deployment system that dispenses pre-connected HESCO units from a specially engineered pallet via a 4 x 4 vehicle. HESCO earth-filled barriers have a significant advantage over traditional sandbags, in terms of speed and structural integrity, time and labor requirement for installation. A wall using HESCO FLOODLINE earth-filled barrier can be filled by two persons and a standard front-end loader in just 20 minutes, the equivalent sized wall of 1,500 sandbags can take 10 persons up to 7 hours to fill and build.

HESCO barricades allow firing range areas to be created without the need for natural terrain features to act as a backstop. Photo Credit: HESCO

Force protection is a major focus of the HESCO Group, with several HESCO items to choose from, such as the HAB (HESCO Accommodation Bunker) and a range of sangers. The HAB is easy to build with limited manpower, simple tools and light earthmoving equipment and will house up to eight personnel. The HAB range of products provides both side and overhead blast and fragmentation protection, allowing the personnel or workforce to live and work in safety, particularly in remote and harsh environments, such as forward operating bases, company outposts and remote industrial facilities. The sidewalls are made of specifically developed HESCO units, offering combat-proven protection and canvas doors. Steel doors can also be supplied.

The term “sangar” originated in the British Empire to designate a protected sentry post, normally located around the perimeter of a base. Its main function is to provide early warning of enemy/terrorist activity/attack in order to protect forces both within the base and those deployed within sight of the sangar. The HESCO Ground Mounted Sangar and Elevated Sangar are modular units comprising earth-filled protective units and alloy components. Both HESCO sangar types have a base measuring 18 feet by 18 feet. The Elevated Sangar features a 12-foot-2-inch-high platform that is accessed by a stairway.

Individual body armor is now part of the HESCO stable of products. Photo Credit: HESCO

Many pages could be written on each HESCO product line, making any article endeavor daunting. Multiple HESCO items have barely been mentioned, such as body armor, security barriers and the TERRABLOCK. If the breadth and ingenuity of HESCO’s offerings prompts interested parties to investigate further, then this article is a success.

Sites of Interest

Echo Valley Training Center