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Reserve Engineer Battalion makes history at Fort Knox ranges

| 412th Theater Engineer Command | March 12, 2018

FORT KNOX, Ky. —

Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve’s 478th Engineer Battalion, 412th Theater Engineer Command (TEC), based in Fort Thomas, Ky., made history at Fort Knox Feb. 4-23, 2018. 

 The battalion’s four mobility augmentation companies earned T2 Training certification after being certified in GATE III — a section-level gunnery and Engineer Qualification Tables (EQTs) X through X11, which includes the firing of inert Mine Clearing Line Charges, or MICLCs.

Unit officials said this is the first time a TEC battalion has accomplished such a feat.

Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Andrew S. Morris praised the support efforts of battalions within the 926th Engineer Brigade and the command as well as the training coordination of Fort Knox’s 1st Squadron, 409th Regiment, 4th Cavalry Brigade which certified the EQTs.

“We could have not obtained this without the Soldiers, our partners in arms, the higher headquarters, and the support personnel on Knox,” said Morris who has led the Battalion the last 22 months.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Trammell, battalion master gunner, received the warning order to “deploy” in January and certified the Soldiers in their gunnery tasks, starting with building the scenarios two weeks later.

The battalion started training Oct. 20, 2017. The first step in the certification process was getting Soldiers qualified in GATE IV, or gunnery skills testing up to crew level.

To accomplish this, Fort Knox’s St. Vith Range became a “combat environment.”

Platoons in M113 armored personnel carriers tested on several mission essential tasks, including reacting to indirect fire, engaging targets several hundred meters away with mounted .50 caliber machine guns and assigned individual weapons, including the Squad Automatic Weapon and either firing an inert MICLC or an M-136 Volcano weapons system mounted on an M977 heavy expanded mobility tactical truck. Armored Vehicle Launch Bridges (AVLBs) also were deployed.

Spc. Andrew Brewer, in the 450th Mobile Augmentation Company, based in Fort Thomas, noted the training was held in freezing temperatures, snow and rain showers throughout the winter.

“Now that it’s all done and knowing that we are one of the first to accomplish this level of training, it’s a great sense of accomplishment,” said Brewer.
Morris said the experience has been “pretty enlightening.”

“The biggest thing I gathered from that is the commitment and dedication of the Soldiers under my command,” said Morris. “They went through some very difficult times, being very cold, very wet and withstanding rough conditions, but they stuck to it and they achieved all their aim points. They had goals and they obtained them, so I am very proud of them.”

Staff Sgt. Joseph Wetzel, a 450th platoon sergeant, said he encouraged his Soldiers to excel in the training.

“I made it clear to them to make the most of it and take everything from it they could because who knows when they will be able to do something like this at this level again,” said Wetzel.

Case in point: Ammunition fired downrange. More than 150,000 rounds alone were fired from the M2 .50 caliber machine guns.

Staff Sgt. Eric Flaherty, platoon commander for the 450th who has served in the Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve for the last 18 years, noted, “It is uncommon for National Guard and Reservists to get to do live fire training of that magnitude. I am pleased that my Soldiers and I were able to participate.”
The Soldiers of the 449th MAC, also based in Fort Thomas, were the first to achieve the T2 status on Feb. 13. With three line platoons, a headquarters platoon and a maintenance platoon, Company Commander Capt. Nelson Page said he is not surprised by their accomplishment.

“We are a very strong team, we know each other very well, and we all work together very well,” said Page in his 34th month as company commander. “With all the training that we have done, with the amount of trigger time that we have had, there is no doubt that my Soldiers will excel in a combat environment with not only maneuvering efficiently, but we will hit targets.”

The 396th and 979th MACs will be efficient 24/7. All platoons in the 396th based in Ashland and two of the three platoons of the 979th based in Lexington successfully executed night operations training. The training entailed crossing a gap with an AVLB, breaching and clearing a lane through an obstacle, and deploying a Volcano minefield.

Capt. Kenneth Klinner, 396th commander, said when he and Capt. Andrew Feitel, the 979th commander, learned that platoons could be certified as T1, they approached representatives of the 1-409 to determine what tasks their Soldiers had to complete in order to achieve this certification.

“We wanted to push our guys a little bit harder, so we essentially ran 24 hours ops for five days,” noted Klinner who is in his 18th month as commander.
As he said, “Now we are trained up and ready to help support the nation in any way that they need us to.”