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Reserve Engineers get back to basics during River Assault

By Christopher Jones | Exercise News Day | July 30, 2018

FORT SMITH, Ark. —

Soldiers from the 357th Engineer Company, based in Asheville, North Carolina, conducted support operations for Operation River Assault during their annual training on Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center, July 18.

Operation River Assault is an annual Army Reserve training exercise focusing on the training and developing engineer Soldier skills at the platoon level and below.

In addition to training basic combat skills, these Army Reserve Soldiers can build a bridge when encountering a river, then get Army vehicles over it. 

First. Lt. Michael Matroniano and his platoon are at River Assault to help supplement other units to ensure all the engineer Soldiers meet their mission essential tasks. 

“There is a list of tasks these elements need to be proficient in performing,” Matroniano said. “This past year we have focused on a lot of field time.”

Matroniano stated there are three types of engineer Soldiers. Vertical engineers are responsible for building structures, combat engineers, specialize in the construction and destruction of objects in an combat area, then horizontal who are responsible for roads, runways and other flat projects

“Most of us are horizontal Soldiers,” Matroniano said. “We move the earth and shape the battlefield around us.”

The exercise provides an opportunity for units to demonstrate the readiness of their Soldiers and will culminate in the construction of an improved ribbon bridge across a portion of the Arkansas River. 

Matroniano served as the officer-in-charge of the M2 .50-caliber heavy machine-gun range before the River Assault exercise took place. 

Matroniano also stated that he relies on his noncommissioned officers to ensure all the Soldiers know their lethal warrior tasks in order to be fully capable and combat ready for future missions.

“It’s really important the battalion learns to work hand-in-hand with each other,” said Staff Sgt. Caleb Henson, construction supervisor, 357th Engineer Company. “On today’s battlefield we need to know how to cross obstacles such as rivers.”

Hensen added his Soldiers will play a role as opposition force during River Assault and will be tasked to prevent another unit from crossing the river. 

“We are building a lot of real-world skills here,” said Hensen. “It is as realistic as you can make it.”

This is Henson’s first time in his 12-year career involved in River Assault. He had a previous mission in which he and a team went to Djibouti, Africa to build a morale, welfare, and recreation facility for Seal Team 2.