FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. –
The Fort Hunter Liggett (FHL) Department of Public Works roads and grounds crew is responsible for maintaining hundreds of miles of roads and trails across the 165,000 acres of training land, and the cantonment area. What happens when they need extra help? DPW calls on the Army’s newest heavy equipment operators being trained at the 80th Training Command’s The Army School System Training Center (TTC).
Ronald Rosas, roads and grounds supervisor, coordinated a project in April 2022 that helped the garrison enhance infrastructure, while providing the Army horizontal construction engineer (12N) military occupational specialty (MOS) students hands-on experience.
The concept for this project was ignited during a conversation with Maj. Gen. Tripp Bowles, commanding general, 80th Training Command, and Col. Lisa Lamb, FHL garrison commander. Bowles wanted his students to have the opportunity to work on real-world projects to reinforce their newly acquired skills, while Lamb welcomed any help to improve the health and welfare for Fort Hunter Liggett.
The project, located on Del Venturi Road which leads into the Los Padres National Forest, included removing a significant amount of dirt and fill that filled up a former retention pond. The pond was filled with dirt and other debris as a result of the 2019 Dolan Fire and the ensuing rainfall over the past year. The significant amount of fill caused the water to overflow onto Del Venturi Road, blocking access to the National Forest. This heavily-traveled route for military training and visitors to the forest had to be repaired.
“The washout of the pond created a hazard for everyone traveling the road, and this provided us a real world project to work on,” said Master Sgt. Adam Lindsey, noncommissioned officer in charge for the Engineer Equipment Heavy Construction Course.
Lindsey rotated Soldiers from four classes – more than 140 students – for this project which involved 10 dump trucks loads of fill and moving it to a site where another washout occurred. “It was a rewarding experience for the students, and we welcome more projects, anything that the Garrison can offer,” said Lindsey. Even with all the troop labor, this project will continue for some time due to the magnitude of the repair required.
Spc. Aiden Croniser, a former combat engineer with the 479th Engineer Battalion, Oswego, New York, said that heavy equipment operators are in high demand back in Oswego and hopes to put his newly acquired skills into practice when he is not wearing the uniform as an Army Reserve Soldier. Croniser said that his favorite piece of equipment was the hydraulic excavator and until now had only operated a tractor on his family farm. “When we deploy, our unit could be tasked to accomplish a mission just like this one,” said Croniser. “Projects like this gives me a real sense of accomplishment.”
Spc. Tyler Jackson, 319th Engineer Company, El Paso, Texas, recently left active duty as a cavalry scout and entered the Army Reserve in January 2022. While still feeling the desire to serve after leaving active duty, Jackson wanted to “try something different, a change of pace.” “I was nervous at first, afraid of breaking something,” said Jackson when first operating the enormous pieces of heavy equipment, but the training and experience has built his confidence. His unit is mobilizing soon, and he looks forward to putting his recent training to experience overseas.
Fort Hunter Liggett, California; Camp Dawson, West Virginia; and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, are the only three installations offering the 12N reclassification course, training all three components of the Army, active, Guard and Reserve. The partnership between the 80th TTC and FHL continues to strengthen each year. The installation looks forward to many more projects that benefit not only the installation but also provide Soldiers the most realistic training environment possible.
“This is awesome. Being able to help out a community is awesome. This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my Army career,” said Croniser.