NEWS | Jan. 5, 2017

Renegades: Army Reserve engineers show off skills at competition

By Spc. Sean Harding 301st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade

This December, the 672nd in Missoula, Montana held a vertical engineering skills competition that was also open to the local community. The purpose of the event was for the engineers to not only practice their skills but to also show their community and potential recruits what life as an Army Reserve soldier is like.

Army recruiters stood by to provide support and address any concerns prospective Army recruits might have had.

“Too often drill weekends are full of mandatory training and medical readiness that soldiers don’t get to practice their skill sets as much. But they actually really enjoy working on their skills and putting them to the test,” said Sgt. 1st Class Leroy E. Bierfreund, an operations noncommissioned officer with the 672nd.

There were seven different events in the competition, each requiring a different skillset. The 672nd is the only vertical engineer company in the 301st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, so they had to be proactive and willing to innovate many of the aspects of the competition since nothing like it had been done within the 301st before.

The events were designed to incorporate many different aspects of vertical engineering. From building a frame to plumbing, wiring a lightbulb, predicting the amount of cement needed to lay a foundation, and even a “nail relay” in which competitors showed off their speed and agility with a hammer.

“Believe it or not, having the proper technique [with a hammer] is an important skillset at a vertical engineer site. You can waste a lot of time if you’re inefficient about it,” said Capt. Caitlin A. Lynch, company commander of the 672nd.

“It was very interesting,” said Dean Cook, a civilian in attendance.  “We built trusses, did surveying, then we had to do measurements on how much cement was needed to make a building.”

There was also an electrical wiring competition.

“When we plugged everything in, it had to work right,” described Cook.

Spc. Joseph Ackley, also from Kalispell, was awarded a commander’s coin at the event by Lt. Col. Derek Ulehla, commander of the 321st Engineer Battalion, for winning first place in the truss building competition and working with civilians in the event.

“It was really cool to hold the event for people who were interested in joining the military,” said Ackley.

“Instead of hearing stories second-hand, they could come in and see and experience what we’re about for themselves,” he added.

The icing on the cake, however, was at the end of the weekend when four soldiers from the 672nd were awarded the Steel de Fleury medal, an award given by the Army Engineer Association for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The de Fluery medal is one of the highest medals given by Corps of Engineers. Named for the French engineer officer François de Fleury, who served in the Continental Army, the medal is given in one of four orders.

Assured Passage!

“We’d like to do this again in the future,” concluded Lynch. “There are other engineer competitions such as the Sapper Stakes, but we’d like to create the same sense of excitement for vertical engineers.”

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