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NEWS | July 25, 2017

Engineers make lasting impact with community

By Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Espinosa 354th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Tucked away among the mountains about two hours outside of Denver, families enjoy the outdoors on horseback, bicycles and foot trails belonging to the YMCA of the Rockies – Snow Mountain Ranch. For the past two months, this scenic getaway has also been home to U.S. Army Reserve Engineers.

Troops from Denver’s 244th Engineering Battalion, mostly out the 994th Engineering Company, also out of Denver, as well as the 409th Engineering Company of Windsor, Colorado, have dedicated four two-week annual training rotations to not only support the non-profit, but to boost engineering skills.

The engineers are part of an ongoing partnership between the military and non-profits like the YMCA, called Innovative Readiness Training. This year, about 140 U.S Army Reserve Soliders will rotate in for four two-week periods to construct five major projects and 10 minor projects throughout the YMCA remote resort. They follow up previous rotations with the Air Force engineers and the Navy Seabees who did IRT tours at the YMCA of the Rockies.

“During this rotation we have 33 soldiers working on multiple construction sites,” said U.S. Army Reserve 1st Lt. Joel Scott, the executive officer for the 994th Eng. Co., of the third rotation that is the only rotation made of a mixture of eight different platoons within the battalion. He said this project allows Reserve engineers the chance to cross-train and practice skills while at the same time offering free labor to the YMCA. Plus, even mistakes can be a learning point, according to leadership, as miscalculations can be worked through by both the in-place team and incoming personnel, which also helps sharpen their skills.

Now with only two weeks left for the fourth rotation, the engineers have nearly completed work on a staff member bathhouse renovation, built both a small and large shade structure, as well as a small and large storage shed. Smaller projects, which typically take a day or two to complete, involve leveling a recreational area, drilling areas for a civilian construction crew, installing culverts, and building ventilation for staff housing.

“We get to hone our skills for the different job functions that make up our unit,” said Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Chad Spencer, the noncommissioned officer in charge throughout the duration of the two-month exercise and the quality assurance/quality control manager for the 994th Eng. Co. He added that the support to the YMCA has been more comprehensive than typical engineering annual training.

Job specialties include carpentry masonry specialists, electricians, plumbers, heavy equipment operators, signal support systems specialists, and petroleum supply specialists. Rotation 1 was made up of 1st Platoon, 994th Eng. Co.; Rotation 2 was 2nd Platoon, 994th Eng. Co.; the current third rotation is the most inclusive with eight different platoons coming mostly from the 99th Eng. Co. and 409th Eng. Co.; and the final rotation will be made up of the Forward Support Company of the 244th Eng. Bn.

“This robust experience allows for cross training, so soldiers aren’t simply focused on their own skills, but also learning from others,” said Spencer. For example, he said the electricians during this rotation have been primarily focused on carpentry and masonry work, allowing them time to cross-train outside of their main skill set.

There are numerous advantages for the Army Reserve’s involvement on these construction projects, according to YMCA leadership.

“Having the Soldiers here is very beneficial for us because the Army is executing projects that we otherwise couldn’t afford either due to cost or personnel issues,” said Nat Sullivan, construction project manager for the YMCA at the Rockies – Snow Mountain Ranch. “The Army Reserve is also helping us achieve our mission with these remodeling and new construction projects because this work is very labor intensive, so we would never be able to contract that work out.”

Sullivan also hopes this experience will make the YMCA a more popular destination for service members and their families, as they offer military rates in support of the troops.

Army Reserve Pfc. Dylan Burgess, site leader for the shed construction site and a carpentry and masonry specialist for the 409th Eng. Co., said his skills have greatly improved from this training and he enjoyed his time working on this YMCA project.

“The staff here at the YMCA have been friendly and the civilians are always excited to see us,” said Burgess, who works as an animator as a civilian, but is using his construction skills to build a “tiny house” in the future.

Construction projects not only leave a lasting impression with the YMCA, but also build a foundation within the community that warrior-citizens can be proud to be a part of.