NEWS | June 25, 2021

Engineers building Fort McCoy training capacity

By Zachary Mott 88th Readiness Division

Taking a wooded, uneven plot of land and turning it into the first-of-its-kind training site for the Army Reserve allowed engineers from the 416th Theater Engineer Command to make the most of their annual training mission here, June 15, 2021.

Army Reserve Soldiers from several units under the 416th TEC umbrella will be working at Fort McCoy through July in order to build a line of communications bridge, or LOCB, site. Once complete, a proof of concept exercise will validate the site and then, if all goes as planned, it will be used by bridge building units across the Army Reserve.

“The intent here is to provide a permanent site for those bridging units to come in and be able to provide training on their pieces of equipment and to provide force projection to all of our allies overseas,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Adam Herrera, construction engineering technician, 863rd Engineer Battalion out of Darien, Ill.

The construction project is broken down into separate parts; one is creating a 180-foot by 180-foot pad that will serve as the staging area for the bridging equipment. The second is building the bridge abutments. Another is a 60-foot by 60-foot pad and the final part is building a road connecting the two sides of the site.

“From a construction standpoint, there are so many parts and pieces that go into this,” Herrera said. “A lot of us in the past year, with COVID restrictions, we just haven’t been together in a setting like this. So, this has been really valuable time together to gel and form those teams to make us better and more proficient in our jobs going forward.”

This extended training time allows these engineer companies an opportunity to build the military occupational specialty skills as well as leadership skills within the units.

“This has been pretty fantastic,” said 2nd Lt. Colin Withrow, platoon leader, 996th Engineer Company out of Milwaukee, Wis. “We don’t always get to put blades in ground. A lot of equipment time is how the machines are supposed to work without necessarily being able to push dirt and see it work. There’s a certain amount of trial and error that comes with doing this sort of thing. You can understand the concept, but until you actually do it, you haven’t actually done it.”

For Sgt. Joshua Christenson, a horizontal construction engineer with the 996th Eng. Co., he is using this time to focus more on leading the new members of the unit and passing on his knowledge from previous deployments and civilian experience in the construction field.

“To be able to teach people those skills, it’s challenging but it’s also rewarding,” he said. “The challenge is getting people to understand that. Operating equipment is one of those things that it’s not overnight. Having the right touch, having the feel – is it a feel aspect? Is it a visual aspect? To be able to teach people the skills and watch them learn and see the factor that they want to learn what’s next, that’s a great learning tool for me because I get to lead and mentor as well as see progression and then see my work done in them.”

One of those newly assigned Soldiers to the 996th Eng. Co. is Pvt. Luke King who is working as a horizontal construction engineer during his first extended training period outside of advanced individual training.

He said he has enjoyed “learning on equipment that I’ve always wanted to use with a bunch of good peers around me and other Soldiers who are working super hard and we’re all just wanting to get it done.”

For their time here, the Soldiers are putting in long hours and working hard to building something that will have a lasting impact on the training landscape at Fort McCoy.

“It’s been a couple of years since we’ve had an opportunity to break ground and actually put something in,” Withrow said. “This has been a really great opportunity for them to build it and then it will create the opportunity for bridging engineers to come and re-use this site multiple times.”

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