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NEWS | June 29, 2021

Fort Hunter Liggett steps up to predeployment training of Puerto Rican engineer company

By Cynthia McIntyre Fort Hunter Liggett Public Affairs Office

When the 471st Engineer Company out of Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, was given deployment orders, it needed to gain proficiency in an environment short on equipment and resources. Fort Hunter Liggett and the 80th Training Command (TASS) schoolhouse came together and stepped up to the challenge of training 45 heavy equipment operators (12N military occupational specialty) and 100 additional Soldiers on short notice during the Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX) in June.

Although a 12N class was already scheduled (the usual class size is 12 students), FHL brought in additional instructors from the 1st Battalion, 80th Engineer Regiment out of West Virginia to join the 1st Brigade (EN), 102nd DIV (Maneuver Support) at FHL, and staggered the classes so both could occur simultaneously.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Dreager, 102nd Division schoolhouse instructor, said many of the Soldiers had not used the equipment since the 2017 hurricanes.

“When you haven’t seen some of this equipment for four to five years it can be a little intimidating,” he said. “When we took on the mission to help train these guys, I reached out to some of my buddies in my training command, because we have battalions all over the country. I said, ‘Hey we have a great opportunity to help mobilize a unit. It’s a more unique mission than what we’re used to doing, and it’s a great mission because we’re getting them ready to go overseas.”

Sgt. Yeriel Acevedo from Aguada, Puerto Rico has been in the Army Reserve for six years and this will be his second deployment. They get certified on the backhoe loaders, scrapers, loaders, graders, dozers, Humvees. “All the good stuff,” he said.

Sgt. 1st Class William McDougal, 1/80th instructor from West Virginia, said he jumped at the chance to come to FHL with three weeks’ notice and help out. “When they called and said we had a mission with Soldiers deploying, we didn’t want to miss that opportunity to give them some knowledge. So they can go overseas and make us look good, make us proud.”

The 471st aided FHL in its modernization efforts by completing several troop projects, such as new steps at the Hacienda, 12 acres of bivouac/training area at Training Area 10, a concrete ramp at the TADSS warehouse, a sun shelter, and a new parking lot at the Equipment Concentration Site.

They even wrote “471” in the wet cement.