FORT HOOD, Texas –
Triple digit temperatures and low lake levels at Belton Lake near Temple, Texas, did not deter the 420th Engineer Brigade, 980th Engineer Battalion and the 341st Multi-Bridge Company from achieving their goal July 15 during Hood Strike.
Hood Strike, an annual exercise, was conducted through July 9-22; despite the heat and dust storm, the exercise was deemed a success.
First Sgt. Chad Bentley, the first sergeant for the 341st Multi-Bridge Company, Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, pointed out that although water levels were about 10 feet lower than last year, they were still able to cross Belton Lake and complete the mission. Instead of using a full-enclosed bridge, the Soldiers used a raft, which Bentley described as a baby bridge, used to push from one side of the embankment to the other side.
“One major concern is making sure we have multiple raft teams,” he said. “We can’t have one team out there if they are going to work [long hours]; have two teams so we can rotate people.”
Even though the conditions on Fort Hood weren’t ideal, Bentley said his Soldiers remained motivated because bridgers love being bridgers. Plus, the proximity of their Reserve unit, which is located on Fort Chaffee, allows them to practice their craft.
“We have a river within a mile of our drill hall, and they run tugboats — it’s a big river,” Bentley said. “We get all of the water time we need.”
Training also provided the units with an opportunity to shift focus because Bentley said the next major conflict could be a peer-to-peer conflict and not on a forward operating base.
Being able to project forces across water gaps is not easy and over time the Army has strategically made decisive military decisions, according to leadership, which is why bridge crewmembers are so essential to the Army Reserve.
During a visit to Hood Strike, Commanding General Maj. Gen. Matthew V. Baker said the noncommissioned officers did a great job at training junior Soldiers, some of whom are new to the unit and bridge building.
Spc. Adrian Fleeks is one of the new Soldiers in the unit. Fleeks, a former infantry Soldier, said reclassing provided him with a chance to learn a new craft.
“This is very different. I thought they just build buildings and not boats. This is my first time seeing this,” he said.
Despite the elements, Baker was pleased with the training because he said the Soldiers were hitting all the phases and, from an operational planning standpoint, things went well.
“If you look at the brigade and the battalion planning, what you are seeing out here is really good mission command [and] really good motivation from the Soldiers,” Baker said. “Being out here in 100 degrees is demoralizing at times with all of their battle rattle on, so it’s great to see Soldiers getting after it.”
Bridge crewmembers are essential to success across Army engineering. To join the team, visit www.goarmy.com/reserve.