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NEWS | June 7, 2023

Linemen show off skills learned at Fort Leonard Wood’s Prime Power School

By Melissa Buckley Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office

Students graduating from the U.S. Army Prime Power School’s Powerline Distribution Course got the opportunity to show off their new lineman skills during Storm Night and the Lineman Rodeo this week.

The 10-week course is an additional skill identifier for the military occupational specialties of 12P, Prime Power Production Specialist and 12Q, U.S. Army Reserve Lineman.

According to Staff Sgt. Matthew Bradford, a USAPPS senior instructor for the course, the current class started with seven, but only five made it to the physically and mentally challenging Storm Night, the culminating event. It simulates a natural disaster that destroys overhead and underground power distribution. After sunset, the students must test their knowledge and skills gained in the course to identify and repair damage in the dark.

Bradford said the three biggest tasks the students had to successfully complete this Storm Night were to replace a 1,000- to 2,000-pound utility pole, repair and tension a damaged conductor and replace a damaged transformer. He said it can take a class anywhere from six hours to all night to complete the tasks, depending on the quality of the plan they come up with and the speed they work.

One of the students this cycle, Sgt. James Anderson, said Storm Night was his favorite part of the course.

“I liked getting to come out here and use all the different skills I have been working on. I enjoyed having to problem solve all the different kinds of work that needed to be done − under the cover of darkness,” Anderson said.

The most demanding part of the course for Anderson was the climbing.

“My knees don’t work like they used to,” he said.

Another student, Pvt. Kianu Duarte, agreed.

“Climbing was the hardest thing for me,” Duarte said. “I had a fear of heights. I got up there and I felt a little shaky. But once I got tired, I forgot about the heights and just did what I needed to do.”

Bradford said the climbing portion of the course is specifically designed to teach the students to trust their safety equipment.

“We help them build faith in the safety equipment by having them push themselves away from the pole, so the gear can catch them,” Bradford said. “Then, they have to learn to trust their belt.”

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Willie Gadsden, USAPPS commander and deputy commandant, said the Lineman Rodeo is a chance to reward the students for all their hard work.

“They are building confidence in their training and having fun while doing it,” Gadsden said.

Bradford said the Lineman Rodeo is an international lineman tradition.

“It is an opportunity to compete and show off your skill,” Bradford said. “Having them do it at the end of the course allows them to demonstrate what they have learned.”

The winner of this class’s rodeo was Pvt. Kianu Duarte. After graduation, Duarte, a Reserve Soldier, is headed back to the University of Rhode Island, in Kingston, Rhode Island, to take summer classes. He said he chose to be a lineman because he wanted to create options for his career path.

“I like being a lineman. I am looking into being an apprentice and becoming a journeyman,” Duarte said.

Bradford said there are only 24 spaces for students each year, making the course unique.

“Very few people in the Army can say they are lineman,” he said.

Gadsden said the students leave with a proficiency level that can be easily recognized in the operational force.

“When the Department of Defense needs this type of asset in the operational force, be it at home or abroad, these Soldiers will be able to execute the required task with no issues,” Gadsden said.