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June 24, 2011


Engineering units dig deep into

Operation Essayons

Story & photo by Spc. Christopher Hernandez, 345th Public Affairs Detachment

The 420th Engineer Brigade initiated full-scale training operations and engineering projects in support of Operation Essayons, which was conducted at Fort McCoy, from June 4-18.
PHOTO: Soldiers from the 955th Engineer Company develop a berm on the Archery Range at Sportsman’s Range at Fort McCoy. Photo by Spc. Christopher Hernandez
Soldiers from the 955th Engineer Company develop a berm on the Archery Range at Sportsman’s Range at Fort McCoy. The Soldiers were participating in Operation Essayons.

Operation Essayons had two primary objectives — to supplement various ongoing construction projects at Fort McCoy and to provide Soldiers with the opportunities and resources to train and implement their skill sets into their construction assignments.

“This is the Soldiers’ opportunity to practice everything they learned,” said Lt. Col. Brett Crawley, the commanding officer of the command and control cell for Operation Essayons. “It is validation for them that they have been training, they can perform their jobs, function as a team, and accomplish the mission. They also will leave Fort McCoy with pride and the knowledge they are ready.”

Allocation of the troop projects was distributed evenly between the 365th and 926th Engineer Battalions, both of which are aligned to the 420th Engineer Brigade. The missions included berm development at Sportsman’s Range, construction of sand volleyball courts, a trail improvement project, asphalt application on three training site parking lots, construction of concrete aprons for three Young Assault Air Strip hangars and construction of two huts for the Southwest Asia training sites.

The training exercise signified the first time the 365th and 926th Engineer Battalions operated in tandem to meet their mission objectives. In addition to the dual-engineer-battalion collaboration, other support detachments actively engaged in the training mission by lending forward-support services, medical staff and resources, quartermaster supply and public affairs representatives.

Senior enlisted personnel and officers from both engineer battalions shared the expectation of mentorship of newer Soldiers by their supervisors.

“The entire operation is about training everyone in the unit in their specific military occupational specialties,” said 1st Sgt. Thomas Blahowiak, the first sergeant of the 372nd Engineer Company. “Additionally, it is imperative that my first-line supervisors and squad leaders are able to perform their duties and mentor junior Soldiers.”

To ensure the safety of troops and other embedded personnel working on these projects, 15 additional-duty safety officers were dispatched to each project site, he said.

Larry J. Morrow, the Troop Projects coordinator at Fort McCoy’s Directorate of Public Works, provided overall guidance and coordination for all Operation Essayons troop projects, and provided the schematics of the project sites, and the necessary construction materials.

“The troops surpassed all goals we had set for the projects,” Morrow said. “Essayons was a total success for both the troops and for Fort McCoy.”

Among the training opportunities were electrical training in a building scheduled for demolition and placing 1,865 tons of asphalt on range parking lots. Morrow said the Equipment Concentration Site-67 at Fort McCoy provided three asphalt pavers to support the exercise.

Nearly 1,000 Soldiers participated in Operation Essayons.

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