[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                        June 26, 2009
Mobilization

Engineer units troop projects 
work improves installation

Story and photos By Tom Michele, The Real McCoy Contributor

Small houses in Asian-style villages, a new road carved through a dense and hilly woodland and the extension of a high, dirt security berm have changed the scenery at Fort McCoy.

Photo: With the wood wall frame laid out, Soldiers nail wall boards to the frame for a South West Asia hut on a Fort McCoy training lane. The Soldiers are from the 168th Engineer Company, Alabama Army National Guard. (Photo by Tom Michele)
With the wood wall frame laid out, Soldiers nail wall boards to the frame for a South West Asia hut on a Fort McCoy training lane. The Soldiers are from the 168th Engineer Company, Alabama Army National Guard. 

These changes are being constructed by Soldiers using their military occupational specialties (MOS) as they train in preparation for their deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom.

In the case of Fort McCoy, these construction projects are being performed by combat engineers, as McCoy is a primary mobilization site for engineers on the way to Southcentral Asia. Soldiers get MOS training at the same time they are getting the mobilization training that is specific to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 844th Engineer Battalion out of Knoxville, Tenn., erected the first about 60-foot stretch of HESCO barriers to expand a security berm at Contingency Operating Location (COL) Freedom, and built six South West Asia (SWA) huts on a training lane by the Badger Drop Zone.

The HESCO barriers are collapsible and lined wireframes that are opened up and filled with dirt. A second set has been set on top of the first line. The SWA Huts are 16-foot-by-32-foot one-room wood structures. At McCoy the SWA huts are used by cultural role players and opposing forces Soldiers to stage incidents for mounted convoy patrols.

The 877th Engineer Battalion out of Hamilton, Ala., continued another 60-foot stretch of HESCO barriers, built a SWA Hut on a major road on South Post, and worked on clearing and grubbing a new five-mile long road through the trees on another major South Post road. The 877th Soldiers encountered significant enemy fire — blank ammunition from assault rifles, along with artillery and grenade simulators and smoke grenades — as the Soldiers moved in convoys to training and construction sites. Reacting to those threats is a major part of mobilization training.

The 779th Engineer Battalion out of Tallahassee, Fla., has COL Freedom HESCO barrier expansion on its task list, plus the continued work on the road the 844th and 877th worked on. The 779th also is scheduled to erect four SWA huts, build three portable range maintenance sheds and improve roads on the training lanes.

The 101st Engineer Battalion, out of Reading, Mass., will have a near-identical task list.

That task list is planned jointly between the 340th Training Support Battalion (TSB) and the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works (DPW).

Photo: Spc. Tyson Coppedge operates a bulldozer to push dirt closer to a berm as part of a troop project to improve Contingency Operating Location Freedom at Fort McCoy. Coppedge is with the 920th Engineer Company, New Mexico Army National Guard. (Photo by Tom Michele)
Spc. Tyson Coppedge operates a bulldozer to push dirt closer to a berm as part of a troop project to improve Contingency Operating Location Freedom at Fort McCoy. Coppedge is with the 920th Engineer Company, New Mexico Army National Guard. 

The 340th is one of four TSBs of the 181st Infantry Brigade that conducts the mobilization training at McCoy.

Michael Perzel III is the DPW’s Troop Projects coordinator and has been working in this arena since January 2003. Perzel works for McCoy Public Works–Joint Venture, which is contracted to provide DPW services for Fort McCoy.

"We match engineer units’ capabilities, usually referred to by them as their Mission Essential Task List (METL), with the installation’s Engineer Troop Training Plan," Perzel said. "This coordination is performed because it is the training value engineer Soldiers receive and the improvement to the Fort McCoy infrastructure that is also a cost savings to the taxpayer. The additional benefit for our mobilizing Soldiers is they are ‘validated’ by the 340th as a unit to mobilize."

"The projects are all real missions that are initiated as ‘work orders’ sent to DPW," Perzel said. "I use appropriate projects to develop and update a five-year Engineer Troop Training Plan in accordance with Fort McCoy marketing objectives, training guidance issued by components of the Department of Defense and projects identified in Fort McCoy’s unconstrained work list."

"The plan incorporates current and valid projects that meet the METL of engineer military units, unit manpower strengths, trade capability of all unit personnel and unit equipment assets," Perzel explained. "The Troop Training Plan maximizes the number of available projects capable of being efficiently accomplished by troop labor while they are training at Fort McCoy."

"In addition to improving the skill set of the individual Soldier, these projects develop team building, esprit de corps and unit cohesion," Perzel also said. "Projects deal with force protection, such as the HESCO berm, or quality-of-life issues, such as the SWA huts. Engineer units have been constructing troop projects at Fort McCoy for more than 50 years, this year there is more of an emphasis being put on it. These projects also have become part of the units’ Mission Readiness Exercise (MRE)."

The MRE is a five-to-seven-day exercise that culminates the units’ and Soldiers’ training experience at Fort McCoy before they are validated and deployed.

(Michele is a public affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base Services.)

 

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