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 August 27, 2010


Soldiers gain experience in setting up DRASH

Story & photo by Pfc. Anthony T. Zane, 362nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

It was a muggy and hot afternoon in August at Fort McCoy. Soldiers arriving at the work site experienced beads of sweat covering their skin within minutes. The immediate surroundings are similar to the images of overseas military installations seen in magazines. The Army Reserve Soldiers have been hard at work since early morning at Fort McCoy as part of their training. Troops are hurrying around like worker bees in a giant hive.

PHOTO: Soldiers from the 77th Sustainment Brigade erect a Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelter,  which would be part of a Tactical Operation Center, during Combat Support Training Exercise 2010. Photo by PFC. Anthony T. Zane
Soldiers from the 77th Sustainment Brigade erect a Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelter, which would be part of a Tactical Operation Center, during Combat Support Training Exercise 2010.

The heat of the day imposes an almost surreal feel to the scene.

Soldiers from the 77th Sustainment Brigade participated in a team-building exercise focused on how to construct a Tactical Operation Center out of a Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelter (DRASH) during Combat Support Training Exercise 2010.
At first glance, the DRASH looks like nothing more than a very large camping tent, but during construction it is clear that there is much more.

The sweat on the brows and faces of the Soldiers showed the hard work it takes for these troops to raise a DRASH.
As Master Sgt. Colin McKiel of Allentown, Pa., stands inside under the domed ceiling his Soldiers just constructed, he spoke of them with pride.

This gives the Soldiers an opportunity to see new systems and to work with them, said McKiel. Many of the Soldiers in the crew are privates first class and specialists. They learn how to set up the system and tear it down, so if they do experience a situation like this down range they have subject matter experts, he added.

Along with the experience of learning the mission-specific skills to build a DRASH, the Soldiers of the 77th Sustainment Brigade were building their teamwork skills at the same time, McKiel said.

“This is a great experience because it teaches you teamwork, how to work together and how to problem-solve, and those are skills you’re going to need when you go overseas because the people around you are going to be the only people you’re going to have with you,” said Spc. Christopher Jackson of Richmond, Va. “If you don’t know how to work as a team, how protected are you really going to be?”

It takes teamwork to maneuver enormous pieces of beige tent, exemplifying the intricate process and effort it takes to erect a DRASH.

At times, the job takes up to 10 Soldiers to grip a single piece of the DRASH and pull it hard in different directions at the same time to fully extend it.

“We’ve all done field training exercises, and, a lot of times, we just come to the place and the tents are already built,” said Pvt. Bianca Lewis of Philadelphia. “You never see the process and how much work it really takes to put these things up. So this is really about when we get out there so that, that way we can take down our own tents and move them accordingly,” continued Lewis.

It was like a giant puzzle, and thanks to everybody working together, it came together and all the pieces fit, said Lewis.
Each section of tent is folded into compact pieces that then are bagged and wrapped for easy transport.

After all the pieces arrive, Soldiers unpack, expand and connect the pieces. The complexity of each piece is not apparent to the eye until the piece opens, exposing the insides to plain view.

The internal structure is a honeycomb-style of hundreds of black titanium-alloy rods that, together, provide the structure with its strength and stability.

Teamwork paid off as the main structure of the DRASH stood in less than a day’s time, which is a statement to the efficiency and hard work these Soldiers contributed to the mission, McKiel said.

McKiel was pleased with his Soldiers and the outcome of this particular exercise.

“This was a great team effort, and I am really proud of every Soldier out here,” added McKiel.

The pride of a successful mission was evident on each Soldier’s exhausted face, and DRASH pieces coming together even can be felt in the air.

At the end of the day, the heat had lessened, the DRASH stood tall and the chow hall provided a comforting welcome to the Soldiers. This has been another successful Army day, McKiel said.

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