Fort McCoy News Aug. 25, 2017

Engineer company builds skills, McCoy troop projects

during CSTX participation

STORY & PHOTOS BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

They came to Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX) 86-17-02 to do what engineer Soldiers do — construction. What they've accomplished is a whole lot more.

Soldiers with the 327th Engineer Company place in posts as part of a project to build a pole building Aug. 16 near Range 2 at Fort McCoy. The work is part of troop projects construction coordinated with the Directorate of Public Works.
Soldiers with the 327th Engineer Company place in posts as part of a
project to build a pole building Aug. 16 near Range 2 at Fort McCoy. The
work is part of troop projects construction coordinated with the
Directorate of Public Works.

More than 130 Soldiers with the Army Reserve's 327th Engineer Company of Onalaska, Wis., deployed to Fort McCoy in early August for training, just as they have year after year. And during their training, they are doing construction for Fort McCoy troop projects, just as they have done in the past.

"But this year is different," said 1st Lt. Brian Zilka, 1st Platoon leader with the 327th. "In our training this year, we are acting as an expeditionary force where we have to provide our own security for the projects we are working on."

Building security skills was a primary focus of the training for the 327th, Zilka said. The company deployed resources to an operating location in a remote area of North Post. They set up their camp, built a security perimeter with defensive fighting positions, set up 24-hour operations, and convoyed to and from each construction job site.

"This training provides a full aspect of what the military expects of us," Zilka said. "Everybody knows the 327th Engineer Company can do construction. … This is about going back to being a Soldier first."

One troop project the company completed was a 36-by-40-foot pole building near Range 2 on North Post. The building will be useful for Range Maintenance and others for storage and other uses, said Larry Morrow, Fort McCoy troop projects coordinator with the Directorate of Public Works.

Soldiers with the Army Reserve's 327th Engineer Company of Onalaska, Wis., work on a troop project to build a pole building Aug. 16 near Range 2 at Fort McCoy.
Soldiers with the Army
Reserve's 327th Engineer
Company of Onalaska, Wis.,
work on a troop project to
build a pole building Aug. 16
near Range 2 at Fort McCoy.



Spc. Mike Lewis provides security overwatch at the troop project site from the back of a military truck.
Spc. Mike Lewis provides
security overwatch at the
troop project site from the
back of a military truck.

"The work to complete the building included drilling holes to set poles into; then setting the poles and girders; then the trusses, purlins, and so on," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joel Sikora, engineer and CSTX troop project lead for the 327th. "Our goal was to have a complete building done by the time we finished training."

Zilka said the three platoons of the 327th had something different to do every day.

"We rotated each platoon each day," Zilka said. "Each day, one platoon would work on the construction project, another would complete tasks for our base, and the other would complete security requirements."

Sikora said the training offered experience to newer Soldiers who hadn't fully trained in base security or other aspects of a combat engineer.

"This was a full-spectrum (immersion) into what it means be to a Soldier," Sikora said. "For us, it's not just doing construction, or just doing a convoy, or just doing security. We are doing all of these (Warrior Tasks) every day in addition to what our (military occupational specialty) is and we get better at everything."

Spc. Joshua Gobin, an electrician with the 327th, said he appreciated the realistic training.

"I left active duty (for the Reserve) not too long ago, and this really reflected the kind of training I was used to," Gobin said. "I enjoyed the training, and I think everyone learned a lot."

Sikora said the Soldiers of the 327th enjoy having a place like Fort McCoy to complete their training. Not only is it conveniently close to Onalaska, but the unit also appreciates the support received from the Fort McCoy team, especially from Morrow's team.

"Larry always takes care of us if we ever need anything," Sikora said. "He's always got a (lengthy) list of stuff to do that we could be on active duty here for him. We know that if you want something for training, Larry has it. We've never showed up here and not had something to do for us to train on."

Some past troop projects that have involved the 327th at Fort McCoy include a new lean-to building they constructed in 2016 next to the troop projects operations building on the cantonment area, and several years ago, the unit helped build a field training site for the Staff Sgt. Todd R. Cornell Noncommissioned Officer Academy on South Post.

"You'll never run out of projects here," Sikora said. "That's why Fort McCoy is a great place for us to train."