Fort McCoy News July 11, 2014

Essayons: Engineer units put skills in action

Public Affairs Staff

Army engineer units upgraded facilities and infrastructure at Fort McCoy during Operation Essayons 2014.

"Essayons" is derived from the French language meaning "let us try." It also is the battle cry of Army engineer units. Operation Essayons brings numerous engineer units to the installation to train, and at the same time, help complete construction projects.

Photo for Essayons article
Soldiers from the 327th Engineer Company of Onalaska, Wis., work on finishing the roof of a brick-and-mortar building they built at a training area on Fort McCoy's South Post.

For 2014, Army engineers were busy all over the post, said Fort McCoy Troop Projects Coordinator Larry Morrow. Projects included an addition to the Pine View Campground office, interior and exterior work to a shower building at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Liberty, and an upgrade to the electrical lines at Whitetail Ridge Ski Area.

Engineers also applied asphalt to roads at Training Area Rice, built a brick-and-mortar building at Training Area Harrison, and improved trails at Training Area B-25.

Soldiers completing work represented 21 engineer units from 10 states aligned under the Army Reserve's 411th Engineer Brigade (EB), headquartered in New Windsor, N.Y.

According to Capt. Lawrence Lee, civil engineer with the 411th EB, Essayons provided "high-quality, challenging training" that allowed Soldiers to focus on perishable military occupational specialty skills.

Participating units were trained to standard in technical skill sets and improved individual Soldier deployment readiness, Lee said. Fort McCoy installation and infrastructure improvements were completed on time, and to standard, with no loss or damage to personnel or equipment.

They also are now trained and ready to migrate to phase two of the Army Force Generation Cycle — the equipping phase — where units have sufficient equipment to conduct scheduled individual training and collective training events, Lee said.

"In addition to having Army Reserve engineers working and training here, we also had National Guard units doing projects supporting Essayons," Morrow said. The 106th Engineer Detachment (Quarry) from Tomah, Wis., worked at crushing rock at the new rock crusher site on South Post, and the 229th Engineer Company of Prairie Du Chien, Wis., completed more trail improvements at Training Area B-9.

Many of the engineer units arrived in mid-June and worked for two consecutive weeks.

Staff Sgt. Joe Hattamer of the 327th Engineer Company of Onalaska, Wis., worked as the construction site supervisor at the shower facility project at FOB Liberty. He said they made tremendous progress on the facility.

"When we got here, it was just a shell of a building," Hattamer said.

"We finished the work on the roof, installed doors and windows and worked on framing and installation of plumbing and shower stalls."

Sgt. Norm Mudgett, the lead carpenter from the 327th, said the shower facility, when done, will be a great addition to the post. He added that working on the project with his fellow engineers boosted all of their construction abilities.

"There's a lot we learn when we get to do this kind of work," Mudgett said. "This is really good refresher training for many of our Soldiers as we don't do this all the time. Also, on every job site I work, I learn how to do something that I didn't know how to do before."

Spc. Rocky Ostrowski, 327th electrician and former Marine who worked on the shower project, said the training experience was valuable to building his skills.

"I really enjoy it," Ostrowski said. "Working on a project like this, I have a lot of leeway to get work done. I'm allowed to think on my feet and find the best case scenario for completing the work."

At the Pine View Campground office project, Sgt. 1st Class Danny Limberg, 327th platoon sergeant and noncommissioned officer in charge of his unit's assigned projects at Fort McCoy, said they made great progress in revamping the building to add three interior office spaces.

"So many people are going to see the effects of our work on this project, alone," Limberg said.

"For us and all engineers participating, this (exercise) is of great importance for our Soldiers because they are getting training," Limberg said. "Also, working here at Fort McCoy with the thousands of troops who come here every year, we know the work we're doing here will benefit them and the entire post community. Essayons is a win-win for all parties involved — we get the training and experience we need for our Soldiers, and construction work is done to help the post, which in turn saves money."

Nearly 800 Soldiers participated in the 2014 Essayons training, and planning has already begun for 2015, Lee said.

For more information about Essayons and Troop Projects at Fort McCoy, call Morrow at 608-388-3551.