By Loni Witscheber, Triad Contributor
The 411th Engineer Brigade, an Army Reserve engineer unit
headquartered in New Windsor, N.Y., has been called to duty to deploy
in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Members of the 411th Engineer
Brigade conduct urban assault operations at MOUT Ramadi. (Photo
by Loni Witscheber)
The 411th has trained for three months at Fort McCoy, and
recently completed a seven-day Mission Readiness Exercise. The
exercise incorporated individual and collective training, and tested
the brigade headquarters' ability to perform its command-and-control
function over subordinate units.
1st Lt. David J. Nesnadny, company commander for Headquarters
Company, 411th Engineer Brigade, said the unit's mission will be to
integrate a number of engineer units and provide engineer support to
coalition forces in Iraq.
"We will plan the clearing of road systems to protect
coalition forces' ability to move within Iraq in order to allow the
continued building of a free, independent Iraqi government," said
The 411th was organized into three platoons with rotating
training schedules at Fort McCoy.
Each platoon participated in numerous training events, which
consisted of classroom training and practical exercises.
Training included hand-to-hand combat techniques, a ground
assault convoy live-fire exercise (GAC LFX), combat lifesaver (CLS)
courses, first-aid training, military operations on urbanized terrain
(MOUT) at Ramadi (North Post), reflexive fire, and weapons
The recently constructed Ramadi MOUT site, made up of recycled
express containers designed to resemble Iraqi and Afghan buildings,
was the site of a one-day training event that taught Soldiers how to
maneuver and react in villages and small towns.
The military defines MOUT training as all military actions that
are planned and conducted on a complex terrain where man-made
construction affects the tactical options available to the commander.
The MOUT site at Fort McCoy is designed to simulate the
environment that Soldiers will encounter in Iraq.
Much of the training received by the 411th Engineer Brigade
focused on Iraqi culture and language, including instruction by native
Nesnadny said the Iraqi contractors were an integral addition
to the training, and although time was limited with the language
specialists, the Soldiers will remember a majority of the customs,
courtesies, and use of translators.
"I've done what I can to make the platoon leaders the
collection point for a lot of information, so that they may be strong
leaders, and have enough authority to get things done," said
Although the training has been demanding, the Soldiers of the
411th Engineer Brigade are aware of its benefits, and see the payoff
of their efforts.
motivation is high and the cohesion is great," said Staff Sgt.
Michael J. Ruger. "The training and information given to us have
been excellent, especially the MOUT training."
Ruger is a cross-leveled 411th Soldier on his third deployment.
During this deployment he will help coordinate engineer
operations when in-country.
Spc. Rebecca L. Diederich, a member of the brigade's Logistics
section, said the training has been good and successful. "I've
enjoyed the GAC LFX because it's hands-on training," said
"My favorite training has been the CLS course," said
Pfc. Christopher W. Gibson, a Soldier working in the Brigade.
The Soldiers also lived in the field for a limited time at
Tactical Training Base (TTB) Freedom, and participated in training
events at both TTB Freedom and TTB Liberty. The purpose of having
Soldiers living at the TTB's is to train and condition them in a
theater-based setting. The surroundings not only aid in preparing
Soldiers for the reality of serving overseas, but it also makes the
transition to the Middle East environment a smoother process.
Members of the 411th had an unexpected dose of reality that
will be experienced in-country: heat, and a lot of it.
The nationwide heat-wave increased the intensity of training.
The most important issue was maintaining proper hydration.
Sgt. Jerome Tucker, a member of the 411th Engineer Brigade,
said the trainers enforced hydration and constantly reminded Soldiers
to drink plenty of liquids to prevent heat casualties. The heat-wave
was a primer for what the unit will experience in theater, said Master
Sgt. Robert L. Whitehead, and Soldiers will be conditioned to wear
their body armor in high temperatures.
"We did a lot of training on a compressed schedule --
everything we did, for example the
GAC LFX, is really going to save our lives," said
Approximately 40-percent of the unit's Soldiers already have
Their experiences are incredibly valuable to the unit. The
Soldiers who have gone over are very willing to share their
experiences and offer advice, said Nesnadny, which equates to a
considerable amount of experience getting down to the individuals who
As with most Army Reserve units, the 411th Engineer Brigade has
many Soldiers who are cross-leveled into the unit.
Many come from units within the brigade. "We have a lot of
cross-leveled Soldiers, some that arrived days before being mobilized
to Fort McCoy," said Nesnadny. "But I've been told by the
instructors that they've seen us come together as a unit, and I can
vouch for that."
(Witscheber is a public affairs specialist
for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base