[ Triad Online Home ]                                                                                         August 11, 2006

Engineer unit to provide support to Operation Iraqi Freedom mission

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.

Photo: Members of the 411th Engineer Brigade conduct urban assault operations at MOUT Ramadi. (Photo by Loni Witscheber)
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 Nesnadny.

      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 proficiency.

      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 Iraqis.

      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 Nesnadny.

      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. 

       "The unit's 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 Diederich.

      "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 Nesnadny.

      Approximately 40-percent of the unit's Soldiers already have served overseas. 

      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 need it.

      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 Services.)

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