FORT PICKETT, Va. –
Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group used their two weeks of annual training from July 8-22, 2017, at Fort Pickett, Virginia, to improve range roads, train on mission essential tasks in a field environment and better prepare the battalion staff in the military decision making process.
“We had a very successful annual training at Fort Pickett, and Command Sgt. Maj. Maurice Brown and I are incredibly proud of the hard work and outstanding results from the Soldiers of the battalion,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Dunn, commander of the 276th. “We have set a solid foundation that will allow our units to prepare for the multiple training and mission challenges that lay ahead.”
This annual training had Soldiers working at the individual and section level that will help the battalion go a higher training level in the future, explained Capt. Charles “Cy” DeKeyser, operations officer for the 276th. It also builds confidence in the battalion’s ability to meet the requirements of its federal mission to deploy overseas and support the nation’s warfight as well as support domestic operations.
The field training exercise simulated the kind of engineer construction the Soldiers might perform overseas while on federal active duty. Engineers also conducted clearing and grubbing to create combat roads and trails and used heavy engineer equipment to improve existing roads.
Brandon Martin, the natural resources manager for the Fort Pickett Department of Public Works, provided several hours of classroom instruction on chain saw operations, then set up hands on training to simulate a debris reduction mission to open a road closed by fallen trees like the engineers might see on state active duty after a hurricane.
In terms of the projects on Fort Pickett, the Soldiers from the Cedar Bluff-based 1033rd Engineer Support Company and the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Support Company replaced three culverts and repaired and regraded more than three miles of range road, Dunn said. During the field training exercise, engineers emplaced 200 meters of protective earthen berms, excavated 200 meters of anti-tank ditch, dug five Humvee vehicles fighting positions and three turret-defilade vehicle fighting positions that would support an M1A1 tank, he said.
As engineers were digging, Soldiers from the Forward Support Company made sure there food, fuel, ammo and operational vehicles. Food service specialists prepared and served nearly 8,300 meals, petroleum specialists pumped more than 9,100 gallons of fuel, ammo handlers delivered more than 16,300 rounds to the ranges and mechanics performed more than 300 vehicle services.
The battalion also accomplished a variety of individual Soldier tasks like weapons qualification, driver training and combat lifesaver training, Dunn said. They were also able to focus on important administrative tasks like retention counseling. Through the entire two weeks, leaders stressed the importance of Soldier care as they battalion trained during some of the hottest days so far this year.
At the company level, Soldiers conducted mission-focused construction for mobility, countermobilicty and survivability operations, said Capt. Joshua Favaro, commander of the 1033rd Engineer Support Company.
“They are just happy to be out here digging, doing their 12N (combat engineer) tasks and loving every minute of it,” Favaro said. “I’ve gotten nothing but great feedback from the Soldiers. Morale is high. They are wore out at the end of the day, but they are excited to get a lot of stick time.”
In addition to their engineer work, Virginia National Guard aviation crews assigned to the Sandston-based Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment conducted aircraft familiarization flights for 1033rd Soldiers. The flights provided an opportunity for the engineers to learn about Black Hawk flight operations and the aviation crews to conduct training on multi-ship operations.
Dunn also gave special thanks to retired Lt. Col. Al Leonard and retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bill Kuykendall from the Mission Command Training Support Program for their support during the battalion staff military decision making process training as well as Capt. Caleb Tallent and his team from the Fort Stewart-based 188th Infantry Brigade from 1st Army for sharing their technical and tactical expertise during construction operations and the FTX.
“The experience and guidance provided by both of these groups helped our officers, NCOs and Soldiers hone their mission command and engineer skills,” Dunn said.
Additional reporting by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Szoke, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs