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NEWS | June 22, 2016

Annual training for 276th Engineers builds on the basics

By Cotton Puryear | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

Soldiers assigned to the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command built on the basics to improve on squad and team integration with hands on training with engineer equipment and demolitions in tactical environment during the annual training June 4-18, 2016, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. Engineers replaced culverts and repaired roads at Fort Pickett with rock crushed at the installation’s quarry, constructed field defenses during a field training exercise, conducted demolition ranges to familiarize Soldiers with different kinds of explosives and competed in a regional food service competition.

“This year’s focus for annual training was developing relationships with the Fort Pickett Maneuver Training Center as well as conducting training with a tactical flavor,” said Lt. Col. Colin Noyes, commander of the 276th. “Back to basics was our theme last year, and now we are focused on first line leaders as they develop their squads and teams. As we get closer to our ready year, we need to be prepared, and I am proud of the units efforts to be able leverage missions for MTC in order to conduct tactical training.”

Noyes explained that last year’s annual training was focused on project work in a non-tactical environment. The Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company conducted engineer operations in Henry County, Virginia. and the Cedar Bluff-based 1033rd Engineer Company was in Germany repairing roads and airstrips.

“That was all good training, but this year they are sleeping in the woods and conducting tactical operations,” Noyes said.

In addition to the tactical training, AT provided opportunities for leader development. Officers in the battalion visited Petersburg National Battlefield June 8 as part of the battalion’s professional development program. Officers assigned to the 1033rd Engineer Company led the tour of the grounds and interacted with National Park Service Rangers who were able to describe three strategic engagements between the Union and Confederate Armies during the Siege of Petersburg. Each engagement highlighted a specific warfighting function relative to the engineer mission.

Engineers assigned the 180th Engineer Company removed a collapsed culverts throughout Fort Pickett to improve drainage and provide additional road stability. They also constructed and used field defenses during the unit’s field training exercise at Castles Alternate Landing Strip where they built tracked vehicle defilades, a defensive berm, emplaced a concertina wire perimeter and dug fighting positions. As the capstone event, the unit underwent a simulated attack from members of the opposing force. At the conclusion of the assault, the company commander called for reinforcements and an M1 Abrams Tank responded and occupied the tracked vehicle defilade to take a defensive over watch position.

Engineers assigned to the 157th Quarry Platoon operated the quarry June 7 at Fort Pickett where they used dozers and excavators to load boulders into the rock crusher’s hopper. The hopper then transports the rocks by conveyer belt to the crushing chambers. Inside the chambers, the rocks get pulverized by tons of force into smaller rocks. The newly crushed gravel will be used for the construction projects at Fort Pickett during the unit’s annual training.

There were also opportunities for cross training to give Soldiers in the battalion an orientation to the capabilities of different units.

Sappers assigned to the West Point-based 237th Engineer Company taught Soldiers assigned to the Rocky Mount- based 229th Chemical Company to use demolition ring main explosive charges. The purpose of the range was to expose and familiarize 229th Soldiers to many different kinds of explosives. Demolition charges can serve various purposes and are essentially a three-part system requiring an explosive, a charging system and a triggering mechanism.

Soldiers assigned to the Petersburg-based Forward Support Company prepared an evening meal for the regional-level Philip A. Connelly Awards for Excellence in Army Food Service in the Army National Guard Field Kitchen Category June 8 at Fort Pickett. With no NCO leadership available for the competition, several specialists stepped up to provide leadership.

“My intent, besides showing the world that we have the best cooks in the U.S. Army, was to give our team an opportunity to grow and develop,” Noyes said. “The Connelly Competition enabled us to leverage the resources from the state food service to coach our team to not just use the kitchens in the armories but to utilize the containerized kitchen in a field type scenario. Our Soldiers increased their culinary skills while developing tactical feeding skills needed for field operations. Spc. Kearney and Spc. Archer did an outstanding job providing leadership during the competition.”

Judges watched as the Soldiers prepared a meal for 100 people and asked questions about the ingredients, oven temperatures and field sanitation procedures while testing the knowledge of the kitchen staff. Teams start the competition with 1,000 points. From there, points can be deducted for not following recipe cards, regulations or proper procedures as well as for maintenance or sanitation issues.

Established in 1968, the Connelly program aims to recognize excellence in Army food service and is named for the late Philip A. Connelly, former president of the International Food Service Executives Association. The program seeks to improve the professionalism of Army food service personnel in order to provide the best product and service to military members and to provide recognition for the excellence of Army kitchen staffs in dining facilities and during field kitchen operations. Region 2 includes Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D. C.

Soldiers will learn the results of the competition within the next few months.

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