FORT BARFOOT, Va. –
Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group participated with family members and loved ones in the battalion’s inaugural Plus One Day June 9, 2023, at Fort Barfoot, Virginia. More than 20 family members and friends showed up to take part in the event with their Soldiers.
When National Guard Soldiers leave their families and friends behind to attend annual training in the summer months, many of those left behind never get the opportunity to experience just a small part of what their Soldiers do during those periods apart. The 276th Engineers helped to bridge that gap by hosting a special day geared towards bringing Soldiers and family members together in a shared military experience.
“In the active component, often times family members are invited to go with their Soldiers out to the range or an obstacle course,” said Maj. Andrew J. Czaplicki, the 276th’s executive officer. “They get a better understanding of the challenges, both physical and mental, that their Soldiers face on a normal day. This helps to bridge the gap between spouses, family, and Soldiers.”
Family members and “plus ones” arrived on post and were fitted with military personal protective equipment, including a kevlar vest, eye and hearing protection and a helmet. After a safety briefing, the group of Soldiers and family members proceeded to the Engagement Skills Trainer, a virtual range, where they were coached in basic marksmanship skills by their Soldier.
From there, they moved out to a real-world rifle range where they broke for lunch and were treated to a Meal, Ready-to-Eat. The “plus ones” were then briefed on range safety and, with their Soldier as coaches, moved onto the range to fire the M4 rifle.
1st Lt. Jenesis Harper, outgoing executive officer with the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, and her father, Mark Harper of Haymarket, Virginia, were two of the participants.
“Having the opportunity to bring my father along adds to the greater picture and purpose,” Harper said. “It’s nice for him to get a peak behind the curtain of this uniform that I serve in, and try and give him as much of an Army experience as possible in a safe manner. I’m loving the opportunity and experience of being out here with my dad.”
Harper’s father expressed his admiration for the unit hosting the event.
“This is something that every Soldier, family member and important person in a Soldiers life, such as an employer, should have an opportunity to experience,” he said. “My father is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army, I did not serve. Now I have a daughter serving. To be able to see her operate in the field, it makes me almost speechless. I’m so proud of her.”
From the rifle range they proceeded to the Staff Sgt. Jesse Ault Wheeled Vehicle Obstacle Course where the group rode in Humvees through some of the course’s obstacles and called in checkpoints over the radio. This gave the “plus ones” the entire Army experience of shooting, moving and communicating.
The event was formed out of feedback taken from Soldiers after their 2022 annual training. The battalion conducted the necessary research and received the approval to be able to put on the event at Fort Barfoot.
“We have received nothing but support from the Maneuver Army Training Center at Fort Barfoot,” said Czaplicki. “All of the directorates have been phenomenal in helping us facilitate this event. Joint Force Headquarters has been helpful in giving us legal reviews, as well as resourcing some of the finer details of the event. It’s certainly been a team effort.”
View more photos from the event at https://ngpa.us/25700.