FORT CHAFFEE, Ark. – Staring out into darkness, Spc. Hoang Tran
could hardly wait to get started. Wet from an early morning storm, a
little bit cold and with mud caking his Army combat boots, he
eagerly directed each Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck toward
the shoreline in the early morning hours of July 24, 2013.
Just as fast as the Arkansas sun started to rise through the clouds,
soldiers all around him enthusiastically began moving vehicles,
preparing Army engineer boats and dropping large Army green bridge
sections into the river.
A U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter assigned to the 7th Aviation Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, drops buoys as divers assigned to the 511th Engineer Dive Detachment, 30th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, from Fort Bragg, N.C., look on during Operation River Assault at Fort Chaffee, Ark., July 24, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Justin Snyder)
“This is what I came here to do,” said Tran, 671st
Engineer Company (Multi-Role Bridge). “A little rain won't
do anything but motivate us to get the mission accomplished
What began as only an idea and a goal
became a reality as engineers from the 459th Engineer
Company (MRB), 671st Engineer Company (MRB), and 74th
Engineer Company (MRB) came together with the assistance of
medics, military police, dive specialists and support
personnel, to construct an Improved Ribbon Bridge across the
Each of the
engineer units took care of unloading a quarter of the
bridging section, with the final section coming from Boeing
CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
When the last of 44 bridge
sections hit the water, soldiers high-fived and praised each
other enthusiastically as if they had just won a sporting
“Heck of a job guys!” said Tran, a native of
Portland, Ore. “We were on a tight schedule, but we got it
done faster then we expected.”
Standing in the
background, Lt. Col. Keith Krajewski, 389th Engineer
Battalion crossing area commander, could not help but be
proud of what his soldiers had accomplished.
guys deserve to be happy and should be proud of what they
just did,” said Krajewski. “They've been out here training
and rehearsing for over a week now. This is like their Super
Bowl. I can't stress how well they did.”
past week and a half, the nearly 800 soldiers participating
in Operation River Assault have been vigorously training in
preparation for the bridge crossing. The engineers tested
and familiarized themselves with their boats and vehicles,
while continuing to brush up on their soldier skills such as
land navigation, marksmanship and demolition.
often made for long days in the field and made it crucial
for them to capitalize on the limited training time they
received on the bridging elements.
“We've been very
busy from the moment we stepped onto the ground at Fort
Chaffee,” said Spc. Israel Sanchez, a bridge team member
with the 671st Engineer Company (MRB) “We've practiced for
every scenario. From pulling security and getting up early
to building a raft, everything we did here went into the
final mission today.”
Under the careful watch of the
511th Engineer Dive Detachment, 30th Engineer Battalion,
20th Engineer Brigade out of Fort Bragg, N.C, acting as a
safety and support element, along with security personnel
and Army medics the engineers were able to put all their
training to use and complete the water bridge in roughly
The bridge was then used to transport
security elements and soldiers to the opposite side of the
While the river assault was just a training
mission, for the soldiers participating it was a glance at
what their mission could involve if deployed overseas.
“This is a great opportunity to do engineer training,”
said Maj. General William Buckler, commanding general of the
412th Theater Engineer Command and a native of Southside,
Ala. “This is part of the Army Reserve training strategy and
is one of the building blocks of the progressive readiness
model that we use to ensure our units are ready to deploy at
While some of the soldiers on ground have
deployed before, for many it was their first chance to put
together a full-enclosure bridge.
It also served as
the first opportunity for many of the engineers to work
together as one force.
“I'm very new to the engineer
field and this was my first annual training exercise,” said
Sanchez, a native of Clackamas, Ore. “The familiarity and
trust you gain from working alongside people is something
you can't duplicate without actually doing it. I think this
exercise is great for team building and that can go a long
Following the exercise, the engineers
then proceeded to break down the full-enclosure bridge and
will soon head back to their respective home stations.
However, you can guarantee that all the soldiers will
leave with a greater knowledge of essential soldier skills
and a little better at their jobs.
“It was great to
see our soldiers saddle up and complete the mission in a
timely and successful matter,” said Krajewski. “In a real
life scenario, we only get one chance to make this happen.
It's a good feeling knowing they took their's, ran with it
and I think they are better soldiers because of it.”
By U.S. Army Pfc. Justin Snyder
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