MCGREGOR RANGE, N.M. — During a time of tight budget constraints and shrinking personnel resources, one Fort Bliss, Texas, unit managed to do more with less while saving the installation and the Army money.
The 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, which was recently inactivated, made a habit of using vertical and horizontal construction engineer units to help build and maintain the infrastructure here while preparing them for impending deployment rotations.
July 21, 2015 - Soldiers from the 716th (Vertical) Company, an Army Reserve unit from Somersworth, N.H., treat a wounded team member after a simulated improvised explosive device explosion during the company's Mission Readiness Exercise recently. The unit was enroute to their construction project in Karma' Shah Village at McGregor Range, N.M. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. John A. Brimley, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public Affairs)
“Conducting post-mobilization training at MTC [Mobilization Training Center] Bliss affords the 5th Armored Brigade and Fort Bliss a great opportunity to provide real world training while capitalizing on the opportunity to provide construction efforts to needed projects,” said Lt. Col. David Woodruff, former commander, 3-364th Engineer Battalion.
Over a two-year span, it's estimated that the 3-364th and the engineer rotational training units have saved a substantial amount of money.
“The units 5th Armored has trained have been able to save the government and the Army almost $3 million in troop construction for Fort Bliss, McGregor Range and Contingency Operating Location Westbrook,” said Woodruff.
The construction units have built sunshades and gazebos, repaired levees, refurbished ranges, replaced culverts, repaved roads, constructed landing zones and rebuilt villages. Range 37 has been a particular problem area for McGregor because of its location and propensity to sustain water damage rolling off the hills. During the rainy season of 2013, the storms caused a levee to break, causing damage to many of the other lower ranges.
“One of the most important projects the unit's assisted us in was the buildup of Range 37,” said Salvador Hernandez, McGregor Range Operations Supervisor. “With all of that damage, the unit that came in was able to build up that levee and blocked off certain areas with their development plan.”
It was a large project for 5th AR to take part in, but the resources were available with a training unit scheduled to share the load. The repair work helped to stave off damages in Ranges 13-24 that would have continued if the attention were not given to Range 37.
However, for the Directorate of Personnel, Training Management, and Security, the project was just too much to bear, as DPTMS did not have the resources.
“For me to attempt to do something as big as what they did at Range 37, our heavy equipment is minimal,” Hernandez said. “We don't have as many trucks, dump trucks, front end loaders, graders ... so what the Army or engineers were able to do in one week, it would have taken our heavy equipment a longer time.”
Currently, there is only one heavy equipment section of DPTMS at McGregor and it is comprised of six personnel responsible for Dona Ana, New Mexico, Oro Grande, New Mexico, McGregor Range and Westbrook. The use of Soldier labor allowed more focus to be placed on other areas around the installation and outside of McGregor Range by McGregor Range staff.
“Any help that the engineers do here also assists our heavy equipment section because now they can concentrate on the other complexes,” Hernandez said.
The 716th Engineer (Vertical) Company, an Army Reserve unit from Somersworth, New Hampshire, recently completed their Mission Readiness Exercise here before deploying. With four platoons, the unit constructed a sun shade at Range 10 and tore down and reconstructed several building structures at Karma' shah Village. The construction work was conducted within the framework of their Mission Readiness Exercise, which takes place over five to seven days and incorporates full-scale convoy and construction operations.
“The intent is to get the team leadership and company leadership to consider the entire project,” said Capt. Evan Wolf, operations officer for 3rd Battalion, 410th Engineer Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade. “The idea is that they have to understand project management while thinking tactics at the same time.”
The construction project itself was only a portion of the unit's planning. They had to account for transporting material, tactical convoy operations, and then construction.
“It makes the planning a little more rigorous to try and consider how you're going to move tactically but get all of your equipment and materials to the jobsite, and then you're working in an unsecured jobsite, so you have to figure that out,” said Wolf.
Along those same lines, the incorporation of real world construction projects and convoy tactics prepares the unit in a way many have not experienced before.
“This type of training is good for the Soldier, so they can experience this type of training and all of the motions you go through training here,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daryle Lamonica, lead engineer planner 716th EN Company, “and how real world missions overseas work and give them a perspective of how everything operates.”
The partnership between the RTU, 5th AR and DPTMS is a symbiotic relationship where everyone leaves satisfied.
“It is really a win-win for both the unit mobilizing and Team Bliss,” said Woodruff. “Units needed to train for their wartime mission in order to deploy and the 5th Armor had to provide real world construction projects in order for them to train.”
By U.S. Army Capt. John A. Brimley
Provided through DVIDS
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