Va. Guard engineers and VDF to support 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg

Soldiers from the Bowling Green-based 189th Engineer Company complete assembly of an approximately 120 meter long bridge consisting of 13 interior bays and two ramp bays during annual training July 24, 2012, at Fort A. P. Hill. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

BOWLING GREEN, Va. — Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s Bowling Green-based 189th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion will provide the latest in military mobile bridging technology in support of Civil War re-enactors during the observation of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg scheduled for Dec. 8, 2012. Members of the Virginia Defense Force will also support the event with traffic control and visitor assistance.

“This is a great training opportunity for the Soldiers of the 189th to be able to assemble the bridge on a flowing river,” said 1st Lt. Marianne E. Heldmann, commander of the 189th. “This mission also required coordination with multiple civilian agencies which is what we do when we are on state active duty. We are glad to be able to support this important community event that provides great training for our Soldiers, and it will make us better prepared if we are called to either state or federal active duty to perform our bridging mission.”

Soldiers from the Bowling Green-based 189th Engineer Company launch an interior bridge bay during annual training July 24, 2012, at Fort A. P. Hill. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

The bridging system used by the 189th is officially known as the Improved Float Bridge (Ribbon) and it consists of interior bridge sections about 22 feet long and almost 27 feet wide. The interior bridge sections are linked together, then special ramp bays are connected at either end to allow vehicles and personnel to enter and exit the completed bridge. Bridge and ramp bays are carried by special M812 military 5-ton trucks that can launch the bridge sections into the water, then Soldiers use propulsion boats to maneuver the bridge sections in the water as it is assembled. In addition to being used as a bridge to span a body of water, the bays can be assembled together as a free-floating structure then can be used to ferry personnel or equipment across the water.

Soldiers will assembl3 most of the bridge on Friday, then complete the final structure early Saturday morning to be ready for the event. The final bridge will span approximately 100 meters and consist of 12 bridge bays and two ramp bays.

According to the event web site at http://fredericksburg150.org, the crossing will take place from 10 to 11 a.m. from Ferry Farm to City Dock. According to event organizers, the bridge will help recreate the first amphibious landing under fire in American military history and allow the Union army to once again cross the Rappahannock and assault the city.

The 276th Engineer Battalion, the higher headquarters of the 189th, traces its lineage and honors to the 1st Virginia Regiment, and the 1st Virginia has campaign participation credit for Confederate service at Fredericksburg.

A member of the Virginia Defense Force provides traffic control assistance at the Virginia War Memorial May 28, 2012, during Memorial Day observation events. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Approximately 30 members of the VDF Military Police Battalion will volunteer their time to provide support for the event in the form of traffic control, area access and visitor assistance. The battalion headquarters is located at Waller Depot in Richmond, with subordinate companies in Petersburg, Powhatan and Bowling Green, but VDF members from across the commonwealth will take part in the support mission. VDF members will be on site from Dec. 7 to 9.

“These missions will be performed after long coordination with the event organizers plus other local, state and federal partners holding event responsibilities,” explained Lt. Col. (Va.) David W. James. commander of the MP Battalion. “Participation in this event will assist in honing the VDF Military Police command and control element in a joint environment and will provide a real-world test of its personnel in a dynamic deployment setting. This volunteer force has personnel hailing from a variety of backgrounds, but all with the goal of providing resolute and responsible assistance to their neighbors and visitors.”

The VDF has a long-standing relationship with the Virginia War Memorial and has provided traffic control assistance during Memorial Day and Veterans Day events at the memorial for several years.

The VDF is an all-volunteer force authorized by the Code of Virginia and organized under the Virginia Department of Military Affairs reporting to the Adjutant General of Virginia. The VDF is organized into a headquarters with three brigades and units at 32 locations across the commonwealth.

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View photos of the Soldiers from the 189th Engineers assembling a float bridge during annual training in July 2012:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157630734806626/

View raw video of Soldiers fielding the new bridging equipment in October 2010:
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=492648281130&set=vb.52585440840

For more information about the VDF, visit http://www.vdf.virginia.gov.