Virginia National Guard engineers build ties with 82nd Airborne engineers

Engineers from Fredericksburg based Company A, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th IBCT train with engineers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 37th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. March 6-7, 2015. The training is part of the Army's Total Force Partnership Program that is designed to promote informal leader development and pushes the units to find shared training opportunities and trade lessons learned. Engineers worked side by side on projects for Fort A.P. Hill building trenches and improving roads. 37th Engineer Battalion engineers were able to sign equipment from the Fredericksburg unit to get additional operating time. In exchange, 116th engineers gained valuable training time and experience because the equipment was already onsite and project planning was completed.(National Guard photos by Maj. Matthew Nowak/Released)

Engineers from Fredericksburg based Company A, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th IBCT train with engineers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 37th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. March 6-7, 2015. The training is part of the Army’s Total Force Partnership Program that is designed to promote informal leader development and pushes the units to find shared training opportunities and trade lessons learned. Engineers worked side by side on projects for Fort A.P. Hill building trenches and improving roads. 37th Engineer Battalion engineers were able to sign equipment from the Fredericksburg unit to get additional operating time. In exchange, 116th engineers gained valuable training time and experience because the equipment was already onsite and project planning was completed.(National Guard photos by Maj. Matthew Nowak/Released)

FORT A. P. HILL, Va. – The latest round of winter snow to hit Virginia would not stop six months of planning during the March drill. Equipment operators from Company A, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team had a delayed start because unsafe road conditions made it difficult to get to the readiness center. Engineers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 37th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division were already in place and ready for 116th engineers to arrive to begin combined equipment operators training at Fort A.P. Hill March 6-8, 2015.

Engineers from the Fort Bragg-based 37th Engineer Battalion arrived in between Virginia snowstorms to conduct their own training and prepare for arrival of 116th engineers. The training is part of the Army’s Total Force Partnership Program that is designed to promote informal leader development, pushes active duty and the reserve components to find shared training opportunities and shares lessons learned.

“This is how we are going to fight in the future. We need to start building relationships with the National Guard and Reserves right now,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Liffring, commander of the 37th Engineer Battalion. “Our equipment operators get additional stick time and 116th operators can just fall in on equipment and start training.”

The 37th arrived March 4 to draw heavy equipment from the 116th, some of which was recently fielded and had as little as six operating hours logged on it. This early arrival permitted operators from the 37th to get additional training time and even allowed them to plow snow covered range roads helping Fort A.P. Hill. By drawing equipment, it saved 116th engineers loading and travel time. They just needed to arrive and train.

“This type of training gave us a maximum amount of operating time and we were able to take on a bigger job with the 82nd Engineers,” said Sgt. Christopher Langford, a team leader for Company A, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion. “We worked alongside their Soldiers and we learned from each other’s experiences.”

Equipment operators from both units worked on two projects at Fort A.P. Hill. Together, they dug trenches with high mobility engineer excavators on one project and improved a dirt road with a combination of graders, loaders, dozers and dump trucks on another project.

Junior Soldiers from the 116th received training from their active duty counterparts on new M120 graders, since they are not licensed and have not received initial operator training. Non-commissioned officers shared ideas on worksite management and discussed how to improve their operational processes.

Senior leadership also benefited from the experience. Liffring and some of his staff officers met with the 116th BSTB commander, Lt. Col. Charles Martin, to share ideas and discuss future training opportunities. One topic of discussion was upcoming transformation of the 116th BSTB into a brigade engineer battalion. The 37th went through the same transformation within the last few years. Martin received lessons learned from Liffring’s transformation experiences.

“Overall, this has been a great experience for our Soldiers. The 37th has been an excellent partner and we have gained valuable experience from them,” said Martin. “We are going to continue to look for additional training opportunities and possibly expand our partnership into other facets of engineering such as Sapper training.”

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Photos: Fredericksburg Engineers train with 82nd Airborne Engineers – March 6-7, 2015