SANDSTON, Va. — Nearly 60 Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard’s Cedar Bluff-based 1033rd Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command conducted their two-week annual training Sept. 7-29, 2015, at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany. During that time, the engineers completed projects for the installation including repairing a gravel landing strip, restoring bridge abutments, constructing a soccer field, maintaining tank trails and cleaning up debris in the training area.
“The 1033rd was fortunate enough to get a real-world mission in a tight fiscal climate,” said Capt. Jeremy A. Blenn, commander of the 1033rd. “Although we deployed for peacetime operations, the deployment process is the same as it would have been for traveling to any area overseas. Our Soldiers are absolutely better prepared to conduct our engineer mission after this annual training. Practice makes perfect, and going through the process in peace time will pay dividends should we have to deploy for a wartime mission.”
The bridge abutment project alone had been priced by a civilian firm at more than 70,000 Euro, Blenn said. Not only did his Soldiers get real world training and get to do something exciting, but the deployment was also cost effective because they completed some expensive projects for JMRC.
“We repaired the short take off and landing strip which is the only unimproved gravel airstrip outside of continental United States that our pilots can use for training,” Blenn said. “The STOL is used by all 28 NATO countries and mimics the landing conditions that pilots can expect on a forward operation base. The STOL is a big reason for why JMRC at Hohenfels is relevant, and they were very pleased with the maintenance improvements.”
Two Soldiers from the 1003rd developed a written SOP for future units to use on how to conduct runway repair at the site.
Blenn said there are many benefits to conducting training like his unit’s rotation to JMRC.
“Everyone gets to perform their job in a real world overseas setting, and deploying overseas allowed us to practice movements, fall in on equipment, fall in on projects, and learn to make do with what we had,” he said. “There is a heightened sense of urgency and energy that comes with a real world mission. Additionally there is a sense of pride, esprit de corps, and confidence in our abilities that comes with being able to do our job. For new Soldiers who have not deployed at all, it is critical for them to get that experience. Many of our experienced leaders who have learned the drill over the past decade will likely not be in the next war time deployment. It’s critical that lessons of the past be remembered in a situation that makes use of small details essential to smooth operations.”
The opportunity to conduct hands-on training for two weeks was very beneficial to the Soldiers who took part in the mission, Blenn said.
“Many Soldiers sign up to perform their job, and with only two days a month we often don’t get enough time and opportunity to do what we signed up for,” he said. “This is exactly the type of mission that retains Soldiers, builds morale and attracts members in the community to join our unit.
Blenn said he hoped that a relationship could be established with JMRC so they could go every other year to work on projects.
“Establishing that relationship would also prove efficient,” he said. “We would be able to be more effective, knowing the layout and having deeper knowledge of the missions beforehand.”
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