Virginia National Guard activates new engineer unit in Onancock

Lt. Col. Matthew Lutz and Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Coleman, the command team of the 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, uncase the unit guidon for the 576th Engineer Utilities Detachment during an activation and assumption of command ceremony June 3, 2017, at the readiness center in Onancock, Virginia.  (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

ONANCOCK, Va. — The Virginia National Guard hosted an activation and assumption of command ceremony for the 576th Engineer Utilities Detachment June 3, 2017, at the readiness center in Onancock, Virginia. The new engineer unit will be staffed with skilled positions including electricians, plumbers, construction equipment operators and carpenters, so there will be opportunities for people in the area to join the National Guard to receive training in those specialities.

The mission of the 576th is to provide facilities engineering support in the areas of carpentry, masonry, electrical, plumbing and road maintenance and repair. It falls under the Virginia Beach-based 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group.

“It is a great day to be in Onancock,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Lutz, commander of the 529th CSSB. “Today we are activating the first engineer unit ever in this armory. I know we have chosen the right type of unit, and these Soldiers standing before you represent a new generation of engineers. They are dedicated and committed to this unit and this community.”

First Lieutenant Nathaniel R. Gant assumed command of the detachment as part of the ceremony.

Lutz also thanked the local officials present at the ceremony for their support and expressed optimism about the benefits of the partnership between the Guard and community in the future.

“I see this as being a wonderful partnership,” said Dr. Linda Thomas-Glover, president of the Eastern Shore Community College. She explained that the college has a number of technical trade skill programs, and the partnership with the Guard will help students learn more about possible career opportunities.

The community college as a regular “Lunch and Learn” program where guest speakers meet with students over lunch to explain what they do and answer questions, and she indicated having the Guard take part will be a top priority in the fall semester.

The skills that Soldiers will learn in the in the new unit also has the potential to benefit them in their civilian careers.

Spc. Candace Jones is currently an 88M Motor Transport Operator, and she is scheduled to attend training to become a 12R Interior Electrician in February 2018. She is excited about serving in the new engineer unit and gaining new skills that will help her in her current civilian job where she works as a nuclear marine electrician.

“I work on aircraft carriers and submarines, so it is pretty much the marine electrician life,” explained Jones. “As an interior electrician, it will be more about conduit and learning building infrastructures, so I will be able to utilize that skill set as well and have it carry over if I ever have to run conduit or go through walls.”

The detachment will consist of the following sections:

– Headquarters Section providing supervision, planning, and coordination of the detachment supply, maintenance and communications support.

– Operations Section providing the detachment leadership with updates on current operations and performs planning functions to support engineer operations.

– Three Utilities Sections providing specialized engineer personnel and equipment for vertical engineer missions and support to the Equipment Section.

– Equipment Section providing specialized engineer personnel and equipment for horizontal construction missions and supports the Utilities Section.

Vertical engineer missions normally refers to projects involving buildings and other structures where horizontal construction missions normally involving roads or other flat surfaces.

The unit is recruiting new members and will be sending Soldiers to schools in order to get properly trained on the new specialities.

In addition to the engineer facilities capabilities, the unit will also be able to provide assistance to local residence in the event of hazardous weather as they have done in recent years. The Guard has staged several vehicles capable of maneuvering through heavy snow or high water at the readiness center to make sure the Guard is able to rapidly respond if needed to provide response capabilities to assist local law enforcement or emergency response organizations.

For example, in January 2017 Virginia National Guard Soldiers assisted Virginia State Police with checking abandoned vehicles in the Onancock area as troopers worked to tow abandoned vehicles to make way for snow removal teams clearing roads.

The Clifton Forge-based 29th Division Band provided ceremonial music for the event in their first-ever performance in the Eastern Shore area of Virginia.

Anyone interested in learning more about joining the unit should contact Sgt. 1st Class Jonnie Waters via email at johnnie.f.waters.mil@mail.mil or by phone at 757-455-0889.