Virginia Guard Soldiers bridge the gap

Virginia Guard Soldiers from the Bowling Green-based 189th Multi-Role Bridge Company conduct river crossing operations with the U.S. Army’s Improved Ribbon Bridge July 24 at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. The Soldiers are training at Fort A.P. Hill as part of their two-week annual training. (Photo by Spc. JoAnna Greene, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. — Virginia Guard Soldiers from the Bowling Green-based 189th Multirole Bridge Company bridged White’s Lake outside Fort A.P. Hill July 24 as part of the culminating exercise of their two-week annual training. The Soldiers constructed an approximately 120-meter long bridge, called an Improved Ribbon Bridge, consisting of 13 interior bays and two ramp bays during their three-day field training exercise.

“What we can do, we can put these bridge bays down and connect them together and put any vehicle in the Army’s system across it,” said Capt. Matt Nowak, commander of the 189th MRBC. “We can put it down and have it out in 30 minutes to an hour and have tanks across it, have Bradleys across it – whatever you need.”

As part of the exercise, the Soldiers of the 189th MRBC worked with the Pennsylvania Guard’s Company D, 112th Infantry (Anti-tank) and Company B, 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division to construct a bridge that enabled the Strykers to conduct an assault across the bridge. Senior military leaders and senior state government officials, including Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker, Martin Kent and Matt Conrad, Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor McDonnell, respectively, Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia and Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Green, Senior Enlisted Leader for the Virginia National Guard, were all on hand to watch the exercise.

“Initially we constructed a raft and loaded a Humvee onto it and linked up with a Stryker group and from there they loaded some zodiacs and assaulted the far side of the shore,” said 1st Lt. Jonathon Russo, platoon leader in the 189th MRBC.

“Each bridge bay can be put down and put together in one minute, give or take,” explained Nowak. “It helps a commander cross the stream. They don’t have to look for an alternate route or a bridge that may or may not be there.”

Putting together the bridge bays is an easy task. “It’s a simple concept. You just drop it in the water and they open up and you put them together, snap them in and it’s just that easy,” Nowak said.

“I think the 189th is doing a great job on training all their troops, getting everybody on every piece of equipment and getting them trained on it,” said Sgt. Robert Kinson, a bridge crew member from Woodbridge, Va.

When not on the water, Soldiers of the 189th engaged in a variety of other training activities, spending time working on weapons familiarization on the M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gun, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and the M16. The unit was also able to double their number of licensed drivers and trained on warrior tasks and skills.

“Everything we expected to do, we hit,” said Nowak. “They’ve done awesome. They’ve been highly motivated and we did it all safely. There’s been a good teamwork effort here this AT.”

Nowak also stressed the importance of his entire unit, not just the bridge crew members. “Other than our 12Cs, which are our bridge crew members, we have maintenance out here on site, we had welders that were welding some of our bridge bays to fix them. The Multirole Bridge Company isn’t just about 12Cs, it’s about maintenance and supply and support.”

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