276th Engineers tackle Fort Pickett improvements during AT

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group operate rock quarry machinery during their annual training June 4, 2019, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. Driving dump trucks full of large rocks mined from the bottom of the quarry, the engineers dumped their haul into a chute which fed a series of crushers, turning the large rocks into gravel. That gravel will then be used to improve other training areas at Fort Pickett. (U.S. National Guard photo by Mike Vrabel)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group made significant progress in efforts to improve some of Fort Pickett’s training areas during their annual training June 1-15, 2019, at Fort Pickett, Virginia.

The battalion conducted a variety of training exercises and real-world missions during their stay at Fort Pickett, but the more permanent construction projects provided the main focus for the engineers.

“The 276th worked two key projects while at Fort Pickett,” said Lt. Col. Demetrius Parrott, battalion commander. “The projects were the extension of the unmanned aerial vehicle airstrip, and we also enhanced the survivability positions at the forward operating base.”

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group work to extend an air strip for unmanned aerial vehicles during their annual training June 4, 2019, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Mike Vrabel)

At the airstrip, the engineers used heavy equipment to scrape and move earth in an effort to expand the airstrip several hundred meters. The strip is used to supports units training on the RQ-11 Raven UAV.

Parrott said being able to work on such an important project just highlights the 276th’s capabilities.

“Being able to expand the airstrip is one of the many resources we can bring to the table,” said Parrott. “We can also install culverts, fix or repair electrical and plumbing problems. We have the ability to complete anything a military engineer is trained to do.”

The unit was able to make progress on the airstrip as well as make improvements to Fort Pickett’s FOB in part because of one of the battalion’s unique resources. The 157th Quarry Platoon was able to conduct operations at Fort Pickett’s main quarry during the annual training, taking large rocks mined from the quarry pit and loading them into a hopper. The platoon then operated the quarry’s system of conveyor belts and crushing machines to turn the larges chunks of rock into gravel.

“Anytime we can conduct quarry ops it’s a good thing,” said Parrott. “The rocks from the 157th were utilized in the UAV extension and FOB projects.”

That rock crushing not only provided the platoon invaluable experience, but also helped saved the organization money.

“The Quarry Platoon is one of six units in the Army’s inventory whose mission is to plan, conduct, prepare and perform rock crushing operations in support of horizontal engineer units conducting road and airfield projects,” explained Parrott. “If it weren’t for our quarry platoon we would have to use commercial or outside resources. Those outside resources can become very expensive.”

One of the bigger challenges the 276th faced during their two-week training ended up being weather. The period was exceptionally rainy, which at times brought operations to a halt, keeping the engineers from making as much progress as they had planned. However, just because not everything was finished during AT doesn’t mean the battalion doesn’t still have completion as a goal.

“Unfortunately the amount of rain in the short period of time caused us to take a halt in operations, therefore causing us not to finish the projects,” said Parrott. “Currently, we are looking at our schedules for potential times we can come back and complete these projects.”

During the annual training, the 276th also conducted a staff exercise and rail load operations, partnering with Norfolk Southern to practice loading tactical vehicles onto rail cars. The AT culminated with a six-day field exercise, during which Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Command Chief Master Sgt. James J. Profita, the Virginia National Guard command senior enlisted leader, visited several of the unit’s training sites and encouraged the Soldiers to remain vigilant and safe as they concluded their training rotation.

Parrott said he was proud of his Soldiers for the work they put in during the AT, and said they ultimately showcased what his unit is capable of.

“The 276th did a great job in this year’s annual training,” said Parrott. “Not only were we able to lay the foundation work of these projects but we also incorporated scenarios that the Soldiers may face if they had to deploy overseas.

“We are here for the Commonwealth and we are always looking for opportunities to train our Soldiers on their engineer craft.”

PHOTOS: 276th Engineers work to extend UAV airstrip

PHOTOS: 157th Quarry Platoon crushes rock

PHOTOS: 276th Engineers conduct rail load operations

PHOTOS: AG, SEL visit 276th Engineers during AT