FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (May 16, 2013) -- Nearly 50 Soldiers assigned to 50th Multi-Role Bridge Company, 5th Engineer Battalion, conducted sling load operations Wednesday across the waters of Lake of the Ozarks Recreation Area as part of a three-day training exercise.

"This training directly applies to our role as a bridging asset for the 1st Infantry Division and as a combat multiplier on the battlefield," said Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy Pelliccia, a bridge crewmember and platoon sergeant in the 50th MRBC.

With the support of a Kansas National Guard pilot and CH-47 Chinook helicopter, the Soldiers constructed a four-float assault raft consisting of four interior bays and two ramp bays capable of transporting maneuver units across large bodies of water.

Sgt. Benjamin Conrad, a bridging Soldier with more than six years experience and bridge crew chief in the 50th MRBC, said that sling load training is a critical skill for the unit to have even without water.

"During my deployment to Afghanistan in 2010, the water level went from 17 feet to 3 feet overnight and our free-floating bridge went aground," said Conrad. "We were able to recover the equipment by hooking it to a helicopter and sling loading it out of the area."

The training conducted at LORA gave Soldiers a similar opportunity by staging and loading their equipment for sling load then recovering their assets when they hit the water, Conrad said.

Once the helicopter cleared, Soldiers set out in MKII boats to rapidly assemble the float bridge.

"In a combat environment, we want to get the fighting forces from one side of the gap to the other as fast as possible," said Capt. Andrew Lowery, 50th MRBC commander. "Our training and specialized equipment provide assurance for commanders who may need to bridge the gap while maneuvering their forces."

Lowery said that he likes to challenge his Soldiers by finding different gap crossing locations throughout the Midwest.

"The training we've conducted here and in my time spent with this unit has been challenging, but it has been fun," said Sgt. Christopher Pena, bridge crew chief in 50th MRBC. "I think it's actually why I love this job and why my Soldiers love it too."

The 50th MRBC is slated to conduct a hasty gap crossing exercise incorporating additional security and maneuver units to enhance its Unified Land Operations readiness over the next several months.

Page last updated Thu May 16th, 2013 at 00:00