Pa. engineers build new MRAP course before deploying
A bulldozer operator with the Army Reserve's 333rd Engineer Company from Reading, Pa., works on a drivers training course for Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles, at McGregor Range, N.M., in May 2013. The engineers are training with 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment, Task Force Rampant, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, before deploying to Afghanistan. (Photo by 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West)

McGREGOR RANGE, N.M. -- As part of their training before deploying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Army Reserve engineers from Pennsylvania recently completed a new Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle drivers training course here.

Soldiers in the 333rd Engineer Company from Reading, Pa., are being trained here by 3rd Battalion, 364th Engineer Regiment, Task Force Rampant, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West, before deploying to Afghanistan. To complete the MRAP drivers training course, the horizontal construction company improved a roadway through McGregor Range to enhance training and improve vehicle safety.

"Overall, it's a win," said Capt. Michael Griffie, 333rd Engineer Company commander. "Soldiers came into the project having not worked to this level as a team and, over the course of five days, grew as a team, grew confidence as leaders, and developed tactically and technically."

The company's first and second platoons raised the road, put in barriers, and dug dips into the new course to help Soldiers understand the capabilities of the MRAP vehicles and learn to drive the vehicle safely through obstacles. Meanwhile, third platoon collected caliche, a brittle, white stone that, when compacted and wet down, produces a hard, concrete-like surface.

The engineers used heavy horizontal engineering equipment, including road graders, road scrapers, bulldozers, excavators, five-yard front end loaders, and five-ton and 20-ton dump trucks, to widen the roadway from 12 feet around the course to 30 feet in areas with obstacles. The course includes eight obstacles: tight turns, big mounds to drive over, and dips to drive through.

While working on the drivers training course, the engineers trained to be in a tactical environment by calling for medical evacuations, making unexploded ordinance reports, and keeping in touch with the tactical operations center.

"The Soldiers performed outstanding, with long days and little sleep, all while keep the moral high through the company," said Staff Sgt. Shawn Yelland, Task Force Rampant noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the MRAP project site.

As Reserve Soldiers, these engineers have limited opportunities to use the construction equipment. Reservists typically only see this equipment once a month.

"Citizen-Soldiers, transformed into full-time Soldiers with acquired skills, makes an easy formula for success," Yelland said. "Also, the scenarios that were played out by Task Force Rampant were not everyday situations that these Soldiers experience throughout the course of the training year."

The 333rd maintenance platoon played a big role in support of the mission, fixing oil leaks, air leaks, broken doors and flat tires.

"This was valuable training that will save lives downrange," said Sgt. 1st Class Heath Davis, 3rd Platoon platoon sergeant. "The knowledgeable training given by Task Force Rampant was invaluable."

Many of the Soldiers in the 333rd Engineer Company recently transferred from other horizontal construction units from western Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Maryland.

"We went from a mixed force from different engineer units to a cohesive team that has been working together for many years," said Davis. "All these soldiers are learning together as a team and communicating as a whole with one another."

It feels good to help Soldiers get acclimated to the equipment they will be using in Afghanistan, Davis added.

"More operating experience and time on the equipment, and seeing how the operations are going to work in an active environment, will help in the long run for each and every Soldier, no matter their rank," Davis said.

Page last updated Mon June 24th, 2013 at 00:00