• U.S. Army Reserve engineers with the 416th and 412th Theater Engineer Commands maneuver a bridge bay segment into place with a bridge erection boat as part of Operation River Assault 2014 at Fort Chaffee, Ark., July 23. The annual training exercise focuses on collective and mission-essential training involving multiple nations and branches. The mission, to erect an improved ribbon bridge across a 300-meter expanse of the Arkansas River, required 42 segments and took 3 hours to complete. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Rigo Cisneros)

    Engineers compose bridge across Arkansas River

    U.S. Army Reserve engineers with the 416th and 412th Theater Engineer Commands maneuver a bridge bay segment into place with a bridge erection boat as part of Operation River Assault 2014 at Fort Chaffee, Ark., July 23. The annual training exercise...

  • U.S. Army Reserve medics with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 397th Engineer Battalion, set up their equipment in preparation for the assembly  of the improvised ribbon bridge across the Arkansas River, July 23 at Fort Chaffee, Ark., during Operation River Assault. Medics had stations at every launch site as a precautionary measure. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Debralee Best)

    Engineers compose bridge across Arkansas River

    U.S. Army Reserve medics with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 397th Engineer Battalion, set up their equipment in preparation for the assembly of the improvised ribbon bridge across the Arkansas River, July 23 at Fort Chaffee, Ark., during...

  • U.S. Army Reserve engineers with the 416th and 412th Theater Engineer Commands maneuver a bridge bay segment into place with a bridge erection boat as part of Operation River Assault 2014 at Fort Chaffee, Ark., July 23. The annual training exercise focuses on collective and mission-essential training involving multiple nations and branches. The mission, to erect an improved ribbon bridge across a 300-meter expanse of the Arkansas River, required 42 segments and took 3 hours to complete. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Rigo Cisneros)

    Engineers compose bridge across Arkansas River

    U.S. Army Reserve engineers with the 416th and 412th Theater Engineer Commands maneuver a bridge bay segment into place with a bridge erection boat as part of Operation River Assault 2014 at Fort Chaffee, Ark., July 23. The annual training exercise...

  • U.S. Army Reserve Col. Kirk Claunch, 420th Engineer Brigade commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Rickie Virgil, command sergeant major of the 420th, march on an improved ribbon bridge constructed by a mix of Reserve and active duty engineer Soldiers as part of Operation River Assault - an annual training exercise that focuses on collective and mission-essential training at Fort Chaffee, Ark., July 23. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Rognstad)

    Engineers compose bridge across Arkansas River

    U.S. Army Reserve Col. Kirk Claunch, 420th Engineer Brigade commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Rickie Virgil, command sergeant major of the 420th, march on an improved ribbon bridge constructed by a mix of Reserve and active duty engineer Soldiers as...

  • U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers of the 412th and 416th Theater Engineer Commands link bridges bays to assemble an improved ribbon bridge on the Arkansas River during Operation River Assault - an annual training exercise that focuses on collective and mission-essential training, at Fort Chaffee, Ark., July 23. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Rognstad)

    Engineers compose bridge across Arkansas River

    U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers of the 412th and 416th Theater Engineer Commands link bridges bays to assemble an improved ribbon bridge on the Arkansas River during Operation River Assault - an annual training exercise that focuses on collective and...

  • A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier pilots a bridge erection boat in the early morning hours on the Arkansas River as part of Operation River Assault - an annual training exercise focusing on collective and mission-essential training at Fort Chaffee, Ark.,  July 23. The 412th and 416th Theater Engineer Commands took part in this year's exercise. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Rognstad)

    Engineers compose bridge across Arkansas River

    A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier pilots a bridge erection boat in the early morning hours on the Arkansas River as part of Operation River Assault - an annual training exercise focusing on collective and mission-essential training at Fort Chaffee, Ark...

  • U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers of the 412th and 416th Theater Engineer Commands prepare to disembark for improved ribbon bridge construction on the Arkansas River for Operation River Assault - an annual training exercise that focuses on collective and mission-essential training at Fort Chaffee, Ark., July 23. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Rognstad)

    Engineers compose bridge across Arkansas River

    U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers of the 412th and 416th Theater Engineer Commands prepare to disembark for improved ribbon bridge construction on the Arkansas River for Operation River Assault - an annual training exercise that focuses on collective and...

  • A bridge crew member jumps onto a bridge bay to connect it to his boat. Forty-two bays were used to  complete the improved ribbon bridge at Fort Chaffee, Ark., across the Arkansas River July 23 during Operation River Assault.

    Engineers compose bridge across Arkansas River

    A bridge crew member jumps onto a bridge bay to connect it to his boat. Forty-two bays were used to complete the improved ribbon bridge at Fort Chaffee, Ark., across the Arkansas River July 23 during Operation River Assault.

  • A CH-47 Chinook helicopter drops a bridge bay during the assembly of the improvised ribbon bridge across the Arkansas River as distinguished visitors look on, July 23 at Fort Chaffee, Ark., during Operation River Assault. Forty-two bays were used to construct the bridge across a 300-meter gap. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Debralee Best)

    Engineers compose bridge across Arkansas River

    A CH-47 Chinook helicopter drops a bridge bay during the assembly of the improvised ribbon bridge across the Arkansas River as distinguished visitors look on, July 23 at Fort Chaffee, Ark., during Operation River Assault. Forty-two bays were used to...

  • A CH-47 Chinook helicopter drops a bridge bay during the assembly of the improvised ribbon bridge across the Arkansas River, July 23 at Fort Chaffee, Ark., during Operation River Assault. Forty-two bays were used to construct the bridge across a 300-meter gap. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Debralee Best)

    Engineers compose bridge across Arkansas River

    A CH-47 Chinook helicopter drops a bridge bay during the assembly of the improvised ribbon bridge across the Arkansas River, July 23 at Fort Chaffee, Ark., during Operation River Assault. Forty-two bays were used to construct the bridge across a...

  • U.S. Army Reserve engineer Soldiers with the 416th and 412th Theater Engineer Commands open a bridge bay on the Arkansas River during the during the assembly of an improved ribbon bridge across the river, July 23 at Fort Chaffee, Ark., during Operation River Assault. Forty-two bays were used to construct the bridge across the 300-meter gap. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Debralee Best)

    Engineers compose bridge across Arkansas River

    U.S. Army Reserve engineer Soldiers with the 416th and 412th Theater Engineer Commands open a bridge bay on the Arkansas River during the during the assembly of an improved ribbon bridge across the river, July 23 at Fort Chaffee, Ark., during Operation...

  • Bridge erection boat crews await CH-47 Chinook helicopters to drop bridge bays into the Arkansas River for the assembly of the improvised ribbon bridges across the Arkansas River at  Fort Chaffee, Ark., July 23. The bridge was contructed as the culmination of Operation RiverAssault - an annual training exercise focusing on collective and mission-essential training. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Debralee Best)

    Engineers compose bridge across Arkansas River

    Bridge erection boat crews await CH-47 Chinook helicopters to drop bridge bays into the Arkansas River for the assembly of the improvised ribbon bridges across the Arkansas River at Fort Chaffee, Ark., July 23. The bridge was contructed as the...

  • U.S. Army Reserve engineers with the 416th and 412th Theater Engineer Commands standby as fellow engineers continue to work on the improved ribbon bridge as part of Operation River Assault 2014 at Fort Chaffee, Ark., July 23. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Rigo Cisneros)

    Engineers compose bridge across Arkansas River

    U.S. Army Reserve engineers with the 416th and 412th Theater Engineer Commands standby as fellow engineers continue to work on the improved ribbon bridge as part of Operation River Assault 2014 at Fort Chaffee, Ark., July 23. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt...

FORT CHAFFEE, Ark.-The 412th and 416th Theater Engineer Commands alongside aviation and army diving assets combined forces to meet the challenges of crossing the Arkansas River at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, July 23.

Operation River Assault is an exercise executed with coordination, communication and precision. The building of an improved ribbon bridge is similar to a composer assembling conductors and musicians with instruments to create a masterpiece.

"This exercise is the primary engineer exercise of the Reserve component where we actually give our units an opportunity to practice building an improved ribbon bridge over a river which will enable the movement of Army assets across it," said Col. Kirk Claunch, 420th Engineer Brigade commander, and a Fort Worth, Texas, resident. "Detailed coordination of this River Assault is actually done by the crossing force commander who ensures the bridge companies and aviation assets coordinate in ways necessary to get the number of bays and boats into the water at the right time."

In the early morning hours, Soldiers staged their equipment and stood ready to engage in the task like musicians of a symphony who anxiously wait for the signal from the conductor to start playing so their music can be heard. At the break of dawn, the crossing force commander gave the order to the commanders to begin building the improved ribbon bridge.

"There is a huge component of leadership and I can't directly conduct a bridge boat or a bridge bay to go in a certain location at a certain time but I can lead leaders or company commanders," said Lt. Col. David R. Skavnak, 397th Eng. Battalion commander and the crossing force commander of Operation River Assault. "Most of the orchestration is between the companies and company commanders."

After receiving the order from the crossing commander to build the improved ribbon bridge, the company commanders lead their units, moving equipment with precision. Bridge erection boats dropped into the water from the shore followed by bridge bays from land and air with no breaks between the insertions of the equipment.
The motivation of the engineer units was much like the emotion and passion of musicians in a symphony giving the audience a performance. The engineers exceed the standards of the river crossing increasing their esprit de corp with a memorable performance.

"Our unit erected 11 bays in 22 minutes and 39 seconds; exceeding the Army standards of six bays in 20 minutes," said Staff Sgt. Charles Elliott, a multi-role bridge engineer with 401st Engineer Company, out of Mustang, Oklahoma. "The more we train, the better we get."

The 412th and the 416th Theater Engineer Command's engineer Soldiers assembled the bridge to cross the Arkansas River in a little more than three hours.

Page last updated Tue July 29th, 2014 at 00:00